Rich had been locked down in his office at the corner of Columbus and Wacker for a couple weeks and we’ve barely had a moment to so much as say hello. He’s also had a bad cold so when he’s not working he’s sleeping. I think it’s convenient that this is happening now, right when it’s time to do the Christmas shopping thing for family. But Friday evening we took a nice walk down the street to look for SmartWool sox to stuff some stockings and we stopped and had the best Chicago meal to date at a little cozy wine bar called The Red Rooster Cafe. I could have sworn, by the taste of my roast chicken and mashed potatoes, that I was in the French countryside. We also stopped by the tea store and bought some small gifts for friends and the clerk made Rich a cup of Greek Mountain tea with verbena for his cold.
When we got home Rich said he wanted to catch up on my blog since he hadn’t had a chance to read it for about a week. When he came out of his office this is what he said: "You had some posts in there that were more chickafied. I had a hard time schlogging through it. You know, the recipes and all that kinda crap. Usually you’re more gender free. But the photo of Greenfinch is incredible." Chickafied??
But then, I put very little credence in a guy who has become addicted to Mucinex in less than 3 days and woke up with a start in the middle of the night to ask me why my feet were turning purple. Chickafied.
Hoss came close with "spotted wing orange butt" on the bug quiz below but Michelle (Queen of www research and trivia) actually identified this lovely bug. It’s a Polka Dot Wasp Moth. Apt. (FC just commented that it’s an Oleander Moth. That’s right, too, but now I’m all in a panic that I have a poisonous oleander down there that my fat stepcat is dumb enough to nibble…)
My Florida friend, FC, used the (non)word ‘slumpnicity’ in a recent post. That came to mind as Rich and I enjoyed another seasonal outing last night. Lincoln Park Zoo is wildly aglow this time of year with Zoo Lights. I saw them from the sky as I flew in from Florida the another night and marveled again, from a different perspective, at what an extravaganza this is. Last night was mild and people were there in the thousands. They had a guy doing ice sculpting just as fast as it could melt, my fellow volunteers were helping children decorate cookies and make antler hats and Santa was in the primate house with a long line of children waiting. I can’t remember seeing so many happy families out and about at one time, ever. Every enclosure is lit up, giant outlines of wild animals line the paths, the carousel and popcorn cart are all aglow. Farm in the Zoo and Children’s Zoo (both little "sub-zoos" within the zoo) are completely outlined with twinkling lights. My favorite lights are the more subtle light reflections of giant snowflakes that glow against the dark back rock walls of the big cat enclosures.
How do the animals respond to all of this nighttime activity? They don’t. Slumpnicity was the order of the night. Curiously or not, zoo animals sleep at night. The smaller ones that would be nocturnal in the wild are in "night light" exhibits so they are active during the day when visitors are normally there (bats, for example) but, by and large, the residents sleep at night. And they didn’t seem interested in changing that routine just because there were throngs of noisy children and Christmas carols blaring. One of the things I appreciate at LPZ is that the exhibits are designed so that the animals have options. The larger animals can be indoors, outdoors or in a non-viewing area den. The primates all have high recessed places where they can retreat from the public eye. Despite these choices, the animals seem to go where they want, when they want, pretty much oblivious to the human activity around them.
Last night, the black leopard could have been high up on the rocks on soft straw but she was sleeping contentedly on a big appliance box the keepers gave her; the big cats seem particularly fond of boxes. In the 26 million dollar Regenstein Center for African Apes the lights were dimmed and people were being respectfully quiet but it didn’t seem to matter much one way or the other as the lowland gorillas snuggled and spooned and snoozed away. In the primate house the Titi Monkeys (Callicebus donacophilus) couldn’t get close enough to each other in peaceful slumber. I counted 4 long tails braided together, hanging from the branch but by just looking at that soft bundle of gray fur you wouldn’t otherwise know how to count them.
Last night was another reminder to me that, although Chicago doesn’t yet feel like home, I am finding a way of life here. It’s a beautiful, clean and vibrant city. And last night, at the zoo, all was calm and all was bright.
Speaking of the zoo, I’m about to head off for my last day of general docent training before I enter into a one-on-one mentorship for the next six months. I’ve been in every house and exhibit area, I’ve toured the hospital and I’ve been coached on how to, ever so gently, redirect the attentions of loud and obstreperous children keen on extolling the sexual habits of white-cheeked gibbons. Now I will study the details of genus and species and learn by shadowing.
The zoo has some docents who have been there for more than twenty years; it’s a position that has a high retention rate. Find something you like, stick with it.
Before I go I’m going to eat fresh hot tamales for breakfast. My friends, Lee and Mario and Patricia went out early this morning for the real deal. They’re eight dollars a dozen and better than prime rib. This afternoon, the pre-Christmas panic continues as I try to get the last mail gifts ready- and that means taking on the Chicago post office early tomorrow morning. Tonight we will settle down and remember the reason for the season as we mark this third Sunday in Advent. Tomorrow I will go to Union Station to pick up Abby who has been in Ann Arbor this weekend before coming to spend nine whole days with her mama. Yes! She hasn’t seen our new home yet so I’m very excited to get her in my grasp. Her stuffed animals, favorite childhood books and quilt are not so subtly arranged in the guest room upstairs…
Have a lovely Sunday!