Blue Is my Buddy

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Blue Is my Buddy Empty Blue Is my Buddy

Post  Dan Ellsworth on Thu May 28 2009, 18:09

Apr 4, '08 8:49 PM
by danellsworth for everyone

Click here for the picture that inspired this writing.

Blue is my buddy -- now maybe my best buddy. Actually, this
picture of him was taken in happier times, but he looks a lot like this
now, with only the most subtle shading of appearance towards
sadness. Sylvia used to be my best buddy, but there's a sad
story, and I miss her. Blue and I sit together -- actually,
something like eighty feet apart, not crowding each others' space, but
aware of each other. If he is already in his spot when I arrive
after lunch, he looks up at me and (I am not imagining this; it has
happened repeatedly.) nods at me, before settling back to his
Philosopher-Dreamer pose. If I get up to leave before he does, he
looks at me, a little reproachfully I think, then, realizing I have to
go sometime, audibly sighs. He misses someone, too.

I am Blue's buddy -- now almost his best buddy. I lean on a tree
these days, but otherwise my early-afternoon pose (and repose) looks a
lot like his, except that I am a forty-four-year-old homo sapiens,
blue-collar clothed but with pocket pens and a clipboard. I try
to maintain some pretense of being a scholar, but for now my heart is
not in it, though I believe it will be again, someday. Sylvia
would have wanted that for me, even being respectful of my moderate
accomplishment in the field study of the great apes.

But this is about Blue. Ebonette used to be his best buddy, not
just a mate but a constant companion, and their enjoyment of each
others' presence was obvious and inspiring. But there's a sad
story, and Blue misses her. They even would sit together --
though much closer than Blue and I sit, and I wouldn't presume to sit
on the same side of Blue as Ebonette usually did. Blue continues
this afternoon ritual (and repose) without her, as though trying to
connect with happier times, or bring her back, or just go on with life.

Sylvia used to study Blue and Ebonette for hours, taking notes,
establishing patterns, speculating on what went on inside their
heads. I protested that they were "outliers", creatures so far
outside the statistical norms of their kind, that detailed study would
not help us learn about apes in general. She said the outliers
were worthy of study in themselves, partly as an indication of the
potential of the species. I liked them personally -- although
they are not humans, they have personalities, and I used the word
"personally" deliberately -- but I thought we should study more typical

We had some scholarly disagreement about it, but it never came
between us personally. If anything, it was the spice in an
already strong and joyful relationship. Sometimes when I did
something nice for her, she called me an outlier, or a
statistical anomaly, and asked whether she should stop studying me
because I was such a freak. I said, study all you want, but maybe
I'm taking notes about you, too, in preparation for my upcoming book, Primatologists in the Mist.
It sounds rather intellectual, but the results of our gentle
disagreements were satisfactorily physical. Fortunately, we never
caught Blue or Ebonette taking notes on us.

I treasure the experience of being part of a couple
studying the larger primates. Somehow, it seemed to open up
opportunities for extended study of a tribe (our term; I hope nobody
minds); and I enjoyed the collaboration with one of the five top
scholars in the field -- four of whom have been women. Sylvia
tried to describe me in being in the top ranks of the field, but (as
with her fascination with Blue and Ebonette), I think she yielded to
her romantic nature. I consider myself a capable scholar in
library, laboratory, and field work, and a good collaborator, but I'm
not another Sylvia or Diane or Jane; or in the lab, Penny. Those
are the giants.

Or were. Things happened, and we'll never be the same. One
day Ebonette was not there at the Clearing, the open place where
sometimes all four of us sat together. Sylvia admitted to being
worried, and failed to admit being angry, but I could see it. She
put it in scholarly terms, of course. "Finding out why Ebonette
didn't come is an unusual opportunity. You said yourself this
couple is different. I see that, and that's why I want to make a
field trip to trace her break from the routine."

"Sylvia, how can you possibly find her? It's been 28 hours, and
the circle of possibility by now is more than we could cover in a month
-- and widening with the square of the elapsed time."

"Oh, Nate, when have I ever needed concepts and logic to find a tribe
-- or even an individual. You told me several times that my
instincts were beyond anything you could understand, though afterwards,
you do some good theoretical work. Please, let me follow my nose,
and when I succeed, write up the theories, which I will listen to as
respectfully as anyone."

Drawing on my articulate nature, I said, "Ummm... ".

"Oh, and one more thing, Nate. I'd like you to stay here, and
keep up field notes on the tribe. Also, see how Blue reacts to
Ebonette's absence. There are irreplaceable observations that
will be lost if you don't make them. Do this for me,
please? And for science?"

"Pure scholarly pursuit, right?"

