Sunday, August 16, 2009

A strange parable that went too far

March 1996 – Brunhild has been in estrous and seems to have influenced the rest of the troop with her mood because the other females are showing some tumescence. The males, Brian and Borris, have been approaching her. She's allowed them to mate, but has shown real signs of dissatisfaction with them. After one mating with Brian she hit him in the head with her hand then chased him off with a stick. He's gotten to be old enough that he cannot properly defend himself from a female as forceful as Brunhild. Each time Brian solicited her she walked off until he presented her with a small pile of figs. When he attempted to force himself on her, she began screaming and then
Barbara with one or more of the other junior females came running in and the group chased him off.

April 1996 – Brunhild's estrous has come to its end while several of the other females including Barbara, have come to mating. Most of the younger ones have been passively accepting couplings from Brian and Borris. However, Borris has been somewhat more abusive with the females lately. It seems that this may be related to the appearance of a younger sexually mature male from another troupe that has been hanging around. In fact both Barbara and Brunhild have met this male to exchange grooming out of sight of Borris. This has led to both of the senior females mating with this new male, who absconded from the troupe after each event.

Barbara was observed to be grooming Benjamin (the young foreign male) when she walked in front of him displaying her swellings. Benjamin approached as if to mate with her and she sat down, denying him access. He also sat and began grooming her when she got up again and began walking towards the troupe. Benjamin followed her, increasing his pace as if to catch her. Just as he nearly caught her, again she quickly sat down. Benjamin hooted a bit in frustration and resumed grooming her. Again Barbara got up, but this time ran toward the troupe and Benjamin got up to follow. As he ran though, Barbara came within sight of Borris. Benjamin seemed to detect this because when she stopped running he stopped chasing and crouched down in the leaf cover. Benjamin watched her closely as Borris noticed Barbara and approached. Barbara allowed him to mate with her as she frequently turned back to look in Benjamin's direction. At this point Bridget joined them and also mated with Borris. And as Benjamin watched Brandy also approached and mated with Borris.

Late that night, there was sudden commotion, several of the troupe were screaming while at least one male and probably two were going from tree to tree shaking them and beating on the trunks. There was no visibility but at one point there was the sound like a large stone hitting a tree and breaking it and there was the sound of one chimpanzee repeatedly screaming but gradually moving away from the camp.

In the morning, Borris was found dead. He had suffered severe head trauma that seems to have been associated with a large rock nearby that has blood splattered on it. Several of the females were making soft howls consistent with mourning as they touched Borris's body, lifting his arms and watching them flop back to the ground. There was no sign of Brian. However, Benjamin was quite present, always within sight of the females. Occasionally one would join him and engage in grooming.

Over the course of the next few days eventually all the females had substantial time to spend in grooming and mating with Benjamin. Most of them have been at the peak of their tumescence and have proven quite willing partners to this new and apparently able young male.

August 1996 – Just as with Bridget last month, Benjamin attempted to mate with Brandy, who is in estrous. However, Brunhild and Barbara got in between them. Brunhild with her stick chased Brandy off and Barbara, who is currently pregnant, solicited Benjamin to mate with her. Benjamin at first complied, but with slow, seemingly resigned body language, instead walked away. Benjamin sat under a date tree as Buster and Bruno stopped wrestling to practice their grooming skills on this elder male.

December 1996 – It seems that Benjamin has had enough. After months of Brunhild and Barbara interfering with his attempts to mate with the younger females, he's abandoned the troupe. He's been gone for several days, certainly longer than his norm. Though it is uncertain where he's gotten to, it seems probable that he's working on joining a different troupe where his mating opportunities will improve. Most of the females in the group seem unhappy about this situation. Bridget and Brandy sit silently and stare, ignoring their young as much as possible. Meanwhile Brunhild goes back and forth terrorizing the other females with her stick. She even went so far as to attack Barbara with it.

March 1997 – In the past month, two roving young males have approached the troupe, which is feeding much further to the north than they did last year. It is not quite clear how or why but neither male chose to stay, despite the very easy access to females in the absence of any resident alpha male. The first one mated with a few females that presented their swellings to him, including Brunhild and Bridget. After finishing this task, he left and never returned again. The second one, approached Barbara in the forest and seemed to be checking her out, mostly by smell. Then, suddenly he hit her in the head several times, chasing her in a circle. After tiring of this exercise, he rested and ate for a minute, then left. Brunhild has not gotten any less surly with the others since Benjamin left. And the effect of her abuses are starting to show as one of the youngest adult females, Bertha, has left the group with her six-month-old daughter, Beryl.

November 1997 – It has been 8 months since any matings have occurred in the troupe. From April to the present there have been 6 males that have approached them, but for reasons that aren't clear, these males left in search of another option. Though 5 of them left without much incident, the 6th one to come made a scene by lifting and throwing large rocks and tearing branches out of trees while hollering at the females. The day after the second of these visitors, Bridget was observed leaving the group to follow in the same general direction taken by that male. In fact, one-by-one the females have been sneaking off into the forest with their young until now the only adults are Brunhild, Barbara, and Beverly. There are also no males remaining among the juveniles because they all left with their mothers.

