Perhaps the best essay in Wild Comfort is the piece that launches the collection, The Solace of Snakes. It’s possible that it’s my favorite essay because of her cunning implementation of snake tins (sheets of metal) to give snakes a proper home in a cleared field. Kathleen Dean Moore further explains her recordings each day as she carefully lifts the snake tins and examines the life beneath: “A large vole. . . dropping blind babies from her teats like ripe plums,” garter snakes, rubber boas, an alligator lizard – treasures of the dark that are suddenly revealed in the light of Moore’s simple prose.
While The Solace of Snakes is my favorite essay you might find that you prefer her essay on happiness, Moore’s scavenger hunt for joy’s many complexities, both surprising and apparent and how she fills a basket with her discoveries, a basket overflowing with hastily written revelations with unyielding permanence.
Or you will weep when Moore is told that a portion of her parent’s remains will end up in a landfill, but rejoice as Moore realizes that a fragment of their remains will be “taken up into the body of a bird, their calcium crusting against the open spaces in the bones that lifts its wings.”
You may be enthralled by Moore’s notion of using the word human as a verb, and you might attempt to define what it means to human, which could be a very remote path into the fragrant salt of the earth’s womb, or it could be a sudden fork that you take as you human your way through the decision.
Whichever essay it is that you decide to love most; it will be a tough but joyous voyage as you sift through Moore’s words. You may choose to love them all. You may pluck a gem from each to ponder over just as a magpie jay runs “each of its extravagant tail feathers through its black beak, one and then another.”
It must be said that I was drawn into Moore’s book before I even opened it up. On the front of the book, just above the title, is a bit of praise from Diane Ackerman, the author of the delightful and richly attentive book, Dawn Light. As a zealous fan of Diane Ackerman I knew that I would love Wild Comfort. If you have read both Wild Comfort and Dawn Light you must also read Linda Hogan’s Dwellings, which is available at The Kansas City Public Library. Dwellings is another book of essays devoted solely to observations of the spiritual and natural worlds.