Mountains in my shoe

April 8, 2008

So, I am standing on sand that once formed the Appalachians, back when they were bigger than the Rockies. The temperature is 45 or so, the wind hitting 30. A mist of powdery sand rips along the tide-line, around my legs, and keeps racing south, as though late for an appointment. Bits and pieces of me: The dander, the odd loose hair, assorted molecules of the kind that would allow a bloodhound to track me, tear away and scatter downwind. I am disintegrating, bit by bit, as is the world around me.

I am not especially worried about this. In fact, at the moment I am trying to get the goddamned pipers to stand still enough to be photographed. But the one I’m trying to get twitches and fidgets, darts his sharp little bill into the sand, ending the life of some wriggling bit of protein.

I am not worried because I am fairly used to the idea of mortality. Not looking forward to it, I hasten to add, but I know it’s there.

I can’t say the same for the piper, or the little bit of life it just speared out of the sand. I doubt either has given the matter much thought. They’re probably the better for it.

That same day, I managed to get a photo of a Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel. Now, I’m no nature photographer; you’re not going to find me on my belly communing with leeches in an attempt to capture an image of the Great Crested Whosis. But I like to keep my trusty digital camera at hand when I’m out poking around the more civil fringes of The Great Out-there and see what I can stumble onto.

The fox squirrel – the largest squirrel in North America, is another victim of our energies. Unlike his much smaller and more adaptable cousin, the gray squirrel, the fox squirrel needs old growth forests for habitat, and we have cut down most of them. His original range stretched from central New Jersey south through eastern Pennsylvania and down the length of the Delmarva Peninsula.

The squirrels are now found only in a few places, like here, in the loblolly pine forests of Chincoteague Island on the Virginia coast.

The squirrel was introduced, or re-introduced, to the 14,000 National Wildlife Refuge here in the 1970s. There are about 150 or so of them here now.

I got a good photo of the little feller eating an acorn by the roadside. He flashed off into the woods and then sat watching me from within a thicket. He did not look particularly worried about the future. So far as anybody has been able to tell, most animals have no sense of imagination. This explains the lack of worry.

I had read long ago that the sands of the barrier islands here on the eastern seaboard were the pulverized remains of the ancient mountain ranges formed 300 million years ago. Some of those stones had been ancient seashores much earlier than that. And now most of the high peaks of that giant range were working their way into the low-cut shoes I had foolishly worn on this early spring day.

I stand braced against the wind, feeling very temporary.


© 2007 Marsh Creek Media,

Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:


2 Responses to “Mountains in my shoe”

  1. valwebb said

    Hi, Terry! I love this post. It has my very favorite literary combination — lyrical prose AND scientific fact. And you combine them so skillfully… This is the sort of soul-nourishing stuff I used to seek out in the writings of Annie Dillard and E.B. White. I am inspired to paint a fox squirrel to include in the Postcards From the Edge of Extinction show. I’ll send you a jpeg of it, once completed. Thanks!

  2. […] few weeks ago, Terry Burger mentioned the dwindling fox squirrel population in his beautifully written — and unfailingly relevant — blog.  I had no idea what a fox […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: