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Here is the next excerpt from Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape with Figures:

“The hottest day so far we’ve had this summer. You can almost hear the heat in the crescendo buzz of the cicadas and the humming of bees in the privet hedges which are now in full bloom.

I find the smell of privet mildly repugnant; the sweetness seems always jut on the verge of decay. Since I am not required to carry pollen on my legs and make honey, it doesn’t matter much. What I do like about the privet’s being in flower is the memory it holds of the hot summer days in childhood when you expected them to continue indefinitely and there was all the time in the world to sprawl in the porch hammock, swinging idly with one leg dangling over the side, listening to the lazy-sleepy sounds of a July day and letting your thoughts drift until they happened on some delightful project; and then, drowsiness promptly vanishing, yo went at once to carry it out.

The privet draws not only bees but butterflies, too. On my own unkempt hedge this morning I counted ten red admirals and one beautiful tiger swallowtail. Perhaps they weren’t attracted by the smell of the privet at all; perhaps they had just hatched out from eggs deposited there. I really don’t know anything about lepidoptera. But they are so fantastic to look at! I envision some celestial studio where apprenticed artists of an angelic order are set to work designing butterflies with which to decorate the world. It would be much more of a creative challenge than the one given Adam to name the animals. (On second thought, recalling how many writers have talked about the anguished search for the right word, I conclude that making up names for all the animals must have been quite an assignment.)

It is so absolutely incredible that every minute overlapping scale on a butterfly’s wing is colored and placed to pit into the design. It is equally incredible that every scale on a fish, hair on a cat, feather on a bird should be placed with similar precision, with the colors and shapes sharply defined. You’d expect, for instance, that a few ruby feathers from a hummingbird’s throat might turn up among the green on the back or that the ruby-colored throat might bleed or smudge a little on the edges.

(It just occurs to me that if I wanted to go off on a theological tangent, the word ‘design’ means not only pattern but purpose.)

Even more astonishing than the pattern of line and color is the pattern of behavior – what we call, rather disparagingly, instinct in contrast to our superior human ability to reason. Imagine being able to build an oriole’s nest for instance: weaving hair and plant fibers and bits of bark and string into a gourd-shaped nest and attaching it to a tree so that it does not even rest on a limb but hangs from it, subject to the vagaries of the wind and strong enough to hold four to six eggs with a bird sitting on them, and later four to six baby birds so they don’t spill out! And to do it all without hands! Instead of priding ourselves on our reasoning ability, we human beings should deplore our lack of instinctual skills.”

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