Friday, April 23, 2010

"Singing Woman" by Ada Jack Carver, from VOA.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And now, the VOA Special English program American Stories.


Our story today is called “Singing Woman.” It was written by Ada Jack Carver. She won an O. Henry Award for the story.

“Singing Woman” is about an old professional mourner in the southern state of Louisiana. She lives on Isle Brevelle, a community of French-speaking people of mixed race. They are part black, part white. Now, here is Mary Tillotson with the story.

MARY TILLOTSON: Little by little, Isle Brevelle was changing and the old ways were disappearing. People did not even die as they used to in any beds with time to receive the sacrament and be pardoned for their sins. They died just anywhere, everywhere killed by trains or the growing number of automobiles that raced by on the big new roads.

No wondered the buryings were often poor, hurried affairs without even a singing woman. Henriette and her close friend, fat old Josephine Remon, were the only singing women left on Isle Brevelle.

There was a time when a singing woman was as necessary as a priest. No one who amounted to anything would be buried without a professional mourner.

Nowadays, people seemed to have lost the fear, the dignity of death. They did not care how they died or were born. They just came into and went out of the world, any old way.

All this troubled Henriette. She sat in her corner and mumbled and grumbled to God about it -- "Look liking ain’t nothing right, not what it used to be.”

It had been nearly ten years no since Henriette had wailed for a funeral. Her friend Josephine had had the last one. That was six years ago, when Madame Rivet died. That made ninety-eight for Josephine and ninety-nine for herself. She was one funeral ahead of her friend.

How proud Henriette was of her record! She, Henriette, had sung for more buryings than any singing woman in the parish. Of course, Old Josephine was a mighty close second.

Henriette kept a record of her own and Josephine’s funerals, in a little black book locked up in a safe place. On one page was here own name, Henriette, and underneath it ninety-nine crosses in neat little rows of five. On the opposite page was Josephine’s name, and beneath it ninety-eight crosses, in neat little rows of five. Well, they had served death long and loyally, she and Josephine.

There was a time when, as a special treat, Henriette would take out her funeral book and name the crosses: “This one was Marie Lombard, and this one Celeste, her daughter. Here was Henri, who died the time the cholera came, in eighteen-sixty.

Sometimes, Henriette wondered sadly if she would ever wail again. There was on Isle Brevelle only one person left who, if he died, would want a wailing woman. This was Toni Philbert, the only soul on Isle Brevelle older than Henriette.

Toni and Henriette and Josephine had been young folks together. Now it became a sort of game between the two women – who would get Toni when he died.

“If I get Toni,” Henriette would say, “me, I’ll have two more crosses than you. I’ll have a hundred.” And Josephine, sitting fat in her chair, would laugh – “mais non, and if I get him,” we’ll be even, Etta, my friend.”

Toni himself, an old, old man was pleased with the fuss they made over him. Sometimes he would joke with them when he met them at church. “Well, well, old ‘uns. I’m here yet. Ha! Ha! I’ll outlive both you girls. Just wait – me, I show you!”

Sometimes when the weather was fine, and the sun not too hot or too bright, old Henriette would take her stick and hobble down to Josephine’s house to talk of old times.

What grand living and dying there used to be, back in steamboat days! It was like remembering a wedding festival or a Mardi Gras to look back to the yellow-fever scare of eighteen-ninety. A funeral every day, and sometimes two. She and Josephine had had their hands full…Shucks! The land was too healthy now, what with draining the swamps and such. The people were getting too uppity, outwitting death like that. Good thing after all that the automobiles bumped some of them off, else they would never quit the earth.

Sometimes, Henriette and Josephine would make wild little jokes, slapping at the flies with their untiring fans. “I seen Toni Last week, at the church. He’s looking weak. Mai non!” And both would laugh. “He ain’t here too long.”

But old Toni, who for almost twenty years has had one foot in the grave, looked like he meant to hang on to the earth forever and ever, amen. He has always been like that, a lover of life and living. Heylaw! What a lad old Toni used to be…What a way with the girls!

It was on a terribly hot August day that Toni Philbert had a stroke. Henriette’s grandson came in and told her about it. Henriette was excited. So Toni was sick, very low! She gulped down some coffee and got her stick and was off to Josephine’s house. She was so heavy with news she could hardly breathe. Ah, well, poor old Toni was dying! Which one would he want to sing for him, herself or old Josephine?

