Birthday Gift for Reading Group: Donald Culross Peattie

The Art of the Rural first clued us into Donald Culross Peattie. He was a scientist, a naturalist and probably one of the most gifted writers we’ll have the pleasure of reading.  For this week’s Environmental Reading and Media Group, Tina will make a copy from Peattie’s An Almanac for Moderns for each member’s birthday, which we’ll read aloud, time provided. Here’s a sample from yesterday, October Third:

THE hour was afternoon; the place, the brook, where willows overhang, their leaves still green as summer. I was watching idly the little whirlpools that will continually dimple down a stream, born here, traveling swiftly, and dying, as living things die, by simply becoming a part once more of the universal flow.  I sat still so long that the thicket began to resume its life once more; two dragon flies arrived upon the opposite shore, where a thin coast of mud enclosed a stagnant pool.

I must have been looking in their direction for some time before I was aware that one of them was engaged in a rhythmic motion, and poised, not with wings parallel with the water as we are accustomed to see them, but vertically.  The creature, a female, was dancing up and down upon the mud, her tail stabbing it with the regularity of the needle in a sewing machine, and, wings glittering as she kept them fanning in the sunlight, she traveled gradually along the mud bank, depositing her eggs.

Beside her, as if to see that the matter were done properly, the male hovered just above the mud, his patience not exhausted as the half hour crept by, while the incredible fertility of his mate was scattered like bread upon the waters.  From time to time he turned his head almost completely through three hundred and sixty degrees, while he kept a look-out, it may be, for foes of this rite.

A photograph taken through a dragon fly’s hundred-faceted eyes shows a hundred images of the same thing—or so it looks when it has passed through our eyes and registered in our brains.  But how does he see things, or rather, what does he think about them?  Does he see a hundred wives, or think monogamously?  Does he pursue a hundred midges, and devour but one?

The Reading and Media Group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the second floor lounge of Memorial Union. New readers are always welcome.

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