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Presently the hen half stood and I saw a round white object gradually protruding from the feathers between her legs. Suddenly with a plop, the egg landed on the straw. With clucks of pleasure the hen shook her feathers, nudged the egg with her beak, and left.

It is quite extraordinary how clearly I remember that whole sequence of events. Filled with excitement I squeezed out after her and ran home. I was oblivious of the fact that no one had known where I was, and that the whole household had been searching for me. They had even called the police to report me missing. Yet despite her worry, when Vanne, still searching, saw the excited little girl rushing toward the house, she did not scold me.

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She noticed my shining eyes and sat down to listen to the story of how a hen lays an egg: the wonder of that moment when the egg finally fell to the ground. Certainly I was lucky to be provided with a mother wise enough to nurture and encourage my love of living things and my passion for knowledge.

Most important was her philosophy that her children should always try their very best. How would I have turned out, I sometimes wonder, had I grown up in a house that stifled enterprise by imposing harsh and senseless discipline? Or in an atmosphere of overindulgence, in a household where there were no rules, no boundaries drawn? My mother certainly understood the importance of discipline, but she always explained why some things were not allowed. Above all, she tried to be fair and to be consistent.

When I was five years old and my sister, Judy, was one, we all went to live in France, as my father wanted very much for us to grow up speaking fluent French.

The Harvest In A Spiritual Journey: Jane Goodall's "In The Forest Of Gombe"

But this was not to be, for, within a few months of our arrival, Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia, an act that would lead to World War II. It was decided that we should return to England, and since our house near London had been sold we went to stay with Danny Nutt in the old manor house where my father had grown up. Built of gray stone, it nestled into the Kent countryside, surrounded by fields of grazing cows and sheep. I passionately loved my time there.

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Inside the manor house itself there was always the faint smell of the oil lamps that were lit each evening, for there was no electricity. Even now, more than sixty years later, the smell of oil lamps always takes me back to those magical days. But they did not last long. The impending horror of war was coming closer and, knowing my father would join the army at the first opportunity, Vanne took Judy and me to stay with her own mother at the Birches, an Victorian red-brick house in Bournemouth.

On September 3, , it happened: England declared war on Germany. I was only five and a half years old at the time, yet I remember the occasion. The whole family was in the drawing room. The atmosphere was tense as everyone listened to the news on the wireless; after the announcement there was silence. Of course I didn't understand what was going on, but that silence, the sense of impending doom, was very frightening.

As expected my father enlisted immediately, so the Birches, just a few minutes' walk from the English Channel, became my home. It was there, on the south coast of England, that I would spend the rest of my childhood and adolescence. Indeed, this much loved house is still my home, my refuge, when I am in England. It is where I am writing this book. My maternal grandmother, known to all as Danny again because I could not pronounce "granny" , was the undisputed head of the extended family that shared the Birches. She was a strong, self-disciplined, iron-willed Victorian who ruled over us with supreme authority and had a heart big enough to embrace all the starving children of the world.

Her husband, a Welshman, had been a Congregational parson and had died before I was born. And Danny, who survived him by more than thirty years, kept all his letters, tied up in red ribbon, and often read them before she slept. Also, she told us, she counted her blessings every night as she lay in bed, waiting for sleep. Above all, she had a horror of going to bed without making peace with those around her. And to this day I hear her voice, when I quarrel with a friend: "How terrible you would feel if he or she should die before you made it up, before you said sorry.

Their elder brother, Uncle Eric, who was a surgeon, came home from his hospital in London most weekends. And soon after the start of the war we took in two single women who, like hundreds of others, were left homeless by the ever-spreading chaos and destruction in Europe. All households were asked to find space for such unfortunates.

And so the Birches, at that time, was an active place, filled with people of all sorts. We simply had to learn to get along with each other. The house had and still has a warm atmosphere; it was full of character and, despite the number of people, filled with peace. Best of all there was a big garden or backyard with many trees, and a green lawn and lots of secret places behind the bushes where, of course, gnomes and fairies lived and danced in the moonlight.

