Sometimes you just get sick of being sick, you know? I have had a too long spell of the common cold and, it seems, a stomach virus mixed in. These last two weeks have been frightfully unproductive, and my anxiety level has shot up because I feel like I’m falling behind the publication schedule I’ve set for Sunday by Sunday III. My determination to work hard and do some catching up today was sky high; but, alas, I woke up once again tired and slightly nauseated, my brain foggy and addled. So I decided to go to the zoo and act like I was well.
The animals and I could commiserate together, I planned, bizarrely assigning them my funk. Those poor elephants and ancient tortoises and crazy little meerkats must surely be sharing my stress and sense of inadequacy. It would be pretty much me and them early on this February morning, I envisioned, our own little peaceable kingdom. Hardly. There were throngs of doting grandparents and their offspring, nursery schools, mothers and their play groups, nuclear families with 2.5 children, people with exceptionalities and their caretakers, young lovers and old lovers. I’d forgotten that Fridays are free at Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens in January and February—plus, today was sunny and warm, a first day of spring kind of day. At first, I felt foiled; this was to be my special time with the lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my, I whined to myself, and even thought about leaving. I didn’t, though, and I sure am glad.
Unwinding took some time. Seeing my friend David early on and being in his presence for a few minutes helped. He is a serious Buddhist of the Zen variety (after years as a Lutheran pastor), and is a peaceful fellow. He was there to meet his tai chi group and observe the movements of the animals; how’s that for mellow? He blessed my notion of getting a Starbucks drink, not a small matter for me, given my Scotch-Scandinavian background and overactive social conscience. In a bold move, I even got the rich latte with whipped cream instead of the house decaf. Wow.
I settled in the sun with the siamang gibbons, who were, as always, swinging easily around and walking their tightropes. Sipping deliciously, I closed my eyes for a while, but that only took me in to a swirl of the self-recriminations and insecurities I had come to escape. Better to be fully where I was, taking in all the sights and sounds and action. I watched the siamangs closely hoping to detect the first swelling of their funny throat sacs (diaphragms?), the telltale sign that they would soon be whooping at the top of their lungs. No such luck. Didn’t hear any whooping all day.
As the people population swelled, I headed for the gardens, trekking through the woods and along the Saluda River, intrigued by the granite outcroppings and boulders. Ah, solitude. Exercise, too. The commotion, sound and fury of the zoo faded into a distant background. Mind clearing. Breath deepening. It was happening—the unwinding, the restoration, the re-creation. The last leg of the trail up into the rose garden was steep and lovely. Winter pansies were the only color in the garden, the rose bushes just gray sticks, and I marveled to think how, at that very moment, something was happening that would result in green foliage and gorgeous flowers in the months ahead. All the gardens—the Asian, the shade garden, the Hispanic, the demonstration garden, the bog, the day lilies—were naturally dormant, but all promised beauty, and I vowed to return in their season of glory.
Then, back down into zooland on the tram, ready for people now. I spent what I’d saved on admission for a tasty lunch, sharing a picnic table with a family of five. Dad had gotten the food, 21st century hunter and gatherer, while mom waited with the kids. Mom wasn’t exactly pleased with his choices; poor dads, they try so hard.
I wandered for awhile to tell the animals good-bye. They were mostly napping, those crazy flamingoes sound asleep on one leg, looking fluorescent orange to me instead of their usual pink. The fruit bats with bodies the size of cats were hanging upside down; they freak me out because I used to live in a house with a bat problem, and the thought of these creatures flying around my dining room is truly daunting. (Heavens! I remember a dream last night where I outran a huge alligator in my backyard and slammed and locked the back door against it, just in the nick of time, and when I looked back out, it was a leopard.)
So, no writing again today. Instead, my soul restored—and a peaceful soul nurtures the writing process. Also, restored is my understanding that writing comes from beyond. Rather than making this book happen, I must let it happen. And another thought: since all of life is potential material, some of this day may well wind up in my stories:
· the expression on a pre-toddler’s face giving every indication that this was her first time ever to see a giraffe;
· a guy wearing a T-shirt that simply said Jesus, but the middle ‘s’ was a lightning bolt;
· an excited grandpa instructing his crew, “Now, we’ll see the GO-rillas!”