Friday, September 18, 2009

Notes from Turtle Creek (8). 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:

“If you find a milkweed and it has ragged holes in the leaf, look underneath for a caterpillar striped in white, black and yellow…loading up on foul-tasting milkweed alkaloids which render him disgusting to blue jays, mocking birds and fall migrating warblers looking for a meal. That caterpillar turns into the monarch butterfly which must migrate all the way to Mexico. It retains those milkweed alkaloids, and so, disgusting as ever, it survives the journey. p. 101.

“Owls are extraordinary creatures of the night, able to hear the footfall of a beetle at 100 yards and the squeak of a field mouse at one-half mile.” p. 104.

“Owls…drift silently as smoke across the night air.” p. 104.

“One day I picked up a dead quail that I had shot; when the bird had lined up in my sights, I felt the familiar rush of power and excitement, a kind of blood lust that linked me to the small creature suspended there at the end of my shot gun. Now the bird hung limp in my hand, its fires quenched, the iridescent earth colors of browns and tans stained red because of what I had done. I was disgusted with myself, with my violence, my lust, with the power I held so casually to destroy something so beautiful…something not required to sustain my own survival.” p. 108.

“The full moon of October radiates like the beacon from a great light house.” p. 112.

Blackpoll warbler: To make it to its winter home in South America, the tiny bird must survive a non-stop flight of 2300 miles over the Atlantic and Caribbean that lasts over 80 hours. To find favorable winds, warblers and other small songbirds will fly at an altitude of over 20,000 feet, a bitter place of little oxygen and temperatures well below freezing.” p. 113.

To be concluded.

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