My love for nature grew as I watched birds making their nests, spiders carrying their egg sacs, squirrels chasing each other round the trees. My memories of childhood are almost inseparable from memories of Rusty, an endearing black mongrel dog with a white patch on his chest. He was my constant companion, and he taught me so much about the true nature of animals. There were other pets too at different times.

“If we kill off the wild, then we are killing a part of our souls.”

A succession of cats, our two guinea pigs, a golden hamster, various tortoises, a terrapin, and a canary, Peter, who slept in a cage but was free to fly about the room in the daytime. For a while Judy and I each had our own "racing" snails with numbers painted on their shells. We kept them in an old wooden box with a piece of glass on the top and no bottom so they could eat the dandelion leaves as we moved the box around the lawn. In one part of the garden there was a little clearing behind some thick bushes where Judy and I established a "camp" for the meetings of our club, a club which had just four members, we two and our best friends Sally and Susie Cary, who came to stay every summer holiday.

In the camp we kept an old trunk containing four mugs, small supplies of cocoa and tea, and a spoon. We would light a fire and boil water in a tin can balanced on four rocks. Sometimes we went there for midnight "feasts"; during the war years almost everything was rationed, so we seldom had more than a biscuit or a crust of bread saved from our meals. It was the excitement, the silent creeping from the house, the lawn and trees ghostly in the moonlight, that we loved.

Our feeling of achievement as we defied the rules provided the fun, not the insignificant bits and pieces that we gathered to eat. To this day, food is supremely unimportant to me.

Becoming Jane - ‘I Am Yours’ (HD) - Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy - MIRAMAX

Like most children who grow up in happy homes, I never had cause to question the religious beliefs of my family. Did God exist? Of course. God was as real to me then as the wind that rustled through the trees in our garden. God somehow cared for a magical world, full of fascinating animals and people who were mostly friendly and kind. It was an enchanted world for me, full of joy and wonder, and I felt very much a part of it. Danny went to church every Sunday and at least one of us always went with her.

Indeed, Audrey never missed a service, and Olly sang in the choir. But we children were never forced to go with them, nor did we go to Sunday School. Nevertheless, Danny tried to make sure that our beliefs weren't limited to the animistic worship of nature and animals. She wanted Judy and me to share her belief for the comfort it would bring.

And so she did her best to ensure that the ethics and wisdom of Christ's teachings influenced our lives. The rules that we had to obey were the simple ones contained in the Ten Commandments. She would sometimes quote texts from the Bible.


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Her very favorite, which I took as my own, was: "As thy days, so shall thy strength be. Somehow we shall find the strength to get through a day of unhappiness, of suffering, of heartache. Somehow, I always have.

As a child I was not at all keen on going to school. I dreamed about nature, animals, and the magic of far-off wild and remote places. Our house was filled with bookshelves and the books spilled out onto the floor.

When it was wet and cold, I would curl up in a chair by the fire and lose myself in other worlds. My very favorite books at the time were The Story of Dr.


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  • I also loved The Wind in the Willows, and, to this day, I remember the beautiful and mystical experience shared by Ratty and Mole when they found the missing otter cub curled up between the cloven hoofs of the sylvan god, Pan. Little Diamond, its boy hero, slept in a loft above Big Diamond, the cab horse upon whom the family, which was poor, depended for its livelihood.

    The icy north wind blew into Little Diamond's loft, and then appeared to the boy as a beautiful woman, sometimes small as a tinkerbell, sometimes tall as an elm tree. Then she would take him to see the world, safe in the still place behind the wind, curled into a nest that she made for him in her beautiful, long, thick hair. It was magic, mystical, and it introduced me to human suffering in story form, preparing me, in a way, for the real-life suffering of war.

    For the war was raging in Europe and, all too soon, it would make itself felt even in sleepy Bournemouth.