Tuesday, February 15, 2011
I was sitting in the back porch reading and enjoying the early signs of spring --galanthus hung with snowdrops, plumb blossoms starting, new grass striving with old. A clutch of yellow daffodils held my attention briefly before I returned to reading. Then I heard a rustle and looked up again. One of the daffodils had got knocked over, its little trumpet mashed on the soil.
"What the...who's out there?" I said.
There was a movement among the stalks. Something was hiding.
"Show yourself or I'm coming out!"
A raspy voice came from the daffodils. "Come out and do what, puny man?"
"I've got a broom and I'll chase you with it."
An ugly, very cross-looking head, about the size and color of a pickle, rose up slightly above the flowers. "Hah! I don't think so," it said. "I'm a Tyrannosaurus!"
"Correct me if I'm wrong," I said, "but I heard your kind was fifteen feet tall, not fifteen inches."
"Oh, you're not mistaken. I'm huge! I'm just standing very far away."
"No you're ten feet off in my daffodils."
"Damn," he muttered. "Binocular vision. Time was when only us Tyrannosaurs had that kind of depth perception. Look, I'll come out but you stay on the porch, and no brooms!"
As the creature emerged he began to explain himself: "You're not entirely incorrect about me. My family, the Tyrant Lizards, is most associated with T-rex, who really was fifteen feet tall --taller than T-bataar but only came up to T-imperator's shoulder. Tyrannosauridae is a large and various group."
"And what sort are you?" I asked.
He turned around and said, somewhat self-consciously, "Er, Tyrannosaurus-cottontail."
"That's a fine, impressive tail." I said, "But what became of your relatives?"
"Oh, they're gone."
"I'm sorry. Extinct then?"
"Not that I know of. You've doubtless seen pictures of them and know they always looked very upset. That's accurate. They got dissatisfied with the era they were in, developed a space-program and left for another planet entirely."
"The era, Jurassic?"
"No, Prohibition. Tyrannosauridae love beer. The bigger ones couldn't get enough anymore. By the way..."
"No problem," I said, taking the hint. "Small glass ok?"
I brought out a bottle of stout and poured a bit for him, which he quaffed eagerly.
"Thanks," he said. "It's dry work hiding and skulking. Not really used to it. T-cottontails rely on disguise to move about freely. Which reminds me..."
"Rain check! I gotta go to the cleaners and pick up my bunny suit."
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
There is an ancient therapeutic art that predates Yoga, Tai Chi and certainly the medical philosophy of Galen. Its origin is shrouded in prehistory but is rediscovered by every generation. It may not even be a human invention because animals and insects practice it as a general thing. Even plants organize seasonal frenzies of it. It is called waiting.
Consider the specimen pictured above. In the background we can make out an orange extension cord where he has been running a saw. There is evidence also that he has been splitting logs with sledge and wedge. There is a battered yellow wheelbarrow with nothing in it. This means he's in the middle of a chore. Why is he sitting down? He is waiting.
Notice the traditional posture --gloves in hand, sitting forward, marginally alert expression. Notice also the official, all-weather waiting exercise machine he sits on, and over which he demonstrates such mastery. Obviously a skilled practitioner. He is waiting until he feels like going back to work. That could take a while, so let us examine the history of this discipline.
When we don't feel well, we get medicine. Medical science, as we know it, has advanced to quite a complicated thing, commensurate with the increasing complexity of disease. But there was a time when the only communicable distemper was fleas. The treatment was waiting, waiting until they went away or until one got used to them. And there was, we can be historically certain, even a time before that.
It was during that distant golden age the therapy was practiced and perfected for its own sake. One withdrew from the challenges of primordial life by sitting down and waiting until one's spouse came out taking snapshots and asking where the firewood is. Careful attention to this essay provides a reply of unimpeachable authority.
The therapy discussed here has existed longer and adapted itself more universally to modern medicine than any other. You will not find space devoted to later methods --aerobics, acupuncture, meditation, massage-- of spiritual and physical therapy in all medical establishments, but by golly you'll find a waiting room.