Tag Archives: specimens

Barkly

Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.

Have you ever wandered through a parking lot and noticed tiny plants growing through the pavement? Have you wondered at the ivy and vines that seem to grow out of bricks and building sides? Have you puzzled over enormous roots that undulate over the ground like moray eels, yet seem to be without a tree trunk? Then you, my friend, have seen one of the trjábörkur, a complicated genus of sentient vegetative creatures.

This is Barkly, and he is a trjábörkur. He was found in a vacant lot that was being demolished for high-end condominiums, and rescued by a kind soul who appreciated his rakish smile. Oddly soothed by sea shanties, Barkly is nourished by the minuscule bacteria found in our air. If you notice him moving, he is dancing, imagining himself on a great ship cresting waves and meeting mermaids. What appears to be a grimace is actually the face of great contentment, something all trjábörkur share. We could learn a lot from these slow-moving, large-dreaming, oft-ignored creatures.

Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.

Lillywack

Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.

261 miles downstream from Manaus in the middle of the Amazon River is the island of Tupinambarana, covered in forests and accessible only by air or by water. The island has been separated from itself by natural channels, so that it is actually four separate islands, and these channels pulsate through the trees. It is within these channels that Lillywack lived.

Gentle and thoughtful, Lillywack is fascinated by humans. She finds our voices lyrical and mesmerizing and each year crept close to the town of Parintins to listen to the sounds of the Boi Bumba festival.  The Boi Bumba festival takes over the town every year and is based on the folkloric tale of Boi Bumba. There are many different variations of the legend, but a common version tells the story of a rich farmer who gives his daughter his favorite boi (ox) as a gift. He entrusts his ranch hand Pae Francisco to care for the boi, but Pae Francisco’s pregnant wife, Mae Caterina, develops an inexplicable craving for the bull’s tongue. Pae Francisco thus kills this prized beast to satisfy his wife’s need.

When the crime is discovered, adventures ensue as local Indians hunt and capture Pae Francisco in a forest hideout. Brought before the rich farmer for judgement, Pae Francisco faces death for his deed. Desperate to save his and his wife’s lives, Pae Francisco attempts to resucitate the ox. With the assistance of Curandeiros (spiritual shamans), Mae Caterina and Pae Francisco are able to harness the power of the drum beat and bring the ox back to life.  Thus, their lives are spared and all is forgiven.

Each year, 35,00 people gather in an arena to party and participate in the Boi Bumba festival. It is described as “an incredible musical and theatrical experience, a religious procession, a tribal ritual, a giant puppet show, a fairy tale of powerful villains and brave heroes, a folk art presentation, a major party for the audience and an energizing choreography of the galera all at once.”

So you can understand why Lillywack was so fascinated. Each year she crept closer and closer to Parintins, hungry for more lights, more music, and a better view. She crept too close, though, and was discovered by a boatload of fishermen, drinking in their wooden craft in the river. They offered the creature quentão (she wisely refused this hot and alcoholic beverage) and let her watch the festivities with them from the safety of the water.

Intoxicated by what she saw, Lillywack prefers to live amongst humans now, favoring the bright lights and stories of our world than the rich, aquatic quiet of her world. She now resides in the United States, and loves any holiday that involves a parade. There may be tiny Lillywacks growing in every country, for all we know. Or perhaps Boi Bumba will entice another Amazonian creature to come out of hiding.

Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.


 

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Phil

Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.

Phil is the thing that runs past you in the forest at night, so quickly and invisibly that you think you’ve imagined him. Only seen by moonlight, Phil has pitcher-like ears that can hear trees growing and birds sighing.

His skin feels like a whisper and his voice sounds like a soft blanket on a cold night. He smells of mossy skies and clear bark and is gentler than the fuzz on a raspberry.

Caught in a boot by campers, when asked his name, he whispered a word that sounded like “Phil”.

Often Phil is misunderstood; mistaken for a devilish gremlin, a hobgoblin, an irate imp. But Phil is none of these things. He is kind and shy and not of this time. We can all learn from Phil. So next time you meet something – or someone – you can not quite understand, take a moment and think of Phil. Be quiet and still and listen.

Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.

 

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A Phil of a Different Sort

Happy Groundhog Day, my dears.

For 125 years, Americans have enjoyed the tradition of Groundhog Day. According to folklore, on the 2nd of February, if a groundhog comes out of his den and sees his shadow, then winter will continue for 6 more weeks. If he doesn’t see his shadow, then spring shall come early.

Groundhog Day could be an amalgamation of Candlemas Day, also celebrated on the 2nd of February. Originally the day that the church would bless all the candles (Candle + Mass = Candlemas), Candlemas also has weather prognostication as part of the celebration. This English poem might say it all:

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

Pea crops aside, the celebration is also quite similar to the pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar (and which is celebrated on the 1st of February). The Groundhog Day celebration as we know it here is said to have started in the 18th century when German settlers in Pennsylvania brought a European weather foretelling tradition to the United States. (The Europeans favored a badger or a wolverine as the weather seer versus a groundhog, naturally.) There are a number of “special” groundhogs throughout the United States; Sir Walter Wally in North Carolina, Staten Island Chuck in New York, and the most infamous, Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania.

Here in Brooklyn, a non-groundhog Phil wandered into the garden at 7 am, as is his want. He likes to sip dew from the plants each morning.

This Phil did not look for his shadow. He did, though, punch a rather large squirrel straight in the face. It appears the squirrel was wearing a tiny top hat and singing a lewd song. Phil is not, strictly speaking, a fan of lewd songs, especially whilst dew-sipping in the garden.

Let this be a warning for groundhogs everywhere. There is a Phil in Brooklyn who will punch you in the face should you interrupt HIS tradition. Weather prognostication be damned.

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