Saturday, August 16, 2008


(Stork on a nest, Hungary - Photo 1979 by Pat [Cokely] Browning)

By Pat Browning
Are you ready? Experts got together in July at Microsoft headquarters to talk about sending an elevator into space along a 60,000-mile carbon fiber ribbon.

I have three words for them: Tower of Babel. (Genesis 11:4 for those who haven’t read their King James lately.)

If an elevator into space isn’t enough to send us reeling, here’s a quote from an AP story:

“Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have engineered 3-D materials that can reverse the natural direction of visible and near-infrared light. As a result, the research raises the possibility that someday people can use the material in cloaking devices that render objects invisible to the human eye. That type of tactical technology goes well beyond the realm of H.G. Wells and Harry Potter, especially considering that some of the project's funding came from the U.S. Army Research Office and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.”

Now, those people I can help. The easiest, cheapest way to make a man invisible is to put him in an Olympic swimming pool with Michael Phelps. Example: Laszlo Cseh of Hungary.

In the 200-meter butterfly, Phelps takes the gold. Huzzah, huzzah! Cseh takes the silver. Yawn. The time difference is a matter of seconds. Same thing in the 200-meter individual medley. Ditto the 400-meter medley. Cseh is a shadow behind.

A commentator carries on with news that Phelps is double-jointed at the knees and elbows, his heart pumps more blood than an ordinary mortal’s, he stands 6 feet four, and has a wingspan of 6 feet eight.

WINGspan? Well, there’s a clue. Laszlo Cseh should have brought a stork to Beijing. Seriously. The stork is a good luck symbol in Hungary. It brings babies, prevents house fires. No word on a stork’s opinion of Olympic swimming, but it’s worth a shot.

Storks love people. Hungarians love them back. Year after year, storks fly in from Africa to spend summer in Hungarian villages, usually in nests on top of telephone poles.

The photo here was one of those lucky shots a tourist seldom gets. I put my cheap little camera against a tour bus window and clicked. That was almost 30 years ago. To be sure the storks still nest on telephone poles, I did some Internet research.

At, a Hungarian news and culture web site, I found several photos, plus information on the Hungarian Ornithology Association’s campaign to protect Hungary’s nesting storks.

Hungary has an old and checkered past. Russia claimed it after World War II, and rolled tanks into Budapest to crush a 1956 uprising. When I was there, Hungary operated under a kind of “goulash communism.” Shell holes still pocked the Citadella, an old fortress overlooking the Danube, and a Russian statue stood on the roof.

Hungary was finally free of Moscow in 1989, and is now a parliamentary democracy. It joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004. Through it all, the storks came back to nest on telephone poles. In this rapidly changing world, that’s nice to know.


Jean Henry (Mead) said...

Kind of like the swallows returning to Capistrano in southern California. Great shot of the stork, Pat. I had no idea they liked to nest at dizzying heights.

Cindi said...

That is a great picture.

Anonymous said...

Jean and Cindi:

This is kind of weird. That stork photo is the only photo I have of my 1979 trip through Italy, Hungary and Yugoslavia. The rest have simply disappeared during my subsequent moves and computer crashes.

Well, that's not entirely true. (Is anything ever entirely true?) Some of my photos appeared in TravelAge West, a trade journal for travel agents. That's not exactly the same as real snapshots in a scrapbook, but it will have to do.

Same thing happened with dozens of photos I took in India. I KNOW what happened to them, but knowing won't bring them back. (:

Now about that stork photo -- do you think someone pulling strings Up There knew that I might want that photo and put a Do Not Destroy marker on it? (:

After all, there's no such thing as linear time. It's all NOW. Whaddya think?


Jaden Terrell said...

Hmmm. They bring luck, do they?

We have a telephone pole in front of our house. Now all we need is a stork.