I don’t know what my mother was thinking when she named me Vicki; I would have much preferred something stronger, more romantic such as, say, Fermina. I guess Fermina wasn’t a popular name in the fifties. Anyway.
The zoo and I are one. I love the time I spend over there. Our temperatures are dropping precipitously tonight with perhaps some snow showers in the early hours, but the past two days have been glorious brisk fall days, optimal for some high energy frolicking. Our two lionesses spent hours tossing around a large hard plastic barrel, delighting in rolling it over the edge of the moat, jumping down and flinging it about. The outdoor space is designed in such a way that they can jump down but not up; they rely on the keeper to slide the moat’s automatic egress door so they can head up the ramp, through their inside exhibit and back through the open door to the outside. Watching this play yesterday I was reminded of something my grandmother would often say: “Cats are always on the wrong side of the door.”
As the weather gets colder, the zoo will become a quieter place and although I enjoy the hustle and bustle of summer crowds, winter provides more opportunities to commune with the animals, talk with keepers and have thoughtful conversations with visitors who come because they are, like me, interested in the finer details of life at the zoo.
Historically, I have always disliked cold weather but this year I have a feeling it will bother me less. I seem to have developed my own personal internal convection oven and right about the time I’m thinking I should bundle into my handsome new winter docent jacket- fleece lined, wind and water proof, full of wonderful pockets and a super hood- well, that’s usually when I have to resist the impulse to rip off every stitch of clothing I have on. Dignity be damned, I can be seen tugging shirts out of my waistband and flapping them like sails on a boat. The animals don’t care.
Point in fact, some of the animals seem to be quite enamoured of me at this stage of my life. I spend a fair amount of time in the primate area and I’ve made several close friends. In particular, the female Drill will usually stop what she is doing and come over to place her hand on the glass in greeting. I put mine up to hers and sometimes we just visit in silence for quite a long time. Caruso, the white cheeked gibbon is another of my fans. He demonstrates his affection by swinging right over to the window as soon as he sees me and, um, ‘dancing’ as close to me as he can get. The grind. I was puzzled by their favor at first and then I flattered myself that they were tuning into and returning the special affection I have for them. This past weekend, as I was sorting through some pictures on iPhoto, I realized our true connection.
Here we have a female Drill
Here we have a female Docent
Here we have a male white cheeked gibbon affectionately grooming a female of his species.
You get the idea.
The cold blooded reptiles are also very fond of me. I hold snakes and skinks in the small reptile house so that visitors can get a closer look and I’ve discovered that they take particular delight in the heat I generate. Barney, the blue tongued skink, will be restlessly wiggling and then, right in step with the periodic glow from my furnace, he relaxes and snuggles right up against me. I suppose there could be worse things than finding your midlife niche as some scaly creature’s personal hot rock. It works for me.