There was a big fight. Brunhild and Barbara with their daughters were feeding on figs in the same tree. It started when Brunhild began shaking the branch that one of Barbara's daughters was hanging from. Barbara quickly climbed down from a higher branch with her teeth bared toward Brunhild's location. Brunhild backed up onto a different branch, grabbing her daughter and started to climb down, fleeing the furious Barbara. Slowed by the young one on her back, Brunhild was quickly caught by Barbara and the two of them tumbled to the ground. Brunhild was badly injured and limped away with her daughter. It looked like she may have broken her left leg. Beverly, having no young of her own, coached Barbara's two daughters down from the tree where the three of them mourned Barbara for several hours. Beverly then took the two young ones out to find food, but in a different direction than Brunhild.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Two Stories of the Sword in Retreat

As some may be aware, yesterday I returned from retreat. The experience provided great spiritual benefits and a pretty good opportunity to train physically. The grounds of the center are large and verdant with great expanses of plush lawn. I don't know how others feel but, lawns are among my favorite places to practice martial arts. The grass provides a contact that is ideal in both softness and support for techniques that involve kneeling or tumbling.

One evening while practicing sword forms I noticed a an observer half hiding behind a shrub he happened to be browsing. The two-point white tailed buck would stare intently at me for a moment and then return to whatever leaves he was partaking. As I continued to train, I noticed that one of his antlers was broken or deformed, and that they were both still covered in velvet. He had been coming gradually closer as he'd been eating, watching me quite carefully.

A lot of the forms I practice these days end with a kind of jumping attack. As I was working I tried not to pay too much attention to the deer in that I didn't want to make a sudden change in behavior and chase him off. That being said, as he got within about 8 or so meters, the jump was sudden enough that he would slightly spook. But seeing that despite my sudden movement and the sound of landing, I was not making any attack against him, he'd jerk back a couple of feet and then approach the spot where he originally was.

This pattern continued for two or three more forms when he seemed to become more comfortable with this strange thing walking around in circles swinging a stick. Eventually he eased his way to within about 5 meters, where he watched as if enraptured by my spectacle, pausing occasionally for a bite of grass. As he walked around to the other side of me from where he was, I came around to another jump. This time, the tension was too much for him to handle and he bolted off. I was reminded of certain American Indian groups that historically forbade warriors from eating venison because they didn't want to be infected with the animal's timidity.

The next evening I had the opportunity to enjoy the company of a different order of wildlife: mosquitoes and horseflies. The reality is that I was a great attraction to such creatures every time I went outside, but at this particular time it had particular significance.

One of the tricks for dealing with flesh-eaters and vampires was to just keep moving. As long as I was moving around and my sword was swirling over and around my body they were more or less deterred from harassing me. This was great motivation to train with alacrity. Combining my efforts with the humidity and heat I found myself quite exhausted at the end of my set of forms.

It seems like I've heard somewhere that insects, mosquitoes in particular, detect their victims by means of body heat. So when I stop and sit down from my exertions, I imagine my body must have registered as a giant infrared beacon promising a hot meal. The sudden swarming I received alarmed me. In order to shoo off my foe I started to swing my sword in a spinning motion over my head and nailed my target. The end of the sword's handle clipped me a bit and left me with that subtle ringing sensation one gets when hitting their skull into a hard object.

Humiliated by my pathetic show of swordsmanship I stood up and started walking back towards the center to shower and move on to my next spiritual exercise. After I got a few steps though, to my surprise I found a stream of blood starting to drip off of my nose.

The pain of my self-attack had not been so bad that I should expect the injury to be serious, it was only a bit of a twinge. All the same, there is something about those cherry droplets that can impose a sense of urgency, especially when you cannot see the source. In fact because I couldn't see the cut, I hesitated a bit before realizing that I needed to put pressure on it to stop the bleeding. So there I was trying to juggle a pair of socks, a sword, and a water bottle, while putting pressure on
some random spot where I might have broke the skin, and trying to not drip blood all over everything.

In this state I walked, playing an awkward form the little tea pot, back up to the door where I have to punch in an access code and pull it open. Still though the bleeding has definitely slowed I keep thinking about how I want to get through all this without anyone seeing me. Consciously I didn't want to terrorize some poor old Jesuit with my blood covered face, but really I didn't want to have to explain to anyone what happened.

By some miracle I made it through the door with all of my stuff and without leaving any little rubescent spots on anything. I turned down the corridor and found myself closer to the bathroom than I'd been to the deer when popping around the corner in a slightly Irish accent came: “Good God man! Are you all right?”

“Oh yes, it's not bad at all. I just need...”

“The bathroom? It's right through there. What happened? Did you fall?”

“No, no. It's alright. I just hit myself in the head with a stick.”