It came to mind today, as it occasionally does. That growing up in Brooklyn, New York, in the city of New York. Our street, East 58th Street, was at the very edge of development in the 1940’s. North and west of my street, was fully, 100% built, nearly all with small brick row houses, one after another, like forever, until miles away, you gaped across the East River, at the Manhattan skyline.
At the edge of development meant that just around the corner from me, just past Lenny Oliker’s house, was an unbuilt lot, maybe 20% sylvan, the rest of the botany in that lot was alien botany. Across the street from there, Clarendon Road, was more undeveloped land, where (Believe it Not!) we once chased cottontail rabbits and found Black Widow Spiders.
Accelerate to now, 2019, and I reckoned today at the Great disadvantage all that meant for me, that Urban Disadvantage.
I now live in the town of Eatonton, 2 blocks from the county courthouse. Yesterday, Eatonton celebrated their 60th annual Dairy Festival yesterday. There are working dairy farms less than 2.5 miles from our house. Most here grew up on the parents’ farm or their grandparents’ farm. Many worked on farms while they were in high school. On their own lots, they grew up amongst butterflies, deer, raccoons, water moccasins and copperhead snakes, opossums, black vultures, wild hogs and boars, armadillos and . . . butterflies. Grandma often had a garden that was unforgettable to my friends today, and it was regularly visited by . . . butterflies.
My childhood? I have much difficulty remembering butterflies in those ’empty lots’ back in my childhood. Very few came, for 80% of the botany was aliens, and Doug Tallaway famously teaches that our butterflies and moths and bees just don’t know alien species, no matter how many decades those plants coexist with our butterflies, flies, moths, bees and wasps.
Those of you who grew up rural learned of and saw butterflies their entire life. They’ve developed foundational experience with their names, habits, preferences and life cycles.
Me? True I taught high school Biology in New York City’s Queens borough and in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,but . . . all that I know off butterflies had to be learned more recently, and still lacks the rich experiential familiarity of the so many of you who grew up in such as the Briar Patch. That Urban Disadvantage, unknown and a negative, here.
A very attractive Wood Nymph butterfly in the high wet meadow at Clay Pond in Frewsburg, New York, home of the famous naturalist, Barbara Ann Case.