Upon first sight, Diane Ackerman reminded me of the witch from the classic children’s story, Hansel and Gretel. She wore a long black skirt with a red rose decorated blouse and her untamed black mane of curls contrasted starkly against her pale, sharp face. Throughout the course of her presentation, however, she transformed from stereotypical witch into everybody’s ideal grandma. Ackerman is unique in that although she is a naturalist who was involved in research, she is primarily a poet. This gave her a very soft and personable tone, almost as if she was telling verbal bedtime stories to the audience. Her voice was very lulling and warm, like a grandmother.
Ackerman spoke about the unique mating rituals of different species all the while contrasting them to the typical first date between a human man and woman. I was particularly intrigued by the cross species concept of “courtship feeding”. This refers to the edible gifts given to females from male suitors as an act of courtship and surprisingly, most all species take part in this.
Although her storytelling was easy to understand, it was definitely directed towards a mature, experienced crowd. The audience was comprised of mostly elderly, married folk. During some particularly awkward parts of her presentation, I felt as if she and the elderly people in the audience shared some courtship secrets that I was out of the loop about.
She closed the 45 minute story session with a piece about herself as an owl. I particularly enjoyed this because not only did I learn fascinating things about the owl, but I also began to think about what animal I would be.