Posts Tagged ‘zoo’

Zoo Portrait

27 February 2011

Dear J-

Typically when I go to the Zoo I come back with well over a hundred shots of various things — it’s not as impressive as it sounds, as I usually have my camera set for continuous shooting and therefore take two when I might intend to take one. Today I get back and there’s all of twenty-nine shots in the can, most triggered over the course of maybe ten minutes as we’re walking around. There’s several explanations that come off sounding like excuses — we’ve been there so often! I had to choose one lens! our hands are full with two kids! — but some days you’re not feeling it. There’s always people there surreptitiously eyeing what you’ve got and others swaggering around with red and gold-ringed lenses, bodies sporting vertical grips and motor drives popping popping popping along. I’m as guilty of spraying pictures as much as the next guy, but it’s not what I want to be remembered for.

I tried something different — pictures of people at the Zoo, and like all pictures of people it’s hard to not be too nosy or feel intrusive. But this is a perfect place for it: folks are engrossed in watching the animal antics that they’re relaxed and honest in their reactions. Kids running around and harried parents may not make the best subjects (or photographers) but there’s no pressure in it. Everyone’s got a camera out but they’re always trained on the animals — after all, why else do most folks go to the Zoo? There’s opportunities everywhere for photographs, if you keep your eyes sharp.



Long Sun

12 December 2010

Dear J-

Is it that I have so much to talk about it’s hard to get out or so little that I don’t want to embarrass myself by saying it?  The weather turned unseasonably warm over the weekend — we were at the Zoo today and rather than face the complete trek through Elephant Odyssey we just turned around and headed back instead, riding the tram twice.  I tried out a new bag that I want to incinerate — it dumped my camera no less than three times.  We went out to see more lights, we ate well, we did everything we normally do on a Sunday.

Difference is I have one week left to run at home.  I get closer to that particular milestone but for now have yet to modify my behaviors to match; at the same time I pride myself on turning into a bit of a night owl (prowling on-line deals for possible gifts, I’ve bid on and won a few LEGO/Duplo train sets) I have developed a terrible, un-coincidental narcolepsy (though we have now watched it twice, I haven’t been able to sit through a complete showing of Shrek Forever After, for instance).  If I’m going to shift back (and that means getting up around 2:30 or so, instead of going to bed around that time) I’m going to have to wean myself onto it this week.

So really a whole lot of nothing today, but a good deal more than I might have expected.  Calcifer seems well-sorted enough to deal with on a daily basis, and we’re slowly demonstrating that out and about with two kids is doable — at this point, only just, but once I go back and theVet has to deal with two, well, that may be a different story.


Baby Compare

8 March 2010

Dear J-

The rain swept in a few times today; I had another follow-up appointment with the doctor, so I took the remainder of the day off. It’s been three weeks since the surgery and things are more or less back to normal (with any luck, the teeming legions of medical professionals lined up to touch my junk has come to a close). I’m going to try riding the bike again tomorrow, knowing that it’s been too long, weather permitting. We went to the Zoo again today as another sign of falling back into the same old routine; my arms hardly remembered the burden of camera and figgy together, but the familiar rhythms keep us moving forward.

At the Zoo the meerkat pups had emerged from the burrow and were taking their tenative steps under wary eyes. There are times that we happen to see other kids out with their parents; they are quiescent little boys and girls that obediently (perhaps only in comparison) sit up and take direction. On the other hand, figgy has her own mind on things, giving us directions and admonishing us:

Mike: To the restaurant Noodles!

figgy: Don’t say that, Daddy.

Mike: Noodles!

figgy: Don’t call me Mike. Call me figgy, okay?

I would not trade my crazy daughter who apparently cannot walk when there are willing parent arms around for an army of straight-arrow kids who smile and nod at every command and wish. She brings a kind of creative anarchy into our lives, one that I suspect every two-and-three-quarter year old brings to their parents’ lives and ours are richer for it. We have as many screaming fits as uncontrollable laughter but each peal is rich reward for every point of blood pressure. It’s more than I could have dreamed.


