Wednesday, July 8, 2008
Reconnecting to ‘The Wild’
This past Fourth of July weekend, one of my daughters, Rose, and granddaughter, Cora, and I went to Glen Rose, Texas to stay a few days, do the ‘Dino’ thing (this granddaughter is six and admires T Rex as much as any six-year-old), and visit Fossil Rim Wildlife Ranch. [http://www.fossilrim.org/]
I’d been to Fossil Rim with my older daughter’s elementary-school class as a Room Mother mannnnnnny years ago for the Scenic Wildlife Drive, accompanied by twenty-five 6-to-9-year olds, and remembered feeding the ostriches through the car window and how it felt like the force of a thunderbolt hitting your hand when they took the food pellet from you. It was great fun to drive through the 1700 acres, seeing the animals wild and free while we remained safely in our ‘car cage.’
This past weekend’s drive through the park was more enjoyable than any of us had imagined. Cora is a ‘nature fanatic’ — for example, she’s caught and released around fifty snakes and lizards this spring and summer — and her excitement at hand-feeding the endangered Addax, European Red and Fallow Deer, Aoudads and other species through the car windows is easy to imagine.
These days, visitors are warned against feeding the ostriches, but the shrieks and screams all around inside our ‘car cage’ as the aggressive big birds tried to insert their heads and necks through the windows was quite funny. We got to touch the nose and flank of a Grant’s Zebra as he nuzzled our car door, but the big thrill of the trip was interacting with the giraffes, the only animal one is technically advised to hand feed these days at Fossil Rim because they have no teeth.
We’d been told by ranch staff that, if the giraffes were reticent about approaching us to be fed, we should pull our car over, turn off the engine and quietly wait. “They like to figure out who’s serious about feeding them,” the ranger told us. When we got to the giraffe area, they were indeed ‘doing their own thing,’ nibbling the tree tops, so we did as instructed, parking near them.
It took a few minutes, but soon we saw one of the magnificent giants approaching the rear of the car. The three of us were giggling and whispering and trying to ‘be cool’ and not scare him away. Elegantly, he glided slowly over to us and bent his towering head down to the back window, and Cora held out her hand with a feed pellet in it. His long purple blue tongue gently swooped the pellet into his mouth. To say that the child was ecstatic understates it.
One is strictly forbidden to leave one’s car at Fossil Rim, but we remembered that our car has a moon roof, so we opened it, and Cora stood up through it and continued feeding the enormous, exquisitely beautiful animal as he lowered his head to earth, petting his nose as she did so. The giraffe was utterly gentle and peaceful, with the most polite entreaties for food we had encountered all day.
Cora sat on the top of the car with her legs still inside through the moon roof, and the giraffe nuzzled her ear and then nibbled at her ponytail! She was overjoyed. It was a moment none of us will ever forget.
We all three came away from Fossil Rim in a joyful state. It is so important to connect with the natural world, and I often forget this living in the city. What a gift these beautiful, inquisitive animals gave us. We have an incalculable treasure just an hour and a half from Dallas. After the weekend, I felt more restored and whole than I have in years.
This experience brought to mind what many of the Stewpot Community Court Volunteers and the Dallas International Street Church disciples said on the Garden-Raising Day at the Street Church on May 2, 2009. There was something about being outdoors, close to Mother Earth, that helped us all relate and get along in a way that would not have been possible in a different setting.
We get disjointed, disconnected — or I do — and my life begins to feel compartmentalized. But how healing it is to remember and to feel at a deep level that we are an integral part of a much greater picture than our daily concerns allow us to realize, even though those concerns may be of the utmost significance. If we’re lucky and take the time, the ‘critters’ and the grandkids can help us find our way back to sanity.