A week went by, and another, and it began to look as if old Toni did not mean to die after all. It was just like Toni to keep death waiting, to play with death like that.

Every night Henriette got out her funeral book. Ninety-nine crosses for herself. A record any singing woman might be proud of! If only she could get one more, to complete her final five! If only she could get Toni. How she would crow over Josephine then…”Me, I got one hundred crosses. One hundred funerals I’ve sung for.”

Then, one night in late September, Toni died and his son came to ask Henriette to the funeral. “Papa, he told us to get you. The funeral is tomorrow at ten.”

In the morning, when Henriette awakened, she found that something terrible had happened to her voice. It was gone. She could not speak…too much excitement, and she let herself get wet outside. Her grandchildren put warm things on her throat and gave her a rum toddy. But it did no good. Her throat hurt when she opened her mouth. She sounded like a frog. She had to stay in bed.

In the evening the family returned from the burying. But they said nothing about the funeral and how nice Josephine had sung and carried on.

When Henriette thought no one was looking, she took out her funeral book from under her pillow and made a crossmark under Josephine’s name. Now they were even! Each had ninety-nine crosses. Her old hands shook and one tear rolled out of one eye.

The next day, when Henriette awoke, she heard much excitement around the house. She sat up against her pillow. Her grandchildren crowed around her bed and told her that Josephine had gotten sick in the night and passed away early this morning.

“How do you feel, Granny?” Is your throat all right? Josephine asked for you in the night, to come and sing for her funeral…Well, le bon Dieu loves you.”

All day, the children made preparations to take Henriette to Josephine’s funeral. They said, “You stay in bed and rest, Mammy, so your voice will be good tomorrow.”

The next morning they came in to help her. When she was dressed and ready to go, they brought her the funeral book. “Now, Mammy, look! Mark it down – one hundred funerals. You have sung for more buryings than anyone in the parish.”

But Henriette brushed them away. “Don’t interfere,” she cackled. “You wait till I come home from Josephine’s burial.”

She was unsteady on her feet as they started out. She was so little, so little and thin. In the mourning veil she looked like a little black bride. She hobbled painfully, slowly along the road. There was not much strength left in her. A loneliness passed over her…a loneliness and heartache…”Josie,” she called… “Josie…I’m coming.”

She reached the turn of the road where the willows grew and had to stop. She could go no further. She became dizzy…weaker…sick with fear. She turned her face toward Josephine’s house and whispered – “Josie.”

Everything around her seemed less clear…a darkness took hold of her – “Josie…Josie…I believe, my friend that…after all…you and me will quit even.”


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: You have heard the story called, “Singing Woman.” I was written by Ada Jack Carver. It was edited and adapted for Special English by Harold Berman. Your narrator was Mary Tillotson. Listen again next week at the same time for another Special English program of AMERICAN STORIES. This is Shirley Griffith.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Aaron Copland". His Music Taught America About itself. From VOA.


I’m Steve Ember.


And I’m Barbara Klein with People in America in VOA Special English. Today we tell about Aaron Copland, one of America’s best modern music composers.



Aaron Copland wrote many kinds of music. He wrote music for the orchestra, piano, and voice. He wrote music for plays, movies and dance. Copland also was a conductor, pianist, speaker, teacher and author.

Music critics say Copland taught Americans about themselves through his music. He used parts of many old traditional American folk songs in his work. He was influenced to do this after studying music in France. He said that composers there had a very French way of writing music. He said Americans had nothing like that in this country. So he decided to compose music that was truly American.


Aaron Copland was born in nineteen hundred in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of five children. His parents had come to the United States from eastern Europe. They owned a store in Brooklyn. Aaron began playing the piano when he was a young child. He wrote his first song for his mother when he was eight years old. His dreams of becoming a composer began when he was young.

When he was sixteen, he urged his parents to let him study composing with Rubin Goldmark. Goldmark had taught the composer George Gershwin.


When he was in his early twenties, Copland went to Paris where he studied music with Nadia Boulanger. She was one of the most important music teachers of the time. He returned to New York in nineteen twenty-four.