Spin Cycle

29 November 2009

Dear J-

So if you want to go someplace touristy in your hometown over a four-day weekend, save it for Sunday: for this Thanksgiving, Thursday is reserved for family, Friday is filled with desperate folks looking to escape the shopping crush, Saturday is left with people trying to wring the last drops out of the weekend, but Sunday is a travel day for most and everything is pretty deserted. We completed our trifecta with a trip to the Zoo today; our original plans involved sticking around to see the lights, but they told us they wouldn’t be on for another two weeks.

It’s been a long time since we had four days off together in a row, it’s almost like re-learning how to function as a team. We work at cross purposes at times; we pull like mismatched oxen as we each have separate ideas as to what’s best. Through it all we’ve spent more time laughing than not — yesterday, for instance, we stood in line to meet Santa at Sea World, where she declared, “That’s Christmas; Christmas is wearing a hat.”

At some point, unnoticed, she’s turned into a little kid. There are small things we could work on, but by and large we’re well past the point of helplessness. One of the things the unnamed they tell you is how quickly it passes, blink and you miss it. After all, it is one of those things you have to experience for yourself to understand, right? We spin in cycles, we repeat every lesson our parents and their parents learned; the wheel revolves in silent amazement.


DNA Bucket

27 November 2009

Dear J-

It is turning out that we need to top the tops in order to keep her entertained; we spent the day at Legoland — indeed, nearly the whole day (six hours, which in toddler time is close to a week), including an hour spent in line for a two-minute ride (was it worth it? only to say that you went, I suppose). I can’t even remember the name of the ride, it was that unremarkable; though the wait went pretty well, I can’t help but think that it’s got a lot to do with where we were — someplace different than the usual Zoo-Sea World routine.

I’ll be the first to admit that we go to the Zoo a lot; I have done my best to mix up routes and animals, but there’s a limited number of ways to get from front to back and out again. Certain places have more meaning as a railing to hang from or a sculpture to climb on, rather than a certain animal; there’s a strange sort of injustice when the back yard and local canyons are less familiar than Tiger River, say.

This is the third time we’ve been to Legoland — the first time well back in 2004, I asked my brother, who we went with, how he was able to do it: weekend after weekend, taking the kids out all day long, running back and forth, arms down and up laden with sleepy DNA. It was a few hours in, that rainy June day, that I started to question whether I’d have the energy to ever chase children the same way. It’s taken five years to come up with a good answer, but here we are tonight, satisfied but not exhausted, thrilled and amazed as always, having spent the day in good company.


Sharing Caring

21 November 2009

Dear J-

You can admonish me any way you like later but here you go: Cal 34, Stanford 28; it’s always a big deal when our alma maters play. And this despite the Cardinal running it up against two teams that pounded Cal earlier this year, Oregon and USC. Yes, Stanford had a chance to pull it out in the end and next year, who knows? But for me, I’m curious why I should feel a sense of accomplishment when a team wins or a gnawing sense of disappointment when they lose: it’s not as though I’m personally responsible for them — they are unlikely to hear me yelling at them through the television, and it’s not as though I ever suited up to do battle on the gridiron. All I know is this: after the giant swoon of 2007, all is forgiven (for now), let’s not dwell on the three losses, let’s trumpet the win over a nationally-ranked Stanford team and sing praises for the role of spoiler. By the way, it looks like Oregon’s going bowling for Roses; here’s hoping that the Buckeyes find out how tough the Pac is.

It’s the second day of my weekend, which found me out of sorts early — impatient, crabby, tired (figgy pulled the same early-morning trick on us again — either we need to keep her up later or find some way to graft the sleep habits of a teenager onto her); we revived a bit with breakfast (figgy with her first, voracious taste of egg) and crashed a bit back at the Zoo over little things. It’s always the little things that dismay me: one week she spilled some water, which for some reason brought me to unthinking rage (it’s not as though there aren’t drinking fountains and drink vendors all over the place, so a little spilled water is no big deal in the grand scheme of things); this week, it was her runny nose, perhaps from the flu shots she got yesterday, causing her to completely deplete my stash of napkins. Again, I’m not paying for them, they’re ubiquitous and yet seeing the last one go because she doesn’t like to reuse brought me to some impatient snappiness.

