Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sisterhood of Nature

 Since introducing my blog in March, 2011, I realized most
significantly the strong relationship between humans and birds
or animals. My recent study and observation of Mourning Doves
was an eye-opener to family experiences among these mating pairs.

In animals as diverse as African elephants and barnyard mice, blue monkeys
of Kenya and feral horses of New Zealand...long-lasting and mutually
beneficial relationships turn out to be the basic unit of  social life...the  force that
 not only binds existing groups together but explains why the animals' ancestors
bothered going herd in the first place.

Researchers have discovered that some female baboons with strong bonds
have lower levels of stress surprisingly longer...and rear a
 greater number of offspring to independence...than do their less socialized peers. 
Similarly, wild mares with female friends are  harassed less by the stallions and
have more surviving foals that lack social ties.  Even female mice allowed to choose
a “friend” as a nesting partner will bear more pups than females forced to share
straw space with a mouse they dislike.Female elephants  keep in touch with their
“chums” through frequent exchanges of low-pitched vocalizations called “rumbles”. 

Scientists have documented and concluded that female camaraderie reduces
stress...increases longevity...and helps mothers raise independent offspring.  
Camaraderie is easy to spot.  Lionesses suckle each other's cubs.
                         Female spotted hyenas greet each other through elaborate
                         ceremonies of mutual trust.
                         Elephants touch trunks, share food, play lifeguard for the day...
                         often aiding and protecting another's calf.

The Power of Human Female Friendship

When in public school in the village of Burford,  I had a “special friend”, Sylvia who
was a neighbour.  She and I walked to and from school together daily...often going
to each other's home for milk or juice and home-baked cookies...often sharing our
inner secrets.  In grades 7 and 8, my favourite friend and classmate was Margaret
who continued throughout  high school years, . We shared confidences and family
situations. Naturally, I had other friends within the school system, the church,
the softball team and 4-H club (for farm children).

In Toronto, with post secondary education, .Jean, Olive and Beatrice were my
“friendship circle”.  Attending Teachers' College, my new friends were Jean,
Olive and Beatrice.  Attending Teachers' College, my close friends were Marilyn,
Judy and Mary. At my first assigned school to teach, the secretary, Louise,
became a personal friend. Then, the following years, organizations and clubs
to which I belonged, presented other “special friends”  What I discovered
was the “ideal buddy count”!  To have a “top 3” seemed to be what was important.
With a trio to lean on, you not only see, but experience, the kind of strong, stable,
relationships that help females cope better with stress.
Most females, I've observed, have at least one close associate with whom they
hang out. At each stage of growth and development, I had a “mentor” whom I
wished to emulate.  One such person, Stella, advised me “to be myself”...not to
copy someone else...for herein lies a personality to be developed.
                                            Now, the challenge is…to discover...who I am!

I wish I had known Confucius who said,
If I am walking with two men,
each of them will serve as my teacher.
I  will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them;
and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself”
(Chinese politician, teacher, editor & social philosopher)
(551 BC – 479 BC)

Psychologists have noted that, “Coalition between the males may be showier,
but, female friendships appear more resilient, lasting until one member dies.”

Robert Seyfarth of the University of Pennsylvania states,
“You have to have someone to hang onto. A friend gives you an element of
predictability and certainty...and you can use that to buffer you against
all the things you don't have control over. 
A familiar friend calms and equilibrates...mops up the  spills that can weaken 
the immune system...and in so doing, may help lengthen life 
~ as with baboons, humans and other group-minded kinds.”

“Two Women”,  the movie starring Sophia Loren in a World War II true story
drama, impressed me with their bonding and survival.  A few years later, after
reading the novel, Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood,  I viewed the movie
of the same title. There are numerous  organizations and clubs that cater to women
e.g. Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, Canadian Federation of University Women,
 Lioness Club, Women Who Excel  (business women's networking organization),
Zonta Clubs, Women of the Moose, etc. Camaraderie here, can be sought and
developed...also within your neighbourhood, through theatre, gyms, hobbyists,
recreation, team mates...the list is endless!

                                The pinnacle of my happiness was inviting 5 intimate friends
                                           (each whom I’ve known for over 25 years,
                                           who are all retired from business;
                                           among whom we’ve chatted, laughed and cried)
                              to celebrate my March 17th Birthday at the RBG’s Garden Caf√©,
                                Wonderful Ambiance...Delicious Lunch…Superb Friendship!

Jean Silk, a primatologist at the University of California states,
“Yes...having coffee with friends is good for you;
 we should all do it often…and open the conversation:
You look gorgeous!  Have a cookie! 
Now, tell me what's on your mind”.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Pearls of Wisdom”

Friends are Angels that lift us to our feet
When our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.

Friendship needs to work,
just as a butterfly needs no song.
Just to feel its presence…is beautiful.
(Marjolein Bastin ~ world renowned nature artist))

Merle Baird-Kerr … written April 28, 2012
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