My Perhaps Over-Exuberant Response to the Extra-Credit Portion of the Otherwise Painfully Tedious Workbook for the PSIA Children’s Specialist Exam, Which I Am Taking Today, So Please Wish Me Luck

The extra-credit question reads, "These character names are from Dr. Seuss. Pick one and tell a story about where this creature may live and what kind of activities it likes to do."

  • Tufted Mazurka
  • Grickily Gractus

It's interesting that you mention the tufted mazurka. I actually did my doctoral dissertation ("The Semiotics of Nature as Cultural Progenitor: Inspiration and Interpretation Among the Chopé People of Western Polonia," PhD in Musical Anthropology, Oxford, 1949) on the Chopé people, whose ancestral homeland overlaps almost exactly with the breeding range of the tufted mazurka. Chapters 3, 4, and 8 all include lengthy discussions of the importance to the Chopé people of this wondrous, beautiful, and most unusual bird.

Due to the amazing videography of nature shows like "Planet Earth," wonders like the tufted mazurka have become much more visible to modern Americans than was the case in the years after World War II, during which I lived among the Chopé and got to see the tufted mazurka in its natural habitat.

At the time I did my primary research, however, popular knowledge of the various three-legged birds of the cloud forest region of Western Polonia (known as "Polonaise" to the Chopé), of which the tufted mazurka is pre-eminent, was scanty, to say the very least. That an otherwise exclusively tree-dwelling animal would take to the earth, putting it directly among its primary predators (the lesser grickily gractus probably the most well known among these) to engage in such marvelous songs and dances (their fascinating rhythms otherwise unseen in the animal kingdom) as part of its mating behaviors may no longer shock an observer, now used to seeing the world's miracles every week without leaving the comfort of their TV-room couches, but at the time, I verily marveled, eyes wide and ears wider, as I came to understand that substantial elements of the Chopé's melodious language and dexterous gestural expressioning clearly arose directly from the influence of observation of the tufted mazurka's most remarkable qualities.

But I do prattle on so. The mere mention of the tufted mazurka always brings me back to those years, among the happiest of my life. As reflects the inspiration of the mazurka itself, the Chopé busy themselves with music and dancing (though they reverse the mazurka's patterns, leaving the ground to take to the trees to do their art), and as an anthropologist living among them I felt obliged to lessen the distance between us by participating, as much as I was able, in the cultural acts that made the Chopé such a fascinating, heart-warming people to live among.

I'll share one last story. One time I sat on a limb in a tree, listening to the strange, romantic harmonies of the Chopé. I was in something of a reverie, when to my shock a mazurka, its eponymous plumage bio-fluorescing in the dim under-canopy light, alighted upon my knee, looked quizzically up at my face, and vocalized its primary call, which I transcribe thus: "Yoman. Wazzup wazzup wazzup. Chillin?"

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