In the kitchen

Search This Blog

Friday, June 11, 2010

motherhood...discovery style

I've been watching the show "Life" on Discovery (it's like the sister show to my beloved "Planet Earth.") It is an incredible testament to how complex, rugged and yet utterly fragile life on Earth is and the cinematography is exquisitely beautiful.

It's also made me think about motherhood from a more primitive perspective. Here are my favorite examples of motherhood in the wild.

I don't know if you know this, but elephants live in groups of 10 or so related female elephants and their young. There is one matriarch, the oldest female elephant, and all the aunts and sisters help raise the young collectively. This is very helpful because inexperienced, still-sowing-their-oats new mommy elephants often do a less than desirable job. When this happens, the older, wiser, minivan driving elephants push the young mothers in the rump to move them out of the way and take over (so the baby doesn't die, not because the young mom gave an inappropriately placed time-out.)

And the whole time I'm watching these words criss- cross over my brain: helpful, easier, comforting, clever.

When the Pacific female octopus reproduces she does it in epic fashion, akin to Greek tragedy. She find herself a cave in which she will live for the next 6 months while she watches over her eggs. Not a mere few eggs, mind you, but over 100,000 eggs. They hang in smooth white clusters like grapes on a vine, under her belly and she rubs them clean of algae and protects them from other sea life looking to dine on caviar. She doesn't eat, she doesn't move from the cave, she just tends these eggs. When the eggs are ready, she gently blows air on them which allows them to pop open and the most adorable, transparent, rudimentary octopus flounces out. When she is done, some self-destruct gland activates and she dies in the cave where she gave all she had. Talk about maternal sacrifice!

There is a little red tree frog who lives in the rain forest (and happens to be less than an inch long) who lays her eggs on the forest floor but as soon as they turn into tadpoles, she goes to extreme measures to ensure their survival. She secures one tadpole to her back and then climbs high up into a tree and places her tiny charge into the watery pool at the bottom of a tropical Bromiliad plant where it will continue to develop, out of harms way of hungry predators. She moves 4-5 tadpoles like this, covering 1/2 a mile to do so. (Have I mentioned she less than half an inch long??) Each tadpole gets its own plant (communal bunking would result in them eating each other) and she lays an unfertilized egg for each one to sustain them. She climbs to each Bromiliad plant and lays a new egg every day until the tadpoles turn into frogs and jump out, on to the rainforest beyond, never to turn back and say, "Hey, thanks mom for all that." Jeesh!

To be honest, I'm surprised the tree frog doesn't crash and burn into self-destruction. Perhaps she is a marathon momma.

Then there is me- not in the wild, but sometimes feeling a lot like it- cutting crusts off toast, running to and fro to Target and Hannaford, shuffling clean and dirty plates in some circus dance with flying food and spinning drinks to sustain my young, baking bread and muffins, agitating laundry, folding it, putting it away, entertaining with silly songs and dances and antics, ingesting coffee all the while to maintain the pace, keep the time, make sure the whole delicate balance sustains.

Sure I'm no tree frog but, phew, all moms in nature do more than really seems natural, and sometimes even humane, all for the survival (and happiness) of their blessed offspring. We must be hard wired for it, otherwise there is no way anyone would apply for the job.

No comments:

Site Meter