This morning I walked my usual two miles in our 200 acre back yard. Also, as usual, I stopped to talk to the animals. Just call me Dr. Doolittle! I have my favorites. After the East African vultures hatched an egg last year then settled in to raise their chick, I talked to them about child rearing. And when the chick grew larger than his parents within just a few months (showing off a wing span of nine feet!), we chatted about the challenges of raising teenagers. Alas, the “chick” was shipped off to boarding school (another zoo) a few weeks ago, but Mom and Pop seen quite happy to have the nest to themselves again.
My other favorites are the warthogs, but they were sleeping in this morning, so we didn’t get to chat. Fenton, our 1000 lb male zebra, was quite talkative today. Actually, lately he’s found a lot to talk about in the wee dark hours of the morning, which always makes us laugh. His bray is much like a donkey’s, only ten times louder. We hear there’s a search on to find Fenton a girlfriend, and we suspect that’s what he’s talking about to the others we hear answering him — the crowned cranes and Ankole cattle.
Speaking of the crowned cranes, it’s almost time for them to start dancing again. At certain times of the year, these tall birds hop back and forth on their spindly legs, flap their wings and jut out their long necks in a rhythmic wobble — their reddish punk-rock coifs gleaming in the sun. The sight can’t help but make you smile. There’s only one sight more entertaining — the humans standing outside the crowned crane enclosure, hopping back and forth, flapping their elbows, trying to get the birds to dance. (I won’t mention how I know this is true.)
But a rare sight was mine this morning. One of our usually shy Cheetas was napping in the sun. I sat down on a bench in the shade of a desert willow, and watched this magnificent feline stretch and yawn, roll over, and rub his ears with his paws– just the way our cats do. For a while, his head was at an angle where his world must have appeared upside down — a feline behavior I’ve always found enviable. I’ve discovered you don’t talk to an animal like a Cheeta. There’s something about the wonder, the awe, the power, the silent and magnificent beauty such an animal elicits. So I sit and watch — and perhaps, even listen — when I’m lucky enough to see one. It’s a sacred moment, one that always makes me consider the God who created this animal.
A little strange, this early morning ritual. I talk to the warthogs, the zebras, and the vultures; I dance with the crowned cranes; and I meditate with the big cats. Then I put my ball cap back on — the one that proclaims, “Life is Good” — and I trot back home to begin another day of writing.