“Why Buffalo Dance”

Book reviews aren’t my usual fare here, but Why Buffalo Dance, by Susan Chernak McElroy* is worthy of making an exception. From cover to cover, this lovely little book is a beautifully written a body of poetic prose that invites us to dwell in the sacred heart of God by exploring the turning of the seasons.

Much is being written today about the hugely destructive impact that a consumer-based way of life is having on our home planet. By simply telling stories — and oh, what wonderful stories they are — of her own observations in nature, McElroy helps us understand more fully how we are bound to Earth’s entire system of life-giving processes.

“Because no matter what our perceived differences, we all — animals, plants, and elements — share the cycles of the year and are affected deeply by the turning of the world. In this time of great distance between ourselves and wild nature, the primal lessons of how to live harmoniously with our inner and outer cycles are needed perhaps more than ever before.”

Every sentence is rich with imagery and awakens our spiritual need for all that our Mother Earth is and offers to her many communities of life. Why Buffalo Dance shines a light on the path where many of us have lost our way with God.

These last days of winter provide a perfect time to settle in with a hot cup of tea and a copy of Why Buffalo Dance. Read it thoughtfully and carefully, tasting each morsel of wisdom, and then pass the book along to a friend. Here’s why:

“Winter comes wrapped not in a fancy package but in a dress of elegant simplicity. I am trying to cultivate more of this rich landscape of emptiness as essence in my life — both in my actions and in my thinking. It is not easy, because winter is not easy….

Winter — the giant of white space.

Like the moose at this time of year, I celebrate being still. Like the chickadees, I fill my days with fewer activities. Eating, sleeping, enjoying hot showers and the glow of yellow fires are all richer moments when surrounded by more white space. I pare away errands and movie nights. I create broad swaths of snowfields between my activities, because my soul needs such things. She needs this wintertime to digest all of summer’s past dreams and surprises. I am, like a hibernating ground squirrel, full up with a year’s busyness and feasting, and I need this blessed time of emptying, of stillness, and of space.

A grouse dives head-first into the snow, plowing a burrow beneath the surface to insulate herself from the cold world above. She sits there quietly for hours or days, surrounded by no color, no song, no motion, and fills herself up with silence. She has secrets to share, and one of them is about the deep rest of white space.”


* McElroy, Susan Chernak, Why Buffalo Dance: Animal and Wilderness Meditations through the Seasons”, 2006, New World Library, Novato, CA

2 thoughts on ““Why Buffalo Dance”

  1. I’m going to check this one out. So are my favorite nature authors are Edward Abbey, a curmudgeon, and Susan Tweit, who wrote Seasons in the Desert. Thanks!

  2. Sr. CG, what a surprise to find that you have written such an eloquent reivew of my gift to you. I have been reading this book, cherishing each chapter, completing one each evening as I settle for sleep, so I’m not quite finished this little jewel of a book. Susan Chernak McElroy’s world draws the reader ever so gently inwards until you feel that you are an integral part of the narrative. I laughed with delight at the antics of the dancing buffalo, and had tears streaming down my face during Autumn…. To live such a full life, weaving together joy, wisdom, introspection, spirituality, and nature together is indeed a blessing.

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