The famous conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Serge Koussevitzky, learned about Copland's music. Koussevitzky led the orchestra for the first performance of Copland's early work, "Music for the Theater," in nineteen twenty-five. Koussevitzky also conducted Copland's "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra" in nineteen twenty-seven. This work was unusual because Copland used ideas from jazz music in his concerto.


Copland later wrote the music for two ballets about the American West. One was about the life of a famous gunfighter called Billy the Kid. Copland used music from American cowboy songs in this work. This piece from "Billy the Kid: Ballet Suite" is called "Street in a Frontier Town."



In nineteen forty-two, the conductor Andre Kostelanetz asked Copland to write music about a great American, Abraham Lincoln. Copland wrote "Lincoln Portrait" to honor America's sixteenth president. Copland's music included parts of American folk songs and songs popular during the American Civil War. He added words from President Lincoln's speeches and letters.

"Lincoln Portrait" has been performed many times in America. Many famous people have done the speaking part. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, was one of them. Here, actor James Earl Jones performs in Copland's "Lincoln Portrait."



Also in nineteen forty-two, the music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra asked eighteen composers to write music expressing love for America. For the competition, Copland composed "Fanfare for the Common Man." This music is played in America during many national events, including some presidential inaugurations.



Experts say "Fanfare for the Common Man" was an example of Copland's change in direction during the nineteen forties. He began writing music that was more easily understood and more popular. Copland wrote about this in nineteen forty-one in his book, “Our New Music.” He wrote that a whole new public for music had developed as a result of the popularity of the radio and record player. He said that there was no reason to continue writing music as if these devices did not exist. So he decided to write music in a simpler way.


Copland spread his ideas about music in other ways. He taught at the New School for Social Research in New York City and at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of the many awards he received was the Pulitzer Prize. He won it in nineteen forty-five for his famous music for a ballet called "Appalachian Spring." It is one of his most popular works. The last part of the ballet is based on a traditional song, "A Gift to be Simple."



Copland also wrote music for several major motion pictures. He won an Academy Award in nineteen fifty for composing the music for the film, "The Heiress." Then, he began experimenting with what is called a twelve-tone system of composing. His music no longer was as easy to understand, or as popular.

Copland stopped composing at the end of the nineteen sixties. Yet he continued to be active as a conductor and speaker. In nineteen eighty-two, Queens College of the City University of New York established the Aaron Copland School of Music.


Copland was a strong supporter of liberal ideas. In the early nineteen fifties, he and other famous writers, actors and intellectuals were accused of supporting communism. Public opinion changed, though. In nineteen sixty-four, President Lyndon Johnson presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is America's highest award to civilians. Aaron Copland died in nineteen ninety at the age of ninety. But his music lives on.



This Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I’m Steve Ember.


And I'm Barbara Klein. Join us again next week for another People in America program in VOA Special English.

Now, listen to Aaron Copland's Fanfare For The Common Man

Now, listen to Aaron Copland's "Hoedown from Rodeo"

Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" with photos of the countryside

Agnes de Mille's Ballet of "Rodeo, Scene One" by Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland, 1900-1990, Comprehension Check

"Sand, the Never Ending Story" from VOA.

Whether at the desert, on the beach or piled up at a construction site, sand is one of the most ubiquitous (common), useful and wondrous materials on earth.

But what is sand? Where does it come from? How is it formed and how does it behave?

Never-Ending Story

Those are questions that prompted British geologist Michael Welland to write his book-length ode to the stuff, "Sand: the Never-Ending Story."

"Sand is an apparently mundane everyday material," says Welland, "and yet the journeys an individual sand grain can take you on, both physically and imaginatively, I found extraordinary."
Courtesy: Michael Welland

Geologist and physicists long ago decided that what makes sand sand is the size of the individual granular bits, not what they are made of. Welland notes that sand grains differ from other granular materials, both in the way they pile, and in how they behave.

"When they're flowing in the air or flowing in water, for example, they behave very differently from everything that is smaller — that's silt and mud — and everything that is bigger — that's gravel and pebbles and cobbles and boulders."

