August 29th, 2006

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The Peaceful Manatee -

I have always loved the slow, peaceful manatee.  Perhaps, there is something, in me, that relates to the comfortable, slow-paced, ease of life.

Here is a section of an article from the NY Times today.   The article is by Erica Goode.   I begin it several paragraphs down, and do not give the exciting ending.  If  you are interested, you can check the whole article out for yourself in the NY Times.  

    "Yet the conception of the simple sea cow is being turned on its head by the recent work of Roger L. Reep, a neuroscientist at the University of Florida at Gainesville, and a small group of other manatee researchers, including Gordon B. Bauer, a professor of psychology at New College of Florida, and David Mann, a biologist at the University of South Florida.

     In studies over the last decade, they have shown that the endangered Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is as unusual in its physiology, sensory capabilities and brain organization as in its external appearance.

    Far from being slow learners, manatees, it turns out, are as adept at experimental tasks as dolphins, though they are slower-moving and, having no taste for fish, more difficult to   motivate. They have a highly developed sense of touch, mediated by thick hairs called vibrissae that adorn not just the face, as in other mammals, but the entire body, according to the researchers’ recent work.

     And where earlier scientists saw in the manatee’s brain the evidence of deficient intelligence, Dr. Reep sees evolution’s shaping of an animal perfectly adapted to its environment.

    Dr. Reep — a co-author, with Robert K. Bonde, a biologist at the Sirenia Project of the United States Geological Survey, of a recently published book, “The Florida Manatee: Biology and Conservation” (University Press of Florida) — argues that the small size of the manatee brain may have little or nothing to do with its intelligence.

    Brain size has been linked by some biologists with the elaborateness of the survival strategies an animal must develop to find food and avoid predators. Manatees have the lowest brain-to-body ratio of any mammal. But, as Dr. Reep noted, they are aquatic herbivores, subsisting on sea grass and other vegetation, with no need to catch prey. And with the exception of powerboats piloted by speed-happy Floridians, which kill about 80 manatees a year and maim dozens more, they have no predators.

    “Manatees don’t eat anybody, and they’re not eaten by anybody,” Dr. Reep said.

    But he also suspects that rather than the manatee’s brain being unusually small for its body, the situation may be the other way around: that its body, for sound evolutionary reasons, has grown unusually large in proportion to its brain.

    A large body makes it easier to keep warm in the water — essential for a mammal, like the manatee, with a glacially slow metabolism. It also provides room for the large digestive system necessary to process giant quantities of low-protein, low-calorie food.

     The manatee must consume 10 percent of its 800-pound to 1,200-pound body weight daily. Hugh, 22, and Buffett, 19, captive manatees at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., are fed 72 heads of lettuce and 12 bunches of kale a day, their trainers say. And in a 2000 study, Iske Larkin, a researcher in Dr. Reep’s laboratory, used colored kernels of corn to determine that food took an average of seven days to pass through a captive manatee’s intestinal tract — a leisurely digestive pace comparable to that of a koala or a two-toed sloth."
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Ah, breathe!!

"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe."

Anatole France
1844-1924, Novelist

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Family life -

I am coming to see that a marriage is a bringing together of the disparate, and that is a good thing.   We gain a daughter and a son, as individuals, and a unit, that will, most likely expand, as they, begin,  to create and make their own way.  I like these words of May Sarton's, as they allow me to find some humor and space in the wholeness of this marriage scene.

Of course, I also note, that the nations of the world make up a dysfunctional family unlike one I would like to ever participate in, and yet, here we all are, "one happy family," in the throes of birth and death.   

“Family life! The United Nations is child's play compared to the tugs and splits and need to understand and forgive in any family.”

-- May Sarton

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Therapy -

"To be tested is good. The challenged life may be the best therapist."

-- Gail Sheehy

    How blessed I am with therapy!    : )

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On another note -

Here is the poem "Happiness" by Jane Hirshfield.


I think it was from the animals
that St. Francis learned
it is possible to cast yourself
on the earth's good mercy and live.
From the wolf who cast off
the deep fierceness of her first heart
and crept into the circle of sunlight
wagging her newly-shy tail
in full wariness and wolf-hunger,
and was fed, and lived;  from the birds
who came fearless to him until he
had no choice but to return that courage.
Even the least amoeba touched on all sides
by the opulent Other, even the baleened
plankton fully immersed in their fate -
for what else might happiness be
than to be porous, opened, rinsed through
by the beings and things?
Nor could he forget those other companions,
the shifting, ethereal, shapeless:
Hopelessness, Desperateness, Loneliness,
even the fire-tongued Anger -
for they too waited with the patient Lion,
the glossy Rooster, the drowsy Mule, to step
out of the trees' protection and come in.  

       - Jane Hirshfield

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One of my favorites -


    by Jane Hirshfield

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down -
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
that the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest -

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

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checking in -

I am feeling quite cheerful and zippity-do-dah today.

Rumi said:   "Are you jealous of the ocean's generosity?  Why would you refuse to give this joy to anyone?"

Hmmm!   A very good point!!    I bounce, pounce, balance, and play.  

I have been reading about creating sacred space, wherever we are.  It can be a very small shift, or simple noticing.  Here is to sacred space, within and without.

Do you know the three most popular songs in the English language?

    They are:

          "Auld Lang Syne"

          "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"

          "Happy Birthday to You"

"Happy Birthday to You" is now 113 years old.    The Hill Sisters, who created it, received very little money for it, even though it now generates approximately $3 million in royalties and licensing revenue annually, and it's not about that.   Right?    Joy, Joy, Joy to All!!    The ocean is rich with waves.   Let's hug and return as many as we can.