“He really was an enchanting person. In some way he was like the spiritual father of everybody…. It is hard to imagine Central Park without Charles Kennedy.” Marie Winn, author of Red-tails in Love, and close friend of Charles, remembering him after his death in October 2004

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Whereby We Are Graced Again With Feathered Gems

Well, that was a long hiatus! No good excuse, so...

For birders, spring is a magical time. Now, at the end of April, the migration is on in earnest. Over the next month we'll be treated to the return and passing through of dozens of species of birds. And in June and July we'll be voyeurs into the world of nesting and young bird rearing.

Of course, spring was always a time for enthusiastic-bordering-on-ecstatic phone chats with Charles. He'd often lead with, "What have you seen in your park?" Which would launch us into a long, lovely exchange- part list recitation, part haikuing (no such word!), part exuberating (I know, no such word!)-- about the flaming streaks of tanagers and orioles in Cherry Creek State Park and the gem-like warblers dripping from the exotic spinneys of Central Park. It is at this time of year, that my heart aches most often from not being able to connect with Charles about our great shared passion.

I have recently gotten back to work on getting Charles's 'Owl Book' ready for publication and into work on a biography about him. One of the research treasures I've found in doing the latter work is a group of cassette tapes with Charles's dictated field notes. In honor of the Great Spring Migration of 2010 I'll insert here 'exuberatons' from the Charles tapes circa the mid-90s. Enjoy!

Everyone has those particular self-personal knowledges; those bits that they know about themselves that they repeat, over and over. Anyone who knew me very well would have heard me say, at some time or other, that were it not for Central Park, I wouldn’t have to stay in New York. There are other places that I could live—except no other place has Central Park. There’s a vibrancy, an excitement, a breadth in Central Park that matches all of New York City but without the negatives that are often present in the rest of this magnificent city. But, the most potent tie for me in New York City is very clearly, very distinctly the birds.

I worked as a jeweler for a number of years, with very gorgeous stones, minerals, fossils, natural crystals. And that’s what the birds are—only they move. They are these exquisite gem stones that can migrate for thousands of miles; things that are the weight of a nickel that can migrate for many thousands of miles, and fly, and arrive here in this tight little island. Any bird that is not more than the weight of a nickel, and that will fly thousands of miles to make a short stop for refueling in Central Park, I want to see that bird. There’s extraordinary beauty. And the fascination is endless.

From about 1950 forward, there have been about 268 species of birds that have been seen, verified, in Central Park. That’s this park! In the middle of one of the major urban centers of the world! This tiny green space is one of the absolutely mandatory destinations for thousands and thousands of birds, every year. They need us. And it turns out that quite a few of us need them.


Rick said...

Great excerpting of your uncle's musings. I'm gonna take those words to Central Park with me tomorrow.

Steve Kennedy said...

Thanks, Rick. That's the idea! Yea!