Welland's book about sand earned him the prestigious John Burroughs Medal for natural history writing, which was presented earlier this month at New York's American Museum of Natural History. He was right at home in that august locale; sand is an important element in the beautiful old building's sparkling pink granite fa├žade.

A Sand Grain Is Born

"Well, what's sparkling are quartz grains. In a few million years, the granite of the Natural History Museum, exposed to the elements of New York, will begin to rot and disintegrate," says Welland. As the most frail minerals dissolve, "the quartz, which is as tough as old boots, will eventually just drop out as a sand grain."

Some of those quartz sand grains will be washed away by rainwater into nearby rivers where they will make their way down to the shoreline, and the sea or get blown to the desert. In the desert, sand grains are usually buffeted and shaped by the wind, which tends to make them smooth and rounded.

"The sand grains bang into each other," says Welland, "and that force tends to knock the rough edges off a grain." Desert sands are often frosted like sand blasted glass.
Courtesy: Loes Modderman

"But," says Welland "if you go to the beach where the water buffers the impact between grains, it takes millions and millions of years to knock their rough edges off."

In yet another kind of transformation, grains of coastal sand can get squeezed together by the weight of overlying sediments and become rock themselves, which is how sandstone gets formed.

Welland explains that those sand stones can then be churned back up to the earth's surface by the movement of the earth's plates and then those sandstones themselves will rot.

"And so, the sand grain starts off on a second life journey. Many of the grains we see on the beach will have been through two, three, four, five of those cycles over hundreds of millions of years."

Sand families

Sand grains tend to group together in "families" according to mineral type, density, shape, weight and other factors. The relative proportion of these groupings in any one area of beach is unique.

Sand can even be used as forensic evidence in criminal investigations. For example, if the specific array of minerals in the sand found in a suspect's shoe match the stretch of beach where a murder victim is found, the owner of that shoe might be wise to call a lawyer.

Welland says sand has so many other uses that the modern world would be unrecognizable without it.

"We wouldn't have any glass or concrete, or the mobile phones or computers we have now — or they would have to work in completely different ways. Much of the world's jewelry would disappear. Sapphires and diamonds, for example, come from ancient deposits of sand [where] rivers have winnowed the minerals away."

"A World in a Grain of Sand…"

In his book "Sand: the Never-Ending Story," Michael Welland says that sand's beauty and diversity are every bit as compelling as its science.

He advises skeptics to bring a magnifying glass next time they go to the beach, grab a handful, and take a close look.

He confidently predicts that, like the mystic British poet William Blake, you'll see "a world in a grain of sand."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Los Angeles' La Brea Tar Pits: Ancient Animals, from VOA.

BOB DOUGHTY: I'm Bob Doughty.

FAITH LAPIDUS: And I'm Faith Lapidus with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about a scientific research area in the United States. It is filled with the remains of ancient animals. This unusual place is in the center of Los Angeles, California. Its name is Rancho La Brea. But most people know it as the La Brea Tar Pits.


BOB DOUGHTY: To understand why La Brea is an important scientific research center we must travel back through time almost forty thousand years. Picture an area that is almost desert land. The sun is hot. A pig-like creature searches for food. It uses its short, flat nose to dig near a small tree. It finds nothing. The pig starts to walk away, but it cannot move its feet.

They are covered with a thick, black substance. The more it struggles against the black substance, the deeper it sinks. It now screams in fear and fights wildly to get loose.

Less than a kilometer away, a huge cat-like creature with two long front teeth hears the screams. It, too, is hungry. Traveling across the ground at great speed, the cat nears the area where the pig is fighting for its life.

The cat jumps on the pig and kills it. The pig dies quickly, and the cat begins to eat. When it attempts to leave, the cat finds it cannot move. The more the big cat struggles, the deeper it sinks into the black substance.

Before morning, the cat is dead. Its body, and the bones of the pig, slowly sink into the sticky black hole.


FAITH LAPIDUS: Scientists say the story we have told you happened again and again over a period of many thousands of years. The black substance that trapped the animals came out of the Earth as oil.

The oil dried, leaving behind a partly solid substance called asphalt. In the heat of the sun, the asphalt softened. Whatever touched it would often become trapped forever.

In seventeen sixty-nine, a group of Spanish explorers visited the area. They were led by Gaspar de Portola, governor of Lower California.

