"Whether Texas State University lecturer and lay Episcopal chaplain Susan Hanson is hiking with her students or grubbing alone in the alkaline soil of her small garden, she sees glimpses of God everywhere. . . . In careful prose that sings on the pages, Hanson eschews pat answers while inviting the reader to explore deeper spiritual truths."--Christianity Today
"From the marmot in Colorado to the javelina of South Texas, from the False Dayflower in her yard to the palmettos in the Ottine swamp, from the Cooper's hawk to the cormorant--Hanson calmly and gracefully informs us. And she relates all of this to the humans who live with these and other things, things natural, every day, and wondrous."--Southwestern American Literature
"Susan Hanson offers snapshots of all the natural glory that is Texas. Her kaleidoscope of words pixel together scenes of God in nature--be it in the small ramblings of a rolly polly, the flight of a butterfly or cardinal, maggots feasting on a roadkill possum or, especially, in the time-sacred act of gardening. . . . This book offers the best of a Walt Whitman flair for poetic natural observation translated into prose. . . .But, most importantly, this collection of "moments in time" offers a new set of new eyes with which to perceive Texas' vast--and minute--beauty.--Suzanne L. Moore, Times Record News
"Susan Hanson finds comfort, meaning, and joy in the natural world--in the turning of the seasons, the growth of a seed, the flight of an owl. . . .Dip into it when you need to be heartened, grounded, and centered."--Lorraine Anderson
It is through brief moments in our lives that the spiritual most often communicates itself. Fleeting as they are, these small encounters with the "familiar wild" instruct us in dealing with change and loss. They are the icons that point not so much to answers, but to a way of living in the tension between life and death.
Each of these essays represents one moment. Most of them occur very close to home. There is nothing exotic about any of the landscapes Susan Hanson depicts--the oak mottes and scrub of the South Texas Plains, the rocks and rivers of Central Texas, the soil in her own backyard--yet these are the sorts of landscapes that teach and nurture all of us who care to see them. This way of seeing the world--as an undivided whole of the physical and the spiritual--is nutritive, healthful. The vision is partial, but all vision is partial, and it is in the pieces, the glimpses, the tastes, that we acquire a sense of the whole.
Divided into three sections, the book addresses the questions of how we deal with change and loss in our lives. In "Innocence," the essays are marked by a spirit of curiosity, wonder, and adventure. The middle section reflects a growing awareness of loss, both personal and in the natural world. In "Grace," the final essays point toward the possibility of reconciliation with loss--a reconciliation mediated through nature.
Written as reflections, rather than full-blown arguments, Icons of Loss and Grace offers no final resolution to the questions it presents. Yet in these essays we may recognize that delight and sorrow are soul mates, that loss and redemption are a part of the same sacred ground, and that pain can evolve into grace.
Susan Hanson is a lecturer in English at Texas State University and a lay Episcopal chaplain. She has been a feature writer, columnist, and book reviewer for the San Marcos Daily Record, and she writes for the weekly news magazine The Chautauquan.