Bears at Home

A Goldilocks remix.

This is tiring. I could use a break.

Here’s a spot. 

Are there people?

I don’t see any.

Look at the colors.

It’s been a long trip.

C’mon, it’s just us!

Feel this.

Oh, oh! I love it here!

Let’s stay awhile.

Inspired by this article about polar bears settling in abandoned buildings on Russia’s Kolyuchin Island where photographer Dmitry Kokh was delighted to discover them playing house.

Animal Legacies

Studies in the anatomy of inheritances.

If you want to eat, it helps to be able to crack what nuts you can find. If you are finding nuts and trying to crack them, it’s best when you have the right tool.

Some capuchin monkeys can crack nuts easily because their forebears left them the right tools.

A medium-sized Long Island hermit crab looking to upgrade their home has the best chance of finding a larger castoff shell that has been vacated, but a very large crab is going to have a harder time finding an upgrade, as there are fewer oversized shells in the average vacancy chain. In related news, hyena daughters born to high-ranking mothers are getting early access to fresh meat.

Scientists studying these phenomena are asking questions. They are hopeful that a better understanding of the mechanisms of inequality may be useful when it comes to fostering change. Humans, after all, are vastly more cooperative than other species, one scientist observes, and cooperation is an asset that can work in any number of directions, depending on intent.

Inspired by:

This New York Times article on intergenerational wealth in the animal kingdom, and this one on property transfer in hermit crab societies.

Soul

For every living.

What knows, perceives, wills, animates––a body, while not of body. Moving a mind, but not quite a mind or of one. Plato considered a soul of the universe, and others saw it in the celestial bodies. Some confuse it with perceptible motion. Where is it before–– and after, this form and these forms? Before understanding, and after? Indivisible, and yet able to multiply, into greater unity, ever greater being, explaining nothing, with no guarantees.

Facing the Lion

No show, just a portrait of strength.

Persistence like a river until it’s bled dry, and no temper. Here is no coercion, no brash announcements, no bold statements. Most of what she is saying, facing what others call this beast, is so subtle it sounds like nothing. 

Everything is the opposite of nothing. Something is also the opposite of nothing. A robe but no armor, her hands in the mane, so near the jaw. He leans into her and she holds.

Someone wants to know who is calling the shots, but there are no calls happening here. No shots. Here is a wild creature renowned for ferocity, a feared killer, at rest. She is with him. They are breathing, still.

Counting Saints

Commonplace reminders on being.

Golden yarrow, fledgling web, congregations of clover refusing to quit. These dishes again, and the pot left soaking overnight. Pan, too. Basket of laundry, ever renewing, and this list. This ache in my temples to remind me what I took for granted just last week, like the fluttering chest and sore neck. Sleeping cat in the chair, beside a small collection of beach rocks, at least one of which is concrete, gathered how many years ago? By still-dimpled hands, with calm assurance reaching up, saying Here. Hawk on streetlight, coyote in yard, dog panting on rug, legs splayed forward and back, trail of pawprints between the door and where she is now, looking up. This trio of men at the park in boxing gloves and sweatpants and the youngest must be at least sixty-eight. They run in circles, punch pads and one another’s gloves, punch trees and the trees hold still. One among them is the coach and when he’s not cussing a blue streak he’s shouting, C’mon, that don’t matter! Whaddya doin?! No, look! Up, up, up!

How We Hold

On the ties that bind us.

Our long infancies make for long bonds, as with elephants, primates, and crows. Herodotus had a mind to study family ties, but he couldn’t find a set given when it came to what lines they might follow or what shapes they could take.  

The sheer helplessness of the infant explains a few things about the biological necessity for the strength of such long bonds, and yet. Isn’t it also true that most of us are walking around with at least one infant inside us, however carefully swaddled, who is bound unpredictably and for no reason––but their own––to cry out, Help! Hold.

Consider the etymology of family: one part property, one part servant, one part friendship. A prayer for the body collective: you are mine and I am for you; friend, take my hand––the original need, made and remade.

Consider the wide-ranging implications of the phrase to be heldholding. A hand is not a cell. A tie is not a cage. A friend knows that the hand may be stretched in any direction, across a table, Here; down into a dark recess, Pull! and up from another deep hole, Help! A body among friends will naturally do all of these again and again, unless prevented by some opposing force.

I love the way that in some contexts, almost every exchange is followed by an, I gotchou. How often, in these same places, you might rarely hear proclamations mentioning love or devotion specifically. But watch the hands of the men as they pass: fingertips, then palms, then full grip, knuckles, wrists, sometimes all the way up the arm to a full embrace, as if the point is to practice different ways to hold. To say with the body, I got you.

Fish Talk Over Coffee

Considering our aqueous ancestors.

Huh.

What?