The group stopped to examine the sticky black substance that covered the Earth. They called the area “La Brea,” the Spanish words for “the tar.”

Many years later, settlers used the tar, or asphalt, on the tops of their houses to keep water out. They found animal bones in the asphalt, but threw them away. In nineteen-oh-six, scientists began to study the bones found in La Brea. Ten years later, the owner of the land, George Allan Hancock, gave it to the government of Los Angeles. His gift carried one condition. He said La Brea could only be used for scientific work.

BOB DOUGHTY: Today, the La Brea Tar Pits are known to scientists around the world. The area is considered one of the richest areas of fossil bones in the world. It is an extremely valuable place to study ancient animals. Scientists have recovered more than one million fossil bones from the La Brea Tar Pits. They have identified more than six hundred different kinds of animals and plants.

The fossils are from creatures as small as insects to those that were bigger than a modern elephant. These creatures became trapped as long ago as forty thousand years. It is still happening today. Small birds and animals still become trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits.


FAITH LAPIDUS: Rancho La Brea is the home of a modern research center and museum. Visitors can see the ancient fossil bones of creatures like the imperial mammoth and the American mastodon. Both look something like the modern day elephant, but bigger.

The museum also has many fossil remains of the huge cats that once lived in the area. They are called saber-toothed cats because of their long, fierce teeth. Scientists have found more than two thousand examples of the huge cats.

The museum also has thousands of fossil remains of an ancient kind of wolf. Scientists believe large groups of wolves became stuck when they came to feed on animals already trapped in the asphalt.

BOB DOUGHTY: In nineteen sixty-nine, scientists began digging at one area of La Brea called Pit Ninety-One. They have found more than forty thousand fossils in Pit Ninety-One. More than ninety-five percent of the mammal bones are from just seven different animals. Three were plant-eaters. They were the western horse, the ancient bison and a two-meter tall animal called the Harlan’s ground sloth.

Four of the animals were meat-eating hunters. These were the saber-tooth cat, the North American lion, the dire wolf and the coyote. All these animals, except the dog-like coyote, have disappeared from the Earth.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Researchers say ninety percent of the fossils found are those of meat-eating animals. They say this is a surprise because there have always been more plant-eaters in the world. The researchers say each plant-eater that became trapped caused many meat-eaters to come to the place to feed. They, too, became trapped.

Rancho La Brea has also been a trap for many different kinds of insects. Scientists free these dead insects by washing the asphalt away with special chemicals. The La Brea insects give scientists a close look at the history of insects in southern California.

The La Brea Tar Pits have also provided science with interesting information about the plants that grew in the area. For many thousands of years, plant seeds landed in the sticky asphalt. The seeds have been saved for research. Scientists also have found pollen from many different kinds of plants.

The seeds and pollen, or the lack of them, can show severe weather changes over thousands of years. Scientists say these provide information that has helped them understand the history of the environment. The seeds and pollen have left a forty-thousand-year record of the environment and weather for this area of California.

BOB DOUGHTY: Digging at Pit Ninety-One was recently suspended in order to pay closer to attention to a new discovery called Project Twenty-Three. In two thousand six a nearby art museum began an underground building project.

La Brea scientists had a chance to investigate an area that otherwise would have been impossible to study. This area turned out to be very rich in fossils. So, twenty-three huge containers of tar, clay and mud were removed from the area for research. This is why the project is now known as Project Twenty-Three.

Scientists have fully examined only several boxes of earth and tar. It will take years to complete all of the containers. But scientists have so far counted over seven hundred parts from different organisms. One huge discovery was the nearly complete skeleton of a male mammoth. Researchers have named the mammoth Zed. This is the largest mammoth ever found in the area.

Rancho La Brea scientists publish an Internet blog that documents this exciting project. It describes in detail the huge amount of work involved in carefully examining the many layers of tar and earth. For example, you can learn about the degreasing machine. Researchers place a big block of tar into the machine. It removes the oily material, leaving behind hundreds of fossils.


FAITH LAPIDUS: Each year, thousands of visitors come to see the fossils at Rancho La Brea. They visit the George C. Page Museum. Mister Page was a wealthy man who became very interested in the scientific work being done at the tar pits. He gave the money to build the museum and research center.

