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afternoon play with my sea cow

afternoon play with my sea cow


67 x 53 cm

acrylic on textured canvas

Manatee matinee:

The trouble with sea cows is that they are an awkward shape. Too big and heavy to lift. They also have rather smelly breath, the smell is that of half rotten wet grass a darker scent than that of a land cow, in short a bovine beast, they are not however related to the four legged kind. When they want to nuzzle your face in greeting or in love beware of their thick, prickly whiskers which can really scratch your cheeks. The manatee’s mouth is similar to a suction bag; the hard muscular lips are needed for the submerged grazing of the seagrass, which is of course a blue carbon sponge. Their thick skinned lips are flexible but they cannot often smile, they have no teeth with which to chew. The sea cow is a grazer, feeding on aquatic plants that grow not far beneath the water’s surface in the warmer climes. Walruses, though a similar shape are nearly similar in size are indeed not related either. Even though ones imagination might pretend that the walrus could be a hardier cousin.

I suppose, when first sighted many years ago by desperate sailors who had been at sea and in the sun too long, and from a distance on a rocking boat the manatees shape visually may have suggested a half fish half female form. Maybe the sun drenched sailors saw how the manatees hold their young, flippers embracing the infant, suckling from the chest. The calves are smooth and mid grey with no teeth or spikes. They soulful eyes gaze back blinking. They hold on when you lift them and cuddle you with their arms. Then and only then you can carry them around. As pets they are nice, eating wet grass from the lawn, they are easy to clean and their waste is compostable too.

One day I decided that, in the afternoon that my sea cow and I should go and watch a play at the local theatre, I knew some of the actors and I had been given two free tickets. I had to carry my manatee calf like a baby on the bus because there was no room to sit down. At the theatre we our seats were in a good position, just a few rows back from the stage. We did however experience great difficult sitting, the seats where not designed with manatee comfort in mind, in the end we managed to work something out as people were beginning to look in our direction. The house lights went down, I felt bad because I knew that he would not enjoy the play being as uncomfortable as he was. A shame because he had enjoyed the book it was based on, when I had read it to him last Spring. After a brief pause the curtain opened and the play started, but only after a few minutes I heard a creaking and a noise that can only be described as a dull, slightly wet thud very close to me. I looked to my left I could no longer see his whiskery mouth of smell that chewed grass smell. Where was he? He had forgotten to go to the toilet before we sat down, he always seemed to forget. I continued watching the play, but I found it hard to concentrate on the plot, my mind wandered and wondered how my sea cow was getting on with his comfort break. I quietly rose, not wishing to distract the actors and went to search out my companion. He was nowhere to be found, the staff had not seen him. I searched, but I haven’t seen him since.

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