"Basically. Sure, Ebonette is my friend, but the opportunity ... ".

Looking back, I know that something didn't feel right about all this,
but this was my lover, my partner, my scientific mentor, and only with
respect could I maintain the relationship. So I tried to see it
her way. "OK, Sylvia, you have the look in your eye. So how
long before you take off?"

"The Grab Pack is mostly ready. A half-hour with the checklist
and I'm good to go. Thanks, Nate."

I stayed out of the tent. Once she got up to speed, she seemed to
grow four more arms, all of them in rapid motion as she refreshed her
Grab Pack. It was neither efficient nor safe for me to attempt to
help her. Uneasily, I kept Blue company.

Loaded up to go, she looked somehow as alive as I've ever seen her,
though with a dark cloud of something I couldn't identify about
her. She said, "Kiss me, Nate. I need to get charged up for
the search." I did, slowly, attentively, intensely, and she gave
as good as she got. Then, a step or two from being on the trail,
she said, "Nate, if anything happens to me, keep taking notes for our
study, and be a good friend to Blue."

Shocked, I said, "If you had to say something like that, I don't think
you'd better go."

"Nate, Nate, allow me my superstitions. If I tell you this kind
of stuff, it won't happen, right?" And faster than I thought
possible, she was gone.

She really was gone. I realize now that she had been listening to news about
poachers in the area, and had formed her own opinion that Ebonette
(never close to the tribe in many ways) has been isolated and
snatched. That's part of why she was so confident of finding
her. I think she meant to confront the poachers with nothing more
than her scholarly, indignant, famous self, and shame or frighten them
into releasing Ebonette. (Sylvia, you were always a
romantic.) She never got close enough to release the full force
of her personality on them; she was shot at mid-distance, as soon as
the gang realized that she was trouble. Ebonette was already dead
and the pelt stowed away.

As it turned out, Sylvia was more trouble to them dead than
alive. The details are in the news, but they were caught easily,
are in the justice system, such as it is. Major steps were taken
to strengthen the laws, and even more, to strengthen the enforcement of
existing laws. International attention provided funding and
motivation for change; this area was a moderately important tourist
destination, as well as a World Biosphere Heritage Zone. Not only
the poachers, but their commercial network in several countries, was
damaged by the intense police work following Sylvia's murder.

The news still calls them poachers -- like rustlers, a term meaning
robbers of property, which happens to be living property. I think
of them as murderers, not only of Sylvia, but also of Ebonette and her
kind -- sensitive, aware beings whose lives matter in themselves, not
just as decorations for our human egos. Poachers? I can't
stand the term any more, and I think Blue would back me on that.

Take care of Blue, huh? No, wait, she said to be a good friend to
Blue. He can take care of himself physically, but he needs a
friend. I saw Sylvia's body. In fact, I identified her,
and, for that matter, Ebonette, through five completely unique
markings. Blue never saw Ebonette's body, but somehow, he
knows. He knows. I know when these creatures mourn.

I've done depositions, and testimony, and several other kinds of
people-things; and I've even tidied up the loose ends in our scientific
reports. Sylvia was always grateful that I was good at
that. There is a little more to do here before I face the
question of what to do next with my life.

But for now, all that is secondary. Blue is my best buddy, and I
am his. We sit, together but with enough distance for respect and
personal space, and stare off into infinity. I stare into an
alternate universe where Ebonette, Blue, Sylvia, and Nate make up a
social foursome, where nobody wants to kill a complex and noble
creature for financial gain, where I kid Sylvia about outliers and she
calls me one, and -- well, sometimes, I just look at trees against the
sky, and slowly accept the healing that is there, coming so slowly, so

What is Blue staring at? I don't know, but we are staring
together, and I don't think our philosopher dreams are all that
different. I know I will move on -- even now, I want to be a man
Sylvia could respect -- but Blue, you statistical outlier, you
improbable friend, best buddy, I'll see that you are beginning to move
on, and then, Blue, and then:

I will never forget you.

Oh, by the way, Sylvia, I won't forget you either -- you anomaly, you
freak, you romantic, field-study coach, soul mate. Catch you on
the other side.

Dan Ellsworth

Number of posts : 57
Registration date : 2009-02-16

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Blue Is my Buddy Empty As Tobie requested

Post  Dan Ellsworth on Thu May 28 2009, 18:13

Starting to sort through my home-office mess, I came across Tobie's request (February 17) to post this story. Is it OK to be moved as I read my own writing? Well, maybe so, because the real inspiration is that picture. Anyway, I found I could navigate my hasty savings of old writings, and find one for current use.

Dan Ellsworth

Number of posts : 57
Registration date : 2009-02-16

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