Visitors to the museum can see the “fish bowl,” a laboratory surrounded by glass. Here, they can watch scientists do their research. Visitors can watch the scientists clean, examine, repair and identify fossils that are still being discovered. Through this process, scientists are able to answer questions and solve puzzles about animals and their environment from thousands of years ago. The objects found in Project Twenty-three could double the size of the research center’s collection.

It is exciting to stand only a few meters away and watch scientists clean the asphalt off a fossil that is thousands of years old. Visitors quickly learn why researchers consider Rancho La Brea a very special place.


BOB DOUGHTY: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Bob Doughty.

FAITH LAPIDUS: And I'm Faith Lapidus. You can find a link to the La Brea Tar Pits blog on our Web site, You can also comment on our programs. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Mysterious Change in the Forest" by Edcon Publishing.

Something you will read about: "millipede" a small, worm-like creature with many legs.

The harmony of the forest was about to be disturbed, and would bring about some drastic changes. As the winter was drawing to a close, the animals of the forest were preparing for the activities which would take place in spring. Birds were building nests of leaves and twigs, Monarch butterflies had returned from their flights to warm climates, and the eggs of the praying mantis were hatching out of their hidden cocoons.

Bears and other hibernating creatures were waking from their long winter sleep, and were preparing, once again, to join the forest community. All was peaceful and in order. There was harmony between the animals, as there had been for so many years before. But, in another place and time, a strange event had taken place that was not only a rarity, but also unexplainable.

Some sort of natural disaster had occurred, leaving few animals alive. The survivors were forced to find a new home, so they set out, searching. Many of the survivors were old and died shortly after. The young were left to survive on their own. They did not know where to live, what to eat or how to protect themselves. Instinct was very little help now. They would have to learn quickly how to adapt and survive in a strange land.

Two of these animals, a male and a female, set out to do just that. They were of eagle size, with strong curved beaks and they had talons for feet. But they certainly didn't look like eagles, because they were bright orange. They were indeed a rarity.
Picture the forest. It is spring, and all is green except for occasional splashes of color on those flowers which are beginning to bloom. The other animals of the forest almost blend in with their surroundings.

These new animals didn't mean to intrude. They were just trying to find their place. For the moment, the residing animals let the newcomers be, for the forest was big enough for two more, and after all, what could possibly go wrong?

First in the order of things for the young newcomers was the problem of food. They were hungry, but didn't know just where to find food. Surely, if they just watched some of the other birds, they could learn.

At that point, they heard a sharp, rapping sound. A Downey woodpecker was pecking away at a tree and obtaining insects to nourish itself. That seemed easy enough, so the newcomers tried to fly to the same location on a different tree, but this proved to be very difficult. Their wings were too big to fly among the lower branches. Not to be discouraged, they found a spot closer to the ground, and tried the same method. It didn't work. Where the woodpecker's beak was long and sharp, the newcomer's was broad and curved.

Surely there must be some food suitable for their beaks. They looked around, but it seemed that all life had vanished. How strange, and how conspicuous the orange newcomers suddenly felt in the forest. There was no time to search for camouflage now, since their hunger still had not been satisfied. But what was this?


The male newcomer had turned over a decaying log, and it was full of things to eat. Surely these sowbugs, lightning bug larvae, and millipedes would nourish them, but again their beaks were not suitable. They finally managed to eat a few berries from a shad bush and their hunger was momentarily satisfied. The next problem was where could they sleep?

Again, their alert senses told them that merely closing their eyes was not sufficient. They needed to find a comfortable location which would offer protection and privacy, for they sensed, too, that it was time to mate. A tree seemed most suitable; in fact, they had seen smaller birds in a nest, but how could they get up there, since they couldn't utilize their wings and there just was not enough room? They settled, instead, in a hole at the base of a tree, vacated by a raccoon.

Nighttime fell on the forest, and different sounds could now be heard. The newcomers awoke to the sound of splashing water. Clearly, the splashing of water must mean another source of food; hopefully a more adequate one than the shade-bush. Their progress toward the sound was slowed somewhat by the fact that they didn't feel completely comfortable walking. Their feet were actually claws, but since flying was almost impossible for them in the dense forest, walking was the only alternative. As they arrived at the edge of a stream, they saw a raccoon reaching for something. It must be food. It was, but again, the newcomers had a problem, for their legs weren't long enough. They went back to complete their rest.

