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  • Writer's pictureThomas Lawrence Toscano

Country or City?

Benjamin Franklin is reported to have suggested the Turkey as part of the great seal of the United States. In fact he proposed a scene with "Moses on the shore extending his hand over the sea", with his power to part the waters he the scene would show the pharaoh then being covered over through his greater power. Apparently the Continental Congress did not like the idea, and tabled it until they chose the bald eagle. Franklin, in a letter to his daughter, complaining about a new medal issued by the Society of CIncinnati, a veterans organization, and complained about the use of the eagle given that he considered the bald eagle to be a thief and it was in this letter that he praised the turkey as an honest, respectable bird.

This picture was taken by me on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2010. I was living in Connecticut with Joseph mostly, and would go down to NYC only when I had rehearsals with my opera company. Kio and I reveled in it as we spent our time in the woods of Weston, CT that surround Joseph's house and had daily adventures with different forest creatures. Be it fox, rabbit, owl, squirrels, deer, coyote, bob cat, bear, etc. we encountered or saw evidence of their presence.

On this day, I was washing dishes in the kitchen and would periodically look out the window. All of a sudden it was as if the forest had come to life. As if the leaves themselves had come to life. I blinked and looked again and saw that a huge flock of turkey's was making its way north through the woods. I couldn't believe it. I stopped what I was doing, grabbed my camera, told Kio to stay, which did not make him happy and slipped outside through the front door. I snuck around back and began to stealthily walk through the woods snapping pictures.

Much to my surprise, and luck, the flock didn't see me and since I was extremely familiar with the trails I was able to work silently while I paralleled their progress.

I was fairly close to them as I snapped these two pictures while the were foraging on a grassy clearing which led to a pond and more forest. As they slowly moved on I saw that they were going around the pond to the west and were going up a very steep incline, as they moved off I noticed something new for me. One turkey stayed behind, always vigilant covering their exit. This same bird continued to lag behind as I followed, so I held back a bit so they wouldn't spook. The climbed the hill foraging all the way to the top and again, that lone turkey waited at the top for some time, watching to make sure that someone wasn't following them. Deciding not to climb the hill, I headed home, reuniting with Kio and putting the pictures and the short videos I took of their action.

Flocking is a phenomenon of community and clearly of community. Herds, flocks and schools all prevail throughout nature when creatures form communities through their own natural rhythms. There are times, of course, when they break off from each other and pursue more individual activities. Again, it is all done through their own timing. No one forces them to flock or school or herd. They do it because it insures their survival.

The city experience is something that I had at many times in my life. I was born and lived in the Bronx, albeit the extreme north eastern Bronx and at the age of 12 moved to the country. Thank God! I remember being very excited and extremely happy to have the woods behind our house, plenty of forest to roam and during hunting season we had our chance to try our skills. After high school, accepted at the University of Denver I moved to Denver, a large city of course, but, it paled next to NYC so for me it was relaxing, as it were. After five years, I moved to Boston as I attended New England Conservatory, again much less congested than NYC. Then, I moved to New Haven, even smaller as I attended Yale. Little did I know that my city experiences were only just starting. Moving to Brazil brought me to an entirely different reality of congestion, Rio de Janeiro was stunning with its beauty reflected in its jungle covered mountains and stunning beaches all very close to each other while raging rivers of traffic and people did their best to navigate the strips that were left to them. And then, of course, the true test was São Paulo, currently there are 12.18 million people there. My NYC upbringing afforded me something that more than once saved me from harm. My street smarts. And, further, it allowed me to freely navigate into many areas that foreigners do not foray and add to the amazing experiences I did have there. After six years living there I returned to NYC. And, eventually made my way to Milano where I spent a few years shuttling back and forth to teach and investigate prospective cultural projects. Which were eventualy replaced by Catania, much more to my liking and my performances there and in Vizzini. Little did I know that I would be in this cycle of cities for and additional 21 years, with lots of time in the woods of CT, NYState, VT and Oregon until I finally left for good.

I paid my dues. Spent a lot of time in cities and leave them to all of those forced to be there and those who actually enjoy it. I don't. Often I field invitations from friends and family but decline. I just don't want that experience any longer. I love my life, love the rural reality. I love the winter, the outdoors, the forest, the streams, the lakes and laugh at how ridiculous I am when I complain about the traffic!

Our own rhythms, just as those for nature, are extremely important. My rhythm is here, in nature, with nature. The rest is a dream of the past. One which I can remember with a smile and gratitude that I no longer have to live that way.

Thank you all for being here. Thomas

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