“My religion is the spirit of the wild places, the springs, the rocks, the old pine trees that whisper in the night breezes, the birds that sing on a spring morning, the geese that fly overhead in the fall, and the deer that walk through the forest when the hunter’s moon is high overhead. The life force that binds us all together is what I call on to be with me and us tonight.”
Such is an example of the stirring dialogue with which we are blessed, as we learn about ancient ways from Uncle Charlie.
Charlie Wang, a key figure in this novel, is a healer, seer, passionate and prolific organic farmer, and ancestral steward of Sweetwater Valley, a chemical free zone.
LD-50 is a novel by James Swan, PhD, which combines Swan’s extensive knowledge and experience of nature, with the supernatural.
The story unfolds as Moses, a special agent with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Law Enforcement, tries to uncover what is killing so many of the birds and animals in his idyllic valley. We are taken into ancient labyrinths of mysticism and modern research laboratories.
The reader is in for an erudite and at times chilling romp through the alphabet soup of toxic chemicals, their all-too-common uses and prevalence in our lives. The book explains the protocol for determining the LD-50 for a toxin. A poison is selected, then test animals are exposed either through their skin, their lungs, or ingested in food. When the dosage is increased to the point that half of the test population has been killed, the LD-50 has been found.
The novel presents a deeply disturbing mystery to be solved; sparkling reflections on nature as powerful healer and teacher; the age old battle between good and evil, and the vital importance of values and choice.
The reader is offered some truly beautiful timeless wisdom, and shown again the strength of love. We are forced to grapple with the high price of greed and “progress;” and along the way we are exposed to some very smart psychology, history and geography.
Moses is a compelling and attractive character whose depths are revealed in a very believable way. It was easy for me to be highly sympathetic to him, deeply drawn to his love of nature, and admiring of his commitment to justice for all things wild.
We learn why Moses feels the way he does through the insight that, “The wild things had supported him when humans had so often failed. They were his true family.”
We also come to know Monique, a blues singer who visits the valley for some respite from her abusive agent and city life. Once there, the choice she must make and the opportunity she is given are compelling.
As a reader, bearing witness to the changes in Monique's character felt like a privilege and a triumph. I found myself thinking that the choice before her is our choice. She could go back to her former life, or stay in this new place and learn powerful lessons. She could choose joy and freedom over chaos and a kind of entrapment.
For each of us there are so many marvelous lessons in nature, if only we will avail ourselves and embrace the learning.
We also spend a significant amount of time with Fuse, a veteran of Desert Storm suffering from PTSD. Slowly we experience hope as he gradually finds greater healing, and begins to reclaim the more admirable parts of himself through his willingness to face his debilitating fears in order to help others.
We meet bad guys who do villainous things, and I came to treasure Charlie’s teachings, convictions and his insights. At one point he explains, “You do not wish evil on people, that only perpetuates what is wrong and pulls you into their black magic game. The most powerful justice is the revenge of nature. Nature helps the strong people who live with the highest spirits and keep love and truth in their hearts.”
There were enough serpentine developments to keep me engaged; I felt real affection for several of the characters; and the sparkling insights about nature, spirits, messengers, predators, dreams and visions were enlivening. The thematic reminder about the pitfalls of making assumptions and type-casting others was artfully done.
“Everyone and every thing [has] their own special kind of power. Physical power calls on your muscles. Mental power comes from concentration and projection of thoughts. Spiritual power arises from bringing together the spider web of allies that you have and focusing them with your heart and mind to serve a higher purpose.”
I read this novel on my kindle. As one who loves the feel of a book in my hands, and has for years underlined favorite passages, I now “highlight” with my fingertip. And being able to hold a virtual library in the palm of one's hand truly does have unique advantages and delights.
While I realize that ebooks are still evolving, I am nonetheless irritated by typos and this book had several. My intuition is that there is a meaningful message in this for me. It seems that the larger lesson has less to do with proper grammar in one language, and more to do with a different kind of appreciation. As a grateful desert dweller living off the grid, I am learning more about other sacred languages every day.
As Charlie explains it, “One must learn to watch for signs from the spirits to understand the language of nature…” “Whispers on the wind. The calls of birds. A fragment of a dream. Maybe children laughing when they are playing. The voices of the spirit world are subtle. Spirits don’t always speak English.”
This book is well worth owning, reading and re-reading. A work of fiction, it is extensively researched and the science factual. I am deeply grateful for its perspective, its voices and its wisdom.
If I hadn’t been a believer in organic fruits, veggies and meats before reading this book, it would have converted me.
A well-crafted novel is more than a good read. It truly is a beautiful and transformative experience to be the beneficiary of an author’s authoritative knowledge, insights and hard-won wisdom. Thank you, Dr. Swan!