Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Notes from Turtle Creek (6). Ted Browning

The Kennett Paper. Chads Ford, PA: Brandywine Conservancy. 1991.

Why read it? I’m sure you have never heard of Ted Browning. He wrote essays on nature, specifically in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He urges that open space be distinguished for conservation of natural processes or modified for parks, playgrounds, green space. He died young. The editor of the paper in which Ted published his essays, said plaintively: “I wish he were here to put it in perspective for us. I wish he could…explain to us why the katydids are louder than usual, the shad bush blossoms more brazen, the fall colors more muted, the dogwoods duller.” p. xiii.

Sample Quotes and Ideas:

“I remember best the wild places of the Brandywine River—the nooks and glens and haunts tucked away in the corners of the river, the retreats where the natural word hides away. p. 78.

“For hours I’d search for arrowheads, and when I found one it was as if the Indians had never left.” p. 78.

“I have lived most of my life in the valley just at the edge of the special place promised to the Lenni-Lenape for eternity by William Penn.” p. 79.

“…the piece of woodland on Locust Lane butchered to allow golfers to tee off in a bit more light.” p. 81.

Stewardship: “Whatever it is somebody does when they hold a part of the natural world in trust for generations yet unborn.” p. 81.

“Charles Darwin called the gingko tree a living fossil…. Got going in dinosaur time, and at their peak of development saber tooth tigers growled in their shade…. Dates back 200 million years, about 65 million years before our woodland standbys such as oaks, maples, and dogwoods even thought about getting started…. Survives the equally harsh streetscapes of New York and Washington as one of the prized street trees. Name derived from a botched translation into Dutch of ancient Chinese characters meaning silver apricot.” p. 82.

“In July male deer are sprouting antlers and so the Native Americans called the full moon of July the ‘buck moon.’ ”p. 85.

“When they [male deer] ram heads with each other to establish dominance, sometimes the horns lock, condemning the combatants to a grim danse macabre over hill and dale until they drop of exhaustion and starvation.” p. 86.

“We save money by spraying herbicides instead of paying people to mow the roadsides. A wise trade-off?” p. 88.

“Last Sunday, sitting in silence for an hour at Quaker meeting, I listened to a full cicada symphony. The song is not pretty or even slightly melodic.” p. 89.

“What makes the cicada awake after 17 years?” p. 90.

“When European settlers first arrived in the 1600s, they were shocked by a dark monster of a wilderness that stretched westward so unbroken that a squirrel could hop from tree to tree from the Atlantic to the Mississippi without touching ground.” p. 91.

“In designing seeds, nature uses every trick in the book to ensure that they get carried to new locations and that they survive the journey and when the early settlers stepped ashore at Jamestown and Old Swedes Rock and Plymouth Rock, they were literally covered with seeds of European plants, and so were their animals and their belongings.” p. 92.

To be continued.

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