We went to the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory yesterday. This is a great thing to do on a winter day in Chicago. It's fairly quiet, the animals are relaxing and enjoying the vacation from crowds, and it's free. It was very cold and windy, and in spite of the weather, lots of folks, especially families with strollers and kids around the age of four or five, were out. For some reason, at least half of these kids were not wearing mittens. The kids were walking five to six steps behind their moms and dads, examining the landscape and the snow and the muddy sidewalk, while the parents pushed the empty strollers and got a moment's conversation in. Inevitably, there came a moment each time, when the kids realized, yikes, it is cold out here, and then there was a pause to seek help in putting the mittens on. It's a good thing to have a mom or dad or relative who helps you put your mittens on when you really need them.
We walked the long way around to the entrance of the zoo. The first thing we saw was this: camels from the back side. How can you doubt that there is a sense of humor in the universe when you look at a Bactrian camel? Huge furry feet, and they can close their nostrils when there's a sand storm. Very long eyelashes, for the same reason. There was a third camel standing by him/herself, licking a rock. I don't know, maybe it was a salt lick at some time. My story was that she was a girl camel and wanted to hang out by herself, while the guy camels stood with their backsides to the visitors. My supporting evidence was that her fur looked like a bad Mary Tyler Moore bob/wig. Made sense to me, but I can't confirm it.
Next, an elephant water fountain! With baby elephant! Someone was thinking when they made baby animals so appealing. Everytime I get an L.L. Bean catalog in the mail, I wonder why there's no catalog order number for the wonderful lab and golden retriever puppies that they use to market their products; I bet they'd sell better even than the Bean boots. Sometimes I worry that they are using the same pictures of a litter from years ago, or that these puppies are homeless after the photo shoot. Mainly, I wish that I could order one.
Meerkats. Again, can someone give me an evolutionary explanation for these guys? They're just silly. They crowd as many of the group into the smallest place possible, until somebody loses his balance and then they start over again. Here they're on a log. Quick, how many meerkats do you see? Nah, they're four here; there's one hiding underneath the guy in the middle.
Here's the Meerkat Quartet. If there isn't a rock band with that name, there should be. After this pose, they all scurried off and became immensely busy digging holes and chasing each other and posing winsomely on their hind legs. They were a definite crowd pleaser. Maybe L.L. Bean should use meerkats in next year's catalog?
My husband says that they think about finding smaller fish to eat and watch out for larger fish that want to eat them. Seems monotonous to me, but who am I to judge?
Another possible topic for thought? See that dark bump at the base of the mangrove tree, over to the left at the water's edge? Female alligator. She was holding onto the edge of the pond with her front feet, head barely above water. I heard the zookeeper, who was giving a private tour to a young couple nearby, telling them that sometimes the alligators eat the fish, even though they - the alligators - are well-fed. And he was surprised. Not me. Now who's smarter: the alligators double-dipping or their keepers?
Giraffes. 'Nuff said.
So, here's the cosmic order part of the post. I've been thinking this year, every once in a while, about what kind of meaning life has, whether there is an order to it, and what do people mean when they speak about faith? I'm testing out the meaning of the last, for me, by substituting words like hope or trust or confidence in the future for the exhausted, co-opted term of "faith.". I don't have an answer for these questions, and more to the point, I think that there are as many answers as there are individuals in the universe. But what I will say is that, when I look at nature - I get a sense that there may be some order at work, and there definitely is a sense of humor.
Here's my resolution for 2008. I found it on the door to my younger daughter's bedroom:
Happy 2008 - much happiness and health for all of us this year!