Well, apparently, some species of sea slug take off their heads when the body gets infested with parasites.

Where do they put it?

They just crawl around on it until they grow a new body.

That’s convenient. What happens to the old one?

The parasites have at it. By the way, did you remember to call the dentist?

They’re still closed. You know, I read that the Pacific lingcod lose about twenty teeth a day and they grow them all back.

How many do they start with?

About five hundred, I think.

Well, you don’t have that many. So don’t forget the dentist.

You ever had that fish?

The lingcod? 

They’re supposed to be delicious. Sustainable, too.

Are those the ones with the fluorescent green meat?

Sometimes. It can be blue, too.

I’ll pass. But speaking of fish, look at this guy. Do you think he’s depressed?

He looks a little low, yeah. I told you when we were at the store you should get him some new leaves or something, make him his own little stocking, but you had tunnel vision about the cat food.

Well, that’s because she didn’t like the new kind and I wanted––

Apparently, you can tell the mental health of a zebra fish by how low it sits in a new tank. If it just hangs out by the bottom, it’s depressed.

Why?

They’re curious creatures. They like novelty. Plus, they’re apparently the closest to humans in terms of how brain chemicals function. 

I met this paleontology guy at the checkout. He said fish were the first to invent heads with brains. That and the whole phenomenon of having senses in sets: two eyes, two nostrils, two ears ––

Fish have ears?

On the inside. They have these little ear stones that detect vibrations. They help with balance, too.

Do you think he’s listening?

***

These two started talking when I was reading a number of articles from or linked to a feature in the New York Times about the sea slug and other discoveries. I started with 2021’s Most Fascinating Animals, and from there went on to lingcod teethfish depression, and some articles inspired by the work of paleontologist Neil H. Shubin, including What People Owe Fish: A Lot. Considering the debt, this morning’s post is admittedly a meager offering.

Angel

Bodies outside time and space.

Consider this illumination here now. Not quite us, and yet. Neither fact nor fiction, mortal or immortal. Who are you, and what? Illuminated form without matter, creature of eternity, yet not without beginnings of your own; how many of you are standing here now, on the point of this needle, stitching time? You move in space, yet are outside it, jumping through without passing. You know without thinking, sense without feeling, speak without words. Move love into light and back again. There is a common preference these days, not to see you. It is supported by argument and reason and other human tools, but for these you haven’t had much use. 

Advice From the Silver Mollies

In honor of Robert Bly’s birthday.

Keep an eye out. You never know when the next mortal blow is coming. Look around. Notice your numbers, and don’t let them go to waste. When they come for you, don’t just lie there in stunned silence. Spin, turn, shout! Get those around you to move. You’ll never command the whole group, but there’s no one who isn’t touching some of the others and everyone is connected. Move the ones you are touching. I don’t want to frighten you, but they are coming for you. There will always be another attack and you’re never going to prevent that. All your movement will only prolong the time between attacks. We can cut their success in half, maybe. So do it. They will keep attacking. Keep moving.

The silver mollies will tell you, it’s not a matter of escape, but of letting the enemy know, after they pick off a target, that they’re going to have to work for the next one.

You have a friend who studies bees. A hornet is much bigger than any bee and can easily get away with whatever prey it can pick off. Except when the bees move quickly enough to surround the attacker, vibrating their wings to cook it to death. It’s important to act quickly here, before reinforcements are signaled.

Please don’t expect that you’re going to solve the problem of ongoing attacks, or that they’ll stop on their own at some magical hour, or when some critical mass of those wearied by plundering is finally reached. You’re not going to get that, and it’s no good waiting for the next flight on a magical dragon in the sky.

Listen earthling, you’ve always been too prone to watching clouds, and you miss the enemies in the trees, poised to eat you. 

I have to tell you, the bees involved in cooking their enemy won’t live as long as the others. I have to tell you, the bees involved in cooking their enemy are also more likely to be involved in subsequent attacks, each of which takes its toll, but if you dwell on this, you’ll be missing the point.

Four o’clock in the morning is the best time to see the moon

Soon, you’re going to be without a choice. You need to know this. So much suffering goes on in prison, and in the prisons of self-isolation, every hour a reminder of who and what may not be touched. 

You too will not be spared if you refuse to notice.

***

Inspirations:

I noticed it was Robert Bly’s birthday this morning, and so I decided to do a post inspired by his “Advice from the Geese.” Yesterday’s New York Times had an interesting article about the synchronized defensive behavior of silver mollies (Why these Mexican Fish Do the Wave), so I decided to begin with them. Thoughts of animal synchronization reminded me of something I had read earlier this year about the behavior of honeybees when attacked by hornets. I also consulted Frontiers: Functional Synchronization: The Emergence of Coordinated Activity in Human Systems.