Hits and Misses

Hits and Misses

Monday, March 2, 2015

First-Rate Writing: Hutto's Illumination in the Flatwoods

Joe Hutto's Illumination in the Flatwoods:  A Season Living Among the Wild Turkey was published in 1995 and in a second paper edition by Lyons Press in 2006. Almost on a whim, Hutto saved some wild turkey eggs from being destroyed by mowing operations in Florida.  He got ahold of an incubator, marked them and turned them, and when the chicks hatched, he imprinted them on himself.  The chicks thought he was a turkey, and he in turn did everything he could to enter their world (which, among other demands, involved being sleep deprived for two years).  Hutto writes not only with insight but with love and wonder, and the result is a moving appreciation of a species entirely different from us, the wild turkey.

Hutto is more than an observer of their lives, he is a participant.  Among many other things, these turkeys teach Hutto how to live in the present by teaching him about "wild turkey speed and wild turkey time."

     Wild turkey speed is that speed beyond which an organism becomes stupid on a scale proportional to the relative increase.  In other words, stupidity is directly proportional to the square of one's velocity.  For this reason it is very difficult for me to travel at wild turkey speed.  Every day is a new lesson in this discipline.  Wild turkey speed allows one to utilize consciousness and sensory awareness to minimize one's expenditure of energy.  A wild turkey always proceeds as if he were in the perfect place at the perfect time.  All his needs may be satisfied here in this moment.  These opportunities are merely waiting to be recognized--a constant condition of sustenance through inquiry and discovery.  I find that it is difficult for me to avoid being goal oriented in our outings, betraying the moment for some abstraction up ahead.  An absurd and ironic result of this is that the rattlesnake, which serves as a perfect metaphor, is peacefully waiting to be understood and instead winds up underfoot.  There is no profit in this, and these wild turkeys constantly remind me to do better.  Their experience, which I believe to be vastly richer than my own, affords them an awareness and evolutionary maturity that is far superior.  I have made this natural world my devoted life's work, but they remind me that I am a clumsy pilgrim in a realm that can never truly be my own.

     Wild turkey time is more difficult to explain.  It seems to have something to do with a resolution of the time it takes for a grasshopper to fly and land, and the time it takes to get from the Cretaceous to the Holocene.  Wild turkeys exist on a vast continuum like continents and mountain ranges but only in this moment like the wind on your face.  And, as any turkey hunter knows, they exist only as a probability, a tendency to occur in a certain place at a certain time.  They behave at once like a particle and like a wave, and even a physicist would call them unpredictable.  A wild turkey suddenly is there like a gnat in your eye or he is an apparition that gives you occasion to doubt your senses.  In either case, he can be very hard to get to know.

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