This is an open-ended blog ranging from news about my latest gigs and publications
to ruminations about politics, world affairs, culture and whatever piques my interest—or ire.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


Jeremy on the cover of Sylvaine's new book
In these times of confinement and social distancing, one source of recreation left to us is walking in the park. Fortunately, for Sylvaine and me, New Orleans's Audubon Park is nearby. The park is special to both of us. I am told I took my first steps there as a baby. As a lad, I climbed Monkey Hill and even rode my bike down it at the risk of breaking my neck. As a teenager, I enjoyed some steamy moments with girlfriends while parked by the lagoon (in those days you could still drive in the park.) But for Sylvaine, the park is maybe even more special because this is the place where she started photographing birds and wildlife, which provided the material for two books, Some Birds (Pelican, 2013) and The Adventures of Jeremy Goose (UL Press, 2020).
     These days, she brings her Canon along on our morning walks. She has focused particularly on a fascinating odd couple: a male swan and a female goose that are inseparable and even seem to dance waltzes together on the water. The other day she photographed a rare Osprey high up in a dead tree overlooking the lagoon. Maybe another book will emerge from these impromptu sessions. 
     But we have been struck by what is no longer present by the Audubon Park lagoon. Of the dozens of species Sylvaine photographed and described in Some Birds—egrets, herons, coots, wood ducks, gribes, anhingas, cormorants—only a few remain, mostly mallards, crows, and one pair of whistling ducks. The biggest shock, however, is the apparent departure of the flock of white geese that were the subject of her most recent book, Jeremy Goose. Where could they have gone? Had they died? Had they migrated? had they been taken somewhere else by the park authorities? For years, on our annual visits, we had seen them, with Jeremy immediately recognizable by the birthmark-like spots on his head and wings. We had watched him grow literally from the egg stage to young adulthood, which formed the "first person" narrative of the book. Now Jeremy and his extended family were gone. 
"Jeremy" in City Park, March 2020
     This morning, we decided to change our usual pattern and walked in City Park instead. On the banks of the lagoon, just across from the Peristyle, we spotted a flock of white geese lounging in the sun. Could that be Jeremy's family? Not likely, since they were not great flyers, and this was a long way from Audubon. But as we approached, we noticed one male, quite big, that had Jeremy's telltale markings on his head and wing. Could that actually be Jeremy? We're not 100% sure, but I would like to think so.

     One encouraging thing about out visit to City Park was that many of the bird species that have vanished from Audubon are to be found here, including egrets, coots, cormorants, pelicans and anhingas. Maybe they found this park more congenial. Who knows? The encouraging thing is that, contrary to one of my theories, they have not been chased from the region by global warming—at least not yet. In any case, Sylvaine and I will continue to visit City Park, with special attention to "Jeremy." Maybe he will remember Sylvaine and give her some sign. After all, she made him a star.


Even in these times of lockdowns and store closings, Sylvaine's books can be ordered on line.

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