We did it! We made it to our destination intact and met up with my husband to start our long-awaited winter vacation. And while yesterday was nice and simple, with a trip to the skating rink, building forts with cousins and eating a homemade supper with family, today was field trip day.
Every time we visit my husband's brother and his family, we go to the zoo. The children request this year after year and we are happy to oblige. There is always something new to learn, or forgotten factoids to rediscover. But this year, something pretty special happened. For some reason, our pace was slow. We weren't on a mission to meet all the animals this year. There were a few special ones that we were drawn to and felt moved to spend time with.
Our first stop was a bee-line to the owls. No surprise there, right? But the time we spent there was magical. It started out like a game of hide and seek, as we tried to track down the owls that were out of view. They stared at us with their large yellow eyes, and angled their heads to get a better look at us. One hooted at us and Jaelyn hooted back. An owl hoot! This city-girl has never heard an owl hoot before! But then this particular owl was a wee bit restless. As we turned away from it to search the treetops for other owl friends, he silently flew over top of us, its wing brushing Astrin as her father carried her. My husband only felt the rush of air pass by his head, but had no other clues that he too, was so close to an owl.
Later we visited the elephants. Well, elephant. It turns out that the four lady elephants that "Spike" shares the enclosure with were away, perhaps because Spike was in heat. He seemed lonely to me. He was rocking his immense body back and forth, and shifting from foot to foot. While I felt sorry for him being all alone, his odd behaviour allowed us to take a really good look at the mechanics of a step. We talked about how elephants walk on their tiptoes, as they have a cushion of fat under their heels. This is why elephants walk so quietly, despite their immense size. And it was really noticeable how well that "heel" fat acted as a shock absorber as Spike shifted his weight. I could have watched him for hours, and indeed, we did spent quite a bit of time with him.
Lastly, we were chilled, yet fascinated, by the behaviour of the wolves. We had six children with us, ranging in age from 10 to 1. As the children crowded into one of the indented fence areas to get a better look, the wolves came towards us to get a better look too. And their eyes didn't leave the little ones that they thought would be the easiest to hunt. Several times, the older children ran past the front of their enclosure. The wolves paid no attention. But when the ones they had their eyes on ran past? The wolves chased along their side of the enclosure. Oh so haunting, but oh so cool too.
All these things made this particular zoo excursion a memorable one for me. Yes, the littlest details that come to light when space is made for them make special things happen!