Albert Strasser was inspired to write a children’s book while living in a Buddhist monastery in Novia Scotia.
“Afraid of the Light,” with illustrations by Roman artist Flavia Sorrentino, was released this winter and is available now at island bookstores and online.
“At the time, I was studying an old Buddhist text called the Bardo Thodol, known in English as ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead,’” said Strasser, who was born and raised on San Juan Island. “There is a wonderful aspect of the teachings in this book that encourages a kind of gentle leaning towards the edges of our comfort zone — a courageous movement towards the bright (and often overwhelming) lights of the unknown, the unfamiliar, the new. ‘Afraid of the Light’ is an ode to opening our hearts and minds to the world, so that we may live fuller, happier, more vibrant lives.”
The book, which Strasser wrote three years ago while living in a monastery called Gampo Abbey under the direction of author and teacher Pema Chodron, was published by Bala Kids, an imprint of Shambhala Publications.
The story follows Ditter Von Dapp, a quirky rabbit who often finds himself thrust into situations in which he has no choice but to face his fears and step into the light.
“And life is like this: no matter how hard we try to hide in our cozy cave it presents us with challenges and circumstances that coax us, often kicking and screaming, into the unfamiliar,” said Strasser. “These circumstances are what most of us call ‘problems,’ and we do everything we can to avoid or bypass them. ‘Afraid of the Light’ is an invitation into another possibility: that perhaps life is working for us, not against us.”
He says what many call “problems” are actually “opportunities, invitations and guideposts leading us into a life fully lived, a heart wider open and a happiness we didn’t even know we longed for.” Strasser’s hope is that his tale of a rabbit facing his biggest fear will encourage children of all ages to stay open to the many facets of life.
Strasser’s family has lived on San Juan Island for six generations. His grandfather was Al Nash, who ran Friday Harbor Drug for more than 50 years. Strasser currently lives on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia and has written several other children’s books, some of which will be published at a later date.
“It is a pure pleasure writing these stories — a wondrous journey into the aspect of my mind that still remembers what it is like to be a child, and a complex challenge to integrate meaningful teachings into digestible stories,” he said. “I truly can’t imagine anything more joyful, and I’m so pleased that I get to share my work with the world. More than anything, I simply hope my stories support the young and the old alike to live happier, healthier, more vibrant lives.”