By Scott Sullivan
I knew when I saw kids plant a redwood at River Bluff Park in just centuries salamanders would skydive from it. How? From a story in The Smithsonian.
Like flying squirrels, Aneides vagrans or wandering salamanders stretch their tails and feet to glide limb to limb among redwood canopies. Alligator lizards in the air almost.
“The salamander is surprising,” says Virginia Tech biomechanist Jake Socha, who also studies flying snakes, “because it doesn’t look like it should be able to do anything in the air at all.
“Numerous animals seem to have stumbled on similar sets of features,” he goes on, “which involve behaviors that help them control their bodies in the air.”
Two cheers for evolution. To complete that, we can Nutri-Grow the River Bluff seedling so tourists can tunnel through it like in California, then gaze up at amphibians not seen here since the Harbor Duck.
Cue the song “Memories” from “Cats.” Was it just three years ago Brent Birkholz, from beneath his bush hat, would pilot the amphibious World War II vehicle letting fly views on history best for not having happened? Land or sea, it could fight off anything except insurance men.
Integrative biologist Christian Brown is leading a Florida team dropping wandering, ground and arboreal salamanders into a vertical wind tunnel to simulate them falling from trees, then filming resulting movements.
More money wasted on science instead of glop I can profit from is forgivable if I too can learn to fly with the salamanders. While viewing lives pivoting in mid-air, park tourists can further cash in on riverbanks planted with more baby trees and watch mute swans officials two years ago wanted hunted but bird lovers here shot down.
River Bluff had no number for reservations. With luck won’t become one more hidden gem ruined by discovering, but what can happen will. Get set.
Redwoods can live in Michigan. The three at Manistee’s Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary are survivors of six seedlings brought from California in 1948 by M.E. and Gertrude Gray. At least one now is 95 feet tall. Michigan parks sprouting redwoods often are built on bluffs.
The salamanders most skilled at leaps of faith do so to find food and mates plus flee predators, not that outcomes are dissimilar. Remember cartoon land’s George of the Jungle, who swung from and into trees?
Since we spend our lives dying to spend deaths living, research dough’s always welcome. Grants entombed sprout growth we can document with new toys knowing no measure for long is valid.
No Gray redwoods have rained salamanders yet, but patience is and are welcome in diagnostic settings. Before we know, River Bluff may be a tourist mecca.
Another, the Sistine Chapel, is more entrenched for those looking upward. Though I’ve been there/done that, Michelangelo’s 1508-1512 work is ever changing.
When I was there 35 years ago, its “Creation of Adam” centerpiece was obscured by scaffolding placed there for restoration/cleaning. The 40-foot-tall far wall “Last Judgment” was unimpeded.
Both have been reproduced near life-size for a touring show now in Grand Rapids through 9-11. When the show opened in Omaha last November, I could have rented a viewing igloo. Since the Ford Museum doesn’t offer that, I bought and set up my own.
“Call security,” said a guard who saw me.
“You are security,” I noted.
He looked at his badge. “Not enough,” he said.
In came a SWAT team. “Think you’re safe,” asked the captain, “from the Creation and End of Man in a self-made module?”
“It’s done all the time,” I said. “See, walls are transparent. What’s the problem?”
They opened up with firearms not knowing my womb was bulletproof. One ricocheted into St. Bartholomew seated on a cloud holding Michelangelo’s flayed skin.
“Ow,” said Bart.
“No one told me,” said the captain, “this was animated.
“If you want to look skyward for real life, not just frescoes,” I suggested, “try River Bluff Park. Bring your arms and armor as incoming airborne amphibians will be everywhere.”
He looked skeptical.
“Don’t take my word, take The Smithsonian’s,” I said.
By Scott Sullivan