30 June 2008

Cool Hand, Coolhand


My buddy Lucas just had an article written about him over on RGJ.com. In my mind he is remarkable simply for being a remarkable guy all 'round, but RGJ naturally made much of his being a one-handed guitarist. When he and his wife visited us in Thailand last summer we talked about his ideas for a prosthetic for a guitar pick, and his complaints about the stupid faux-hand deals the prosthetic companies tried to hook him up with. Rather than working with his natural range of motion, and trying to build a prosthetic around the way he played guitar already, their idea was to give him some sort of big rubber hand that would hold a pick. Since he already played the guitar quite well with his nub, this really would have thrown him off, effectively moving the guitar pick four inches past his nub into extra-corporal space; a bit like asking a two-handed person to start playing the guitar with a chopstick.

Currently he and his band are releasing their first album. Yours truly did the album art.

25 June 2008

A Week and a Day

colic hold

A week and a day ago Jami had a rough night, having been kept up by some minor cramping, which later that morning turned into mild and irregular contractions. It was a stormy day, so I called and checked on her while I was hunkered down in the greenhouse out of the rain. The lights had gone out at the house, so J had scrounged up an old telephone that took power from the line. We both figured they were just warm-up contractions, or false labor, since J's due date was still three days away, and we'd been practically guaranteed that the birth would be late.


During my lunch break I called her up to check on her again, and suggested that she call the midwife (Cherie, who I've know since I was a kid) just for fun, since we'd payed all that money after all, and they may as well know about the contractions. J called, specifying that it was probably just false or pre-labor, to which the midwife responded that she'd "turn it into real labor." I left work and picked up some things for J on the way home, dodging downed limbs and traffic accidents. When we arrived at the birth center we were told that she was at three centimeters, and that we should go for an hour-long power-walk. By the end of the walk she'd had two real contractions about eight minutes apart. Upon further inspection she was found to be at four centimeters, and during that further inspection her water broke, all over Cherie's hand. We were promptly sent home to get our things together, the midwife saying as we left that we'd have a baby around midnight. This was at about 4:30 pm.



By 6:45 we were back at the birth center, where J immediately jumped in the bath. About two and a half hours later she was in transition, and then hanging off the bedpost pushing. And pushing. By the very end, a little before 11:30pm she was so worn out that they gave her a Dr. Pepper "for medicinal purposes." She certainly needed it. Her uterus quit contracting right as the baby was crowning, so they gave her a shot of pitocin, and then it was a real team effort to get the baby out. Cherie pulled on his head with a suction cup, Beverly the nurse attendant pushed on the fundus, and the rest of us held Jami's feet back. We tried that twice. Between the first and second times the scissors came out as though for an epiosiotomy, but then go back down for one more try. The second time out came a bumpy little head. The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his neck, which may have prolonged the pushing stage somewhat by pulling him back up between contractions. Despite that his heartbeat was strong to the very end, never giving us any reason to worry for his sake. Once Cherie had unwrapped the cord from around his neck, I pulled him the rest of the way out, placed him on J's chest, and cut the cord. And there he was: Rhus Guy Larsen, 7 lbs 4 oz, 20 inches long.



After Cherie and all the rest tended to Jami a bit they weighed him and measured him. Later on I got to give him a bath, and then we all slept for about two hours before filling out some paper work and going home around 6:00 the next morning.


bath 1

Since this was our very first child, neither of us quite realized that it was actually a difficult delivery until well afterward. Nothing was as hard as we thought it would be, and certainly not as hard as it's made out to be on TV, with women screaming for epidurals, snapping at their husbands, and swearing to high heaven. Jami was definitely somewhere else while she was pushing, somewhere pre-verbal. Cherie would tell her to take a deep breath, but it wouldn't happen unless I took one with her, coaxing her along. But once Rhus was out she was fully present, and smiling as though nothing much had happened. Now when she looks back at the photos all she can remember is how much fun it was.


05 June 2008

Playing Megafauna


For the past few months since moving back from Chiang Mai I have been working on a 27 acre estate in north Dallas. Usually I take care of the greenhouse and several perennial and rose gardens, but occasionally I get called upon to do a bit of turf maintenance, either using the line trimmer, or mowing with one of the big mowers. The mower, as you might imagine, is a big noisy machine, and when we mow el pasto grande (the big lawn, with the helicopter landing pad, where Bush or McCain might land if they were to visit, not that I'm saying they have), I spend several hours on the machine, driving back and forth, listening to podcasts. It's rather meditative (unless of course I'm listening to You Look Nice Today, in which case I'm probably laughing so hard I can barely drive straight), and since it's such a big property, with a pond, and screens of trees and understory growth on the margins, I have a good opportunity to observe the wildlife. Granted, there is significantly less wildlife on 27 acres of manicured parkland than one might find on 27 acres of undisturbed blackland prairie, but it is 27 acres. In addition to the birds, squirrels, bunnies, rats and 'possums, there is also a bobcat. But this isn't about the bobcat. This is about the wee creatures that populate the lawn that I drive across atop of four steel blades, spinning away, giving it their whole 29 horses worth. What's interesting is how things like squirrels and birds behave around the mower. If I walk up to a squirrel, it runs up the nearest tree, of course. But when I'm on the mower, it just sort of scoots out of the way. It doesn't run, it just moves over and goes about its business. The birds love the thing. Mockingbirds, bluejays, starlings and grackles will hop around places that have just been mowed, eating the insects that have been flushed out, while the swallows will swoop right in front of the mower, catching up the insects that flee as it approaches. Yesterday it was too windy for the birds, with gusts up 40 mph, so as I drove up the drive I noticed three swallows and a juvenile grackle sitting on the blacktop. They eyed the mower, and hopped out of the way as I passed. They looked disappointed. It has occurred to me that they seem remarkably well suited to taking advantage of the chaos generated in the wake of a large object as it moves through a grassland. This makes sense, since all of the native birds evolved in tandem with Cenozoic megafauna, like bison, camels, horses, and mastadons, and probably followed the herds around, nipping up any insects that were flushed from cover as they traveled through the landscape. So every week or two, I steer my Anthropocene mount over an artificial savanna of live oaks and African grasses, running on fuels first laid down during the Carboniferous, in a weird conjunction of age and place.