Meanwhile, spring turned into summer. Owls hunted for snakes, but the search was useless for there were none. Skunks, weasels and foxes seemed to be disappearing. Woodpeckers pecked away, and hardly got an insect, and though deer-berries were in season, the blue jays could find very few.

The delicate balance of nature was being upset. Small holes were causing young trees to topple due to root damage, and lower leaves and branches were all chewed away. Most living things seemed to have decreased in number, except for mice. They had increased by the hundreds and were all over the forest floor. Could it be the newcomers who were causing this chaos?

But, how could it be? They did not mean to intrude. Certainly these orange eagle-like birds didn't eat all the snakes, skunks, weasels and foxes. And what about the damage to the plants and trees, and all the holes? If the newcomers ate the snakes and even the foxes, they wouldn't need those other things, and what could account for all the mice?

But, indeed, the newcomers had caused all these changes. They had found camouflage in the darker, denser summer forest, had multiplied by the dozens, and for nourishment, ate snakes. They had finally found a food that was suitable to their physical characteristics. They were able to grasp a snake with their talons and quickly puncture it with their sharp, curved beaks.

The newcomers were responsible for the disappearance of the skunks, foxes and weasels as well, although not in the same manner as the snakes. They had simply scared them away.

The newcomers had found their place. They had privacy in the hole in the tree, snakes for food, and shade as camouflage, providing protection from others. They had everything that animals need in order to survive. Everything seemed perfect, but could it last?

They had eaten all the snakes and chased away other animals who usually eat mice. Mice normally give birth very often, so without these animals to keep the population down, the mice multiplied, and in so doing, the foods they ate, the insects, berries, twigs and roots, were utilized rapidly. Animals that were dependent on these sources of nourishment soon disappeared.

Change had affected the newcomers, and they had, in turn, caused change. The forest community was able to survive the change, and gradually conditions returned to normal. The eagles began to explore and soon found places which were much more suitable for them. They gradually lost their conspicuous orange color and wandered into an area that had far fewer trees, and they flew. They fit in better here. Their sources of food varied - snakes, small rodents and fish that they could swoop down upon. Their protection came from flight as well as nesting high in a tree or on a mountain ledge. They had finally found a place that fit in with everyone else's.

1. The orange birds ____
a. had been covered by a layer of paint.
b. were eagles that had survived a disaster.
c. were beautiful pigeons.
d. were really a new breed of creature.

2. As soon as the newcomers arrived in the forest, _____
a. they searched for food.
b. all the mice died.
c. the woodpeckers stopped pecking.
d. they looked for shelter.

3. In the darkness of the forest, the new birds _____
a. destroyed the young trees.
b. found protection and multiplied.
c. ate mice.
d. slowly died.

4. Because of their broad curved beaks, the big orange birds could eat only ______
a. foxes.
b. mice.
c. leaves.
d. snakes.

5. The intruders ________
a. indirectly caused all of the changes in the forest.
b. had no effect on the peaceful forest.
c. shared all the advantages of the forest with the other animals.
d. were unnoticed in the dark, dense forest.

6. The mice multiplied quickly because ______
a. they were eating more.
b. most of their natural enemies were gone.
c. they found better hiding places.
d. the orange birds protected them.

7. If the newcomers had continued to search for a more suitable living area, they would _______
a. have died in the attempt.
b. have been too tired to fly.
c. have turned color.
d. not have caused so much damage.

8. According to this selection, which of the following statements is not true?
a. The forest cannot survive any changes.
b. Woodpeckers eat insects.
c. Newcomers to the forest must adapt, not destroy.
d. Talons are really claws.

9. Another name for this selection could be _______
a. "Big Bald Eagles."
b. "Spring in the Forest."
c. "Hundreds of Mice."
d. "The Intruders."

10. This selection is mainly about _____________
a. how a radical change affects the harmony of nature.
b. the habits of big orange birds.
c. the eagles' life in the desert.
d. the rebuilding of a devastated forest.

Forest Meditation from Youtube. Relax and enjoy: