Sunday, February 2, 2014

The hunchback of St. Jerome's

Funny thing, being taught to observe the natural world.
 I spent 4 years with a real master naturalist- my academic advisor could see a small bird in a tree a half mile off, and pick out amazing details from sounds- even the sound of the wind moving through leaves could clue him in to the presence of a solitary Populus tremuloides tree in a grove of Betula papyrifora. Also, the guy was a great teacher, and by the end of my years as an undergrad biology student, I could ID by sight (or sound) every single tree growing in Maine, and every single plant and animal (and most bacteria, as well as the red and green algaes) growing in or on its waters.

In many ways I miss being a marine biologist. At 22 I discovered the mathematical formula for measuring the potential for sushi-destined sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) to repopulate their ecosystem- a variation of my idea is still being used to determine how many it's safe to take every year for harvest in Maine in fact. If you're a fan of uni in your sushi, you're welcome.

 So, yeah, sometimes I do still get flashes of intuition or understanding in my capacity as a trained observer of living things.

 So, something Tam wrote about today struck a nerve, based on a conversation I had at home recently with Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife.

 I started catching lobster when I was 7, and the old timer who taught me how to fish wasn't a tall man. He was 70 when he had his boat built to his specs, and already shrinking fast. His boat was built for a shorter man. By the time I was 12, I was a head taller than him at 6 foot. But I spent my days working with him, and by the time he sold the boat, I had filled out with muscle working the deck of a boat designed for the comfort of a man who was 6 inches shorter than me. As such, my back muscle grew into place to support a person who was working hunched over while lifting heavy-ass wooden lobster pots. To that end, my natual posture isn't just stooped- I actually hunch somewhat.
... and my wife has noticed. Just about a week ago, she said :"Hohnee, chure vaddy shote forrrr an Emerican, yis?"
"Huh? No, I'm a little over 6 feet tall. Not real tall, but not short for us."
"Noh, chu arrrhen't 6 fit!"
"Yeah, I am. I hunch." I straighten up fully. It's uncomfortable and unnatural. Her eyes go from chin height to chest height when I do this.
"Chu should stand like dis more. Chu stand like an ohld mem most of de time."
I return to my natural posture. She looks disappointed. At this point I connect the dots of figuring out that the muscle I put on as a teen has contributed to my posture- specifically the lump of back meat that sits parallel to my triceps and makes it look like I'm not actually hunched over when I am. Granted, the beer gut doesn't help either.
    We're built according to how we use our muscles. If you repetitively lift and carry heavy weights from thigh height to waist height in your formative years, yeah, you might grow up with some shit posture. But not everyone does. There are many lobstermen with straight backs out there. But I'll tell you one odd thing: I never had backaches while lobstering. If I went home sore, it was my thighs, my shoulders and lower back that was uncomfortable. Upper back and trapezius muscles never gave me a hint of bother, and that was pretty rare. I think it also explained how when I blew up to 300lbs after grad school I could still keep up with the thinner, healthier guys. I had all that beef to work with. Even now, when I'm considerably under 300lbs (though I wish I could be lot further even so), there are certain motions of heaving and lifting that are easy enough. I can carry a 100lb steel pipe reducer slung between my legs and walk down the deck as easy as you please. I can swing a large sledgehammer all day... give me a 50lb weight to carry in my arms, though, and my back will scream. It never grew to do that. Makes me wonder, though, how other guys who grew up playing football or hockey work when they start to age- do they find themselves compensating for aches and pains by relying more on their developed muscle groups, or, as a group do they go pain-free from having more evenly-proportioned muscle development when they were kids?

"Noh, chu aren't 6 fit ta

1 comment:

JebTexas said...

Makes good sense, because from 5th grade until I turned 16 I carried a backpack and trombone to and from school (maybe 2 miles away) most good weather days. I can carry large stuff on my shoulders with ease, but work done bent over, even standing still to long does my lower back in. I carry loaded icechests, suitcases, 100 lb feed sacks, etc on one shoulder or the other with ease, and my friends think I am showing off. Nope, just easier that way.