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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Jane Goodall didn’t have the usual pedigree, the high levels of academic education, to qualify as an animal specialist, but she did have the ability to sit back and observe closely. Her work with chimpanzees in Gombe, Africa encouraged many people around the world to look at the animal kingdom in a very different light. As Anna Blake writes in her book, Stable Relation, “It’s the human curse of putting intellect above instinct.” Jane showed us the ability to use instinct. Anna, following her idol’s example, explores the power of the animal kingdom even further, following the instinct to sit back and listen to her animals, but, in Anna’s case, she does so in the simplicity of a small farm on the Colorado prairie.
Experts often talk and write about the ability of animals to communicate with humans and with each other, as well as the ability of animals to console and heal. Anna doesn’t need complicated degrees to understand her animals. In fact, going through a difficult mid-life crisis, she contradicts the norm of what most people might do in similar situations. Anna leaves the mad rush of urban living and retreats to a very run-down fixer-upper farm and brings her dogs and horses, only to add cats, llamas and goats to the mix as well. As she writes in Stable Relation, she discovers that it’s not her, Anna, who is running the farm and leading the herd, but rather it’s the animals around her, particular her special horse, Spirit who, as he ages, becomes the grandfather of not just her menagerie of animals, but her as well. There is magic in her animals, a healing magic. “To ride the quicksilver magic of animals involves shutting up and opening to possibility past our own mental limitations. We have to let them be magic – it’s who they all are, if we get our egos out of the way.”
Stable Relation is a memoir of sorts. It tells Anna’s story, not just as she rescues an old farmstead, not just as she accumulates more animals, not just as she teaches others and shares the therapeutic wholeness of her animal experience - it’s her story from beginning to present. Anna’s story is one of childhood abuse, neglect, bullying and how one woman could recover from this, and a failed marriage as well, by communing with horses and dogs and cats and llamas and goats. “While some might have sought sanctuary in a church, I found a spiritual safe-haven in the barn. I was made welcome in the herd, like the other lost girls before me. To this day, a deep, slow whisper of a nicker, barely audible, is a balm to my soul.”
A psychic once told Anna that she would commune with aliens. Perhaps those aliens were the spiritual essence of her animal kingdom, past, present and future. “And in this conditional world, it’s only dogs who believe in free love. Friendships naturally ebb and flow, the circle of life can’t be controlled or altered much, but dog love is eternal. Let there always be dogs.”
This is an inspirational and insightfully consoling story, one that will touch the heart strings of animal lovers everywhere.