The majestic sloth. A creature of great patience. Of great slowness.
Now, I’m no biologist. If I recall, I got a D- in 10th grade Biology. This would have been in 1995 with the delightful Mr. Tuchsherer at Mounds View High School. And I’m not sure that I took another biology class at The University of Minnesota. I can spell cytoplasm but, beyond that, my command on the science of life is wanting. I’m more adept at the magic of life. The mystery of life. Think Prospero.
It’s a very English major thing to do to ask you to think of Prospero. The wily wizard in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A shadow of Faust. One of the things I like most about my new job as an associate professor of English Education at THEEEE University of Iowa (go Hawks) is that I get to reclaim a little of my English major self. And work with brilliant young English majors at Iowa. I can’t tell you how smart the English majors are here. It’s a delight.
The thing I like least about my new job? Well, and I can’t tell you about a direct correlation because I’m no biologist, but it’s been a stressful year at my new job and my blood pressure is out of whack.
And so, kind reader, I turn to the majestic sloth. A creature of great slowness.
Now, in turning to the sloth, I realize I know next to nothing about the sloth. I’ve seen them at zoos. And my children have stuffed sloths. Samson’s stuffed sloth Fuzzy is one of his favorite stuffed animals. One of my favorites too.
I did what any warm-blooded American might do in the face of a lack of information. Thank you, Google.
A quick scan of the Wikipedia entry on Sloths bored me. I’m no biologist. But I came upon a few sentences that stood out to me. Like this one:
Sloths are solitary animals that rarely interact with one another except during breeding season, however female sloths do sometimes congregate, more so than do males.
The introvert in me appreciates this sentence. I find interactions to be best when they are rare. Which doesn’t mean I don’t love all sorts of people. I do. I just need time to myself. Lots of it. To recharge. A rare thing these days. My new job is loud and my home abounds with the energy of two young, not-very-sloth-like children. Yes, for the most part, I prefer quiet and solitude. Unless it’s breeding time.
Okay, check out this next sentence, curtesy of Wikipedia:
Sloths descend about once every eight days to defecate on the ground. The reason and mechanism behind this behavior have long been debated among scientists.
Once every eight days the Sloth comes down from its tree to defecate. Then it climbs back up. Poor biologists have long debated the reason and mechanism for the Sloth’s weekly movement. Which makes me think I made the right choice in not pursuing a career in biology.
The sloth provides one model to live by. Every eight days I show my face, produce some waste, and walk away. Sounds like my habit with these blogs.
Zing! Sorry, that was a very funny last sentence to me.
Why my fixation on the sloth? Because, so far as I can tell, I emulated the sloth this past spring break. I moved as little as possible. I slept in. Read books. Played video games. Took naps. Did my best to disconnect from any and all notifications that scream at me from my devices.
Sure, the demands of my job and young Solomon and Samson’s exuberance made it impossible for me to truly turn off, but I did my darnedest.
I can’t say that I know for sure why my blood pressure got wonky. And who knows what sorts of lingering side effects come from Covid. I’ve got a student now who is in her twenties and suffering from serious heart issues after Covid. And Lord knows I’m 42 now and haven’t been very healthy for awhile. So I continue to eat carefully. To ingest carefully. And, like the sloth, to defecate carefully. My upcoming physical with the doctor will give me a better sense of what this old body of mine is up to, I’m sure. Though I’m more of a magician than a scientist.
Regardless, for my part, I let my body slow down this past spring break. Minimized me movements. My interactions. And it was a good, healing thing to do. And, come what may, I’m sort of resolved now to move more slowly. To, as it was hip to say in the 80’s, chill out. I’ve never been very chill. Ever. So this is a challenge. I look to the majestic sloth who, apart from breeding, takes it pretty easy.
Every eight days I might emerge to make some movements. The other seven? Sloth time.