t’s probably safe to assume most of you aren’t expecting to encounter any wildlife on the walk or taxi ride from your hotel to the Javits Center. You might want to think again. Look around, says journalist and urban naturalist Tai Moses: “you could be lucky enough to come across a raccoon, a chipmunk, a peregrine falcon, a ruby-throated hummingbird, a cottontail rabbit, a muskrat—maybe even one of the coyotes that’s been spotted in Central Park.” Moses’ new book, Zooburbia: Meditations on the Wild Animals Among Us (Parallax Press, May), is a lively blend of memoir, natural history, and mindfulness practices that gently challenges readers to become compassionate stewards—and students—of the wildlife we coexist with in our cities and suburbs.
Moses is herself a city dweller, living at the foot of the hills in Oakland, Calif., just half a mile from Fruitvale Avenue, one of the city’s main thoroughfares. “I had no idea when we moved here we would encounter so much wildlife. Whenever I look out a window I see one of my wild neighbors walking or scampering by—the possum with half a tail, a flock of wild turkeys, a young buck walking down one of the deer paths that go through the neighborhood.” In Zooburbia, Moses writes of her encounters with animals, both wild and domestic: Little and Middle, tiny twin orphaned skunks; Big Gray, the feral cat; a man and his five pet rats she met while walking in an Oakland park; the Western Tiger Swallowtail butterflies now flourishing on San Francisco’s Market Street. She encourages readers to overcome their fear of spiders, bats, and being alone in the woods and shares a lesson on forgiveness learned from Bosco, a very philosophical and seemingly un-adoptable dog she met volunteering at the Oakland animal shelter.
The presence of animals, Moses believes, enriches and enlivens our lives. “They make us more mindful and more connected with nature. By telling stories about animals that most people are familiar with, I hope readers will recognize that animals are individuals, just like we are. Every animal has a story, and every one of them is worthy of our attention, our compassion, and our respect.”
You can meet Moses, and report your Manhattan wildlife sightings, when she signs copies of Zooburbia today, at noon, at Table 10 in the Autographing Area.