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Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day Hardcover – September 1, 2009
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“[Y]ou're immersed in Ackerman's glorious prose, studded with arresting phrases and breathtakingly beautiful images....Her gift to us is the sheer pleasure of seeing the world through her loving eyes.”
- Wendy Smith, Washington Post
“Starred Review. These pieces are accessible and lyrically written, and they flow well, one after another, making reading the book a true pleasure. Ackerman's fans and readers who appreciate nature writing at its finest will love this.”
- Library Journal
About the Author
Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the best-selling The Zookeeper's Wife and A Natural History of the Senses. She lives in Ithaca, New York.
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Ackerman gives us a year of dawns, as she considers that time of day at her homes in Palm Beach, Florida, and Ithaca, New York. We get her wonderfully fresh, sympathetic observations of the birds that sing dawn in, and all the other animals -- including us humans, she never lets us forget -- that then begin their days. She gives us a consideration of astronomy, particularly as it relates to dawn. But she does much more, roaming the current-day world, going as far as Australia's aborigines and India's holy rivers, to show us the dawn beliefs and rituals of other societies. She tells us that Jewish liturgy includes a list of blessings to be said first thing in the morning, one of them being thanks to God for giving us roosters to crow in dawn.
The writer also goes backwards in time to the ancients, giving us a good picture of the learned Greek scientist Archimedes; explaining how the works of the well-known lesbian poet Sapho came to be saved in that wonder of the ancient world, the library at Alexandria, Egypt: then came to be lost, and partially found again. She explains long-ago Celtic, Nordic and Roman dawn legends and myths. Yet, although her mind is evidently full of facts, inclined to poetry, and interested in everything she sees around her and learns, she never overwhelms us, but wears all this information lightly.
Well, let me moderate that previous statement slightly. Occasionally, very occasionally, she gets a little too intense for me; but I am not generally one to leap out of a warm bed of a cold winter's morning, not if I don't have to. Besides, her exploration and capture of winter's dawn, in upstate New York, at Ithaca, is thrilling; especially to me, who went to Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, and spent four years in that enchanted kingdom of the Finger Lakes. Many years ago now, I interviewed Dame Iris Murdoch, the outstanding Anglo-Irish writer, whose first published novel, Under the Net (Vintage Classics), was selected in 2001 by the editorial board of the American Modern Library as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. She asked where I'd gone to university, and I replied Cornell. She said she'd visited there, while working at Yale University, and it was "beautiful and mountainy," wasn't it. It surely was, and is. At any rate, I can remember one particular winter morning so clear and sharp that I did go out to clamber around the gorges, coming back only to find it was, to me, an astonishing minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit out. I'd give the writer an extra star for this book if I could, but, unfortunately, five's the limit.
I'm only allowing myself an essay a day, and when I finished the first day's reading, I had a little leap of joy in my heart, picturing myself sharing the book. Normally, that's what I do --- pass a book along when I have finished reading it. (So many books, so little time. I rarely read one twice. Better it should move along to its next reader than gather dust on my shelf.) But, right after the leap, a backtracking, a remembering of the times when I have had to buy a replacement book for one that called me back to double check a quote or lesson. I'm afraid I'm going to have to keep this one.
And thus the battle began. To share, or not to share.....