My friends and I went pretty happily through Bridge Street and Spaulding schools where, seated in rows of wooden desks, we learned to read. We started with our letters and moved on to those antiquated Dick and Jane books in reading groups with equally antiquated names such as bluebirds, cardinals and sparrows. My friends and I went pretty happily through Bridge Street and Spaulding schools where, seated in rows of wooden desks, we learned to read.
We started with our letters and moved on to those antiquated Dick and Jane books in reading groups with equally antiquated names such as bluebirds, cardinals and sparrows. Our time spent with books was happy and stress free until we arrived in middle school to be introduced to the wonders of speed- reading. Apparently, Evelyn Wood had coined the term in the late 60s, and the movement was sweeping the nation almost as quickly as the hula hoop. JFK was a fan, and later Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn, avid readers themselves, enrolled in a speed-reading course at the White House.
I was blissfully unaware of that movement or any movement sweeping the nation. That would all change when we filed into language arts class on that fateful day to see a green metal machine propped up on a desk in the back of the room. The teacher cheerfully laid out what was about to happen, making it sound like a fun, exciting and life changing activity. That, it was not. She dimmed the lights, and the massive machine started whirring to life. The narrative unveiled slowly as lines of text were projected across an overhead screen at the front of the classroom. However, before I knew it, the lines were moving faster and faster across the screen never to reappear. I was not able to keep up, and it reminded me of the time Lucy and Ethel worked the conveyor belt at the candy factory. If that wasn’t bad enough, once the machine had cooled down, we needed to answer all these comprehension questions on the text that had raced across the screen fading into oblivion. I did not rise to the occasion and studied my shoes until the bell rang. Speed-reading became both my nemesis and a regular part of our language arts instruction that school year.
I just couldn’t embrace speed-reading despite generally liking to do things quickly (and not too well). But fortunately, a local bird of prey gives me the speed fix I did not get from Evelyn Wood or her cronies. The king of speed, the peregrine falcon, has taken up residence in our little town. The lovely peregrine is a mostly dark grey mid-sized bird of prey. He has pointed wings and black sideburns, reminiscent of our founding fathers or Wolfman. But sideburns or not, what the peregrine is most known for is his speed in flight. He drops down on smaller birds from above reaching a speed close to 200 mph for this quick assault. Like the eagles, peregrines made a comeback after the elimination of DDT. Now they nest in high places, near cliffs or even on buildings. Despite their intensity in flight, they have a laissez-faire approach to nest building. They can’t be bothered by gathering twigs and such. Instead, they just scrape a small area to create a little divot in which to lay two to five eggs and take a hiatus from speed to sit for a spell, keeping those eggs warm. Awhile back there was a webcam installed in Springfield at Monarch Place on the 21st floor to monitor a pair of nesting peregrines. We’d tune in often, and it was the first time I had seen them in these parts. The webcam created a lot of attention regarding these birds. It was satisfying to watch them make a dent in the urban pigeon population while raising their brood. It takes the fledglings over a month to leave the nest, and launching from 21 floors off the ground, that first test flight is not for the faint of heart. Here in town their nest sites are on rocky outcrops, bridges, or buildings, somewhere they can command an impressive view to go along with their aviating skills.
The peregrine can be found on six of the world’s seven continents. And appropriately, his name translates to wanderer. According to trusted psychicmedium.com, the falcons symbolize rising above a challenging situation. Man, I wish the peregrine had been my spirit animal back in my middle school days.