Edwin Way Teale wrote that spring advances up the United States at an average rate of 15 miles per day. Imagine a new season wending its way up the coastline, through the river valleys, across the fields, and along the mountain ranges. An author and naturalist, Teale knew firsthand of what he spoke. In 1947, he and his wife Nellie packed their Buick, filled its glove compartment with marked maps, and drove with the intention of following “the triumphal pilgrimage up the map with flowers all the way, with singing birds and soft air, green grass and trees new-clothed….” The Teales had been making such trips since 1945. In part, their planning and taking such trips helped them deal with the grief over the loss of their son David, who was killed in World War II in Germany. The spring trip became a 17,000-mile journey and the foundation for Teale’s book, North With the Spring, one of four Teale wrote chronicling and capturing the seasons of North America. Nellie Teale, also a naturalist, played a central role in their explorations.
Starting their “rendezvous with a season” in February, 1947, in Florida’s Everglades, the Teales drove northward and watched, marveled, and delighted in spring unfolding before them. Teale, part scientist and part essayist, weaved stories and documented the flora and fauna of the natural world meticulously – juncos, eagles, grackles, jays, eels, wasps, ants, butterflies, baby cottontail rabbits, wild strawberries, lichen, pixie moss with tiny white flowers, water hyacinths, hemlocks, and tulip trees, to name only a partial list. The sheer variety is breathtaking. I’ve long been inspired by Teale and other gifted observers to be outdoors, slow down, and simply be mindful of what is happening right in front of me.
Observing nature in the ways of Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, Teale saw the interconnection of all living things, as biographies of him note. His photograph, for instance, depicts how water lily leaves formed feeding platforms for migrating birds. During this “season of the young,” as he called it, Teale photographed baby cottontail rabbits and blue jay fledglings. Teale noted how a brown eaglet was waving its wings for the first times, making them stronger, in a bald eagles’ nest in Florida. The couple discovered the beauty of newly growing white violets, hepatica, Dutchman’s breeches, red columbine, and other wildflowers in a woodland glen of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Virginia, they felt wonder at the subtle, ribbon-like variations of green from tree to tree, branch to branch near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Indeed, spring was on the move. [Read more →]