Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mr. Shuffles Makes me Smile

Mr. Shuffles is a miracle elephant.

After almost 2 years in his mother's womb, the vets found not vital signs and he was presumed to be stillborn.

At a press conference, the staff at Taronga Zoo in Australia announced the sad news.

Photo: Dean Sewell

But in spite of the odds, Mr. Shuffles was born at the in Australia on March 10, 2010 at 3.27 am.

Katharina Theodore was one of the first keepers in the elephant barn the morning after Portnip, the mother elephant, gave birth.

"We went to greet all the elephants, walked up to Porntip and she didn't react at all." Theodore said.

"She seemed to be in a stupor and so I started to cry literally. I noticed blood on her legs and the bulge that was holding the calf was missing. So Gary and I walked into the paddock and we found a calf.

"I was kind of happy that at least she'd expelled the calf and I was thinking that's great, we can move on and look after her.

"And then, mind-blowingly enough, the calf raised its head."

20 vets and keepers quickly went to work, round the clock, administering to the calf who they feared suffered brain damage.

When Mr. Shuffles was well enough to take his first steps, they were heavy and unsure, like that of an old man, hence the nickname "Mr. Shuffles."

He was officially renamed Pathi Harn in a ceremony held by Buddhist monks to celebrate his Thai culture. This caused a minor uproar online (by people like me) who really, really like his nickname.

Parthi Harn is the Thai word for miracle.

Pathi Harn is getting stronger day by day, feeding heartily from his mother and playing with his cousin, Luk Chai .

And while his beautiful Thai name reflects his regal status which he rightfully deserves, he will always be known as Mr. Shuffles to many.

He's a little wide-eyed and goofy - a creature who has gone through something. A creature who is happy to be alive.

Mr. Shuffles lives!

Mr. Shuffles Naming Ceremony:

Mr. Shuffles Slips into a pool:

News clip on Mr. Shuffle. He's a happy-go-lucky baby elephant!

Follow Mr. Shuffles on Twitter.

Brisbane Times
ABC News Australia

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dear Fill in the Blank

March 21, 2010

Dear _________:

We haven't communicated in quite a while, my dear. I continue to miss you though I try to keep it at bay and humbly move on.

I sometimes wonder why I bother to write you anymore. Not sure if you even read what I send or whether this account is active. I know why you had to close a door but its haunting to think I'm writing to thin air at this point.

I suppose sometimes it makes me feel good to reach out and send you a song or an idea or a thought. It's ultimately a gift to me to give to you. (Though I much prefer to believe you are out there, reading what I write and loving me from afar.)

I've deleted most of your songs and put them away for safekeeping. It just hurts a bit when they come through my speakers suddenly and enter my room. You wouldn't believe how many songs we've exchanged over the years! Some tunes have slipped through the cracks and they play on anyway, as if to say, "You can't get rid of me entirely, Beth."

Today I'm sending you a potentially corny song. Luckily I've never felt self-conscious sending you the sappiest of tunes. You could always handle it, which I've always loved about you. I wouldn't feel brave enough to share them with hardly anyone else!

So there's a story behind this song:

Last week, I had the most magical evening with a few close friends on the mainland. We gathered for an impromptu dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. We experienced the most perfect synergy. We talked about so many strange and wondrous things, laughing and sharing intimate thoughts. I left feeling quite high from the whole experience.

As you know, my social life here is pretty dim so when I have a good night, it burns like a flame in my mind. I had a good evening! It felt so nice that it almost hurt. I want more of my limited time on this planet to feel like that evening. Special. Magical. Connected. The way I've felt with you many times before.

Driving back to the island that night, I popped one of my cassette tapes into the player. Remember, I have an old truck. No fancy audio system like you probably have! Plain, old cassettes. I enjoy stumbling across little cassette treasures at yard sales or second hand stores. For a quarter each, it's a heck of a deal, right? And you're forced to choose from a limited selection. I like that too. Too much choice and access today.

Anyway, I stuck in a tape of early Dan Fogelberg. I know, he's a bit easy listening. But this was one of his earliest recordings, pre-ballads. He was only 18! His voice was so high and sweet and his tunes simple yet rich. He died just a few years ago from prostate cancer at the age of 56. After doing some research (because I can be a geek like that), I found out that after he wrote this particular song, he knew he wanted to be a songwriter and never looked back.

As I listened to the tape and drove over the bridge, I looked out at the lights lining it. As a child, when my family would drive over to spend the summer at the Jersey shore, I'd stick my head out of the window and say, "Light, light, light, light, light..." trying as fast as I could to keep up with every one we flew by. If one was out, I'd stop for a millisecond, then continue again: "Light, light, light_____light, light."

I did this for years and years. It was my little ritual to mark my arrival back on the island, to a house I loved. Tonight was no different. "Light, light, light, light..." I said as I drove back home, feeling content and full.

Then this song came on. I'm not sure why, but suddenly I found myself pulling over to a side street next to the bay and began sobbing so hard. A perfect emotional storm had formed inside of me. It wasn't really the content of the song - it's about a peaceful morning. And it wasn't the evening, which was lovely. It was more than that.

I'm leaving this island this year, looks like. I'll walk away from the only house I've ever considered home. The family politics surrounding it have just been too much since my mom died. I'll never be able to reclaim this place, the way it used to be, you know? So I will take a sum of money and say a hard goodbye.

Sometimes I feel for the house. She remembers times past. I pat her old, worn walls and say, "I know. I'm sorry. I'll miss you too." We sigh a lot lately, realizing what lies ahead.

As you know, our family hasn't seen many happy times. When I was six and my dad died, it seemed to create an permanent rift in our family. We were wounded and lost, with a depressed and overwhelmed mother at the helm.

But this shore house provided us all with temporary relief. My mother seemed content here and we could all relax for a bit. We were like all of the other "whole" families, at least for a season.

"And maybe there are seasons.
And maybe, they change.
And maybe, to love is not so strange."

Those were the lyrics that played. All of my childhood memories flooded me, like water in a fast-sinking boat.

The "light, light, light" times when we laughed more easily and the days drifted on as if forever. Lightning bugs and shooting stars and fireworks and wave leaping. Reading books quietly in the evening and sleeping so soundly. A brief glimpse of family and home.

In my truck, sitting in the dark, I realized the irrevocable passing of time, the hollow and frightening realization that certain stages and people are gone, never to return. I cried for the expanse of my past, growing bigger with each passing year. And maybe I cried a little for you, as you slowly become part of it too.

So this was the soundtrack to my bayside breakdown. The first few minutes are a little much but it evolves into a sweet tune, I think.

Maybe I won't send you any more letters or songs. While it can make feel happy to share things with you, I can equally feel foolish and even more alone, which I can ill afford. It's simply a waste of words if you're not even reading this.

Well, we shall see where I fall or stand emotionally. I still have about 200 songs to send to you. ('s true!) I guess it's more like 200 songs to send to myself.

You know, sometimes, I'm filled with disbelief, wondering how you could so easily close a door on me, making sure I had no power to open it. A bit of a dick move on your part. And sometimes, I realize we are best parted, in our current states. I understand. We had to be. And most of the time, I just simply miss you and have trouble letting you go, I admit embarrassingly.

Well, thank you for being my lover and friend from afar. And for being my muse. To think, you could be my muse, an artist of your fine caliber. How lucky am I? What a real, live fairy tale, one I sorely needed and deserved. For us, it has been hearts and flowers. Well, it's been hearts at least...I could have stood for some flowers.

But maybe there are seasons. And maybe they change. And maybe, to love is not so strange.

To the Morning - Dan Fogelberg