Point is that there’s so much in my life that’s out of my control nowadays; I used to hate my parents hosting parties partly because it meant that I’d be in charge of the other kids, but more, I suspect, because that meant they’d be touching my stuff. MY stuff. It’s not that I never learned to share; I never learned the joy in it, and I find myself going slightly crazy now that there’s a life and a will I can’t control. Guide, yes; control, no — and it’s going to mean that the things I do aren’t necessarily going to have any effect, but somewhere between the futility of cheering at the television and creating a clone is the right mix to raise a child (crazy daughter that she is); it is perhaps the most fascinating experience (experiment?) I know.


Three Days

8 November 2009

Dear J-

The more unwieldy the camera, the fewer pictures I end up taking; today more true than ever, as I spent three hours hauling figgy around the canyons of the Zoo for the second day (as well as I know some paths, I’m still pretty weak on the geography surrounding the gorilla and aviaries — I managed to hit both today, but I’m not completely sure how), this time geared out to the teeth with lenses that stayed safely tucked away. It’s not a question of putting her down and leaving her to her own devices any more; she is as likely to slip through the barriers as to wander away now.

She keeps changing the rules as we go; while yesterday there was no nap, today I let her sleep in the car after coming home, but she woke up after half an hour — inconsolably tired — and after asking her what she wanted for lunch (nap! NAP!), she resumed the nap after the lucid intermission and I never got quite untracked from that. I tried to get her interested in other activities — she helped me pick up leaves on Friday, but not today. Instead with the blankets unrolled, she crawled in compliantly and crashed down for a couple of hours; perhaps the illness passes in decreasing cycles.

Ibis Help 3474 -sm

Try it this way, then: how can seventy-two hours leave me so exhausted, and with a figgy that isn’t at 100% energy? I withdraw into sullen silence as the days wear on, but subtlety is lost on a toddler; I’d hoped to be past my impatience by now, but I’m still stuck in the same frustration loop as ten, twenty, thirty years ago. Is it something buried in your genetics, or is it a behavior I can change?


Zoo Rules

7 November 2009

Dear J-

A few trips ago, we kept seeing apologetic signs at the Zoo talking about the new hippo — he had angry cracks on his back, which the signs explained was because he was having trouble fitting in with the rest of the family unit. It reminds me a little of when we first brought Oliver home with Bean — both dogs thought they were dominant, but the squabble a week later sorted things out pretty well; however, the new hippo has since been taken off-exhibit and we haven’t seen him much lately. It’s hard to reconcile the docile side they show — whenever we see them, they’re always in the same corner, soaking with only their nostrils above water, nearly as inert as the rocks nearby — with the violence you know they can muster.

Funani Soak 0920 -sm

The Zoo’s reached a slow point again, off-season and so even on the weekend, the crowds weren’t thick around the most charismatic animals; our favorite routes were all flowing freely along. Whenever we go, there’s always a few people we keep seeing over and over again, especially when the visitors are relatively sparse; once you’re on certain paths, after all, you keep running into the same folks — there aren’t that many branches. So you end up with the choice of either cooperating or fighting; either rivals or fellows, but no choices in between.

Funny that we should believe that ourselves so far above animal emotions and yet here we are feeding rivalries for silly reasons: jockey for position, see the most animals, get in line first; how can we continue to push our personal agendas on our days off? Quiet moments are rare enough that we shouldn’t seek to introduce conflict — point out the animals to others, take your turn and move along without resentment.


Young Plumage

19 September 2009

Dear J-

Yesterday the big news was that after weeks of what seems like utter fruitlessness, figgy used the potty. Granted, it was more like an accident (take the diaper off and sooner or later you’ll see what happens) that happily coincided with a time she was willing to sit on the pot as we read to her. I’m not going to claim any particular method worked (this is the one milestone that no one seems to agree on except that there’s no way to force it), or that we’ll have much continued success in the future, but maybe we can build from here, right? It seems like it should be intuitive, but you try explaining the importance of potty training to a two-year-old.

Juvenile Pin 1766 -sm

As we pass these milestones, though, I’m reminded that increasingly, there’s a small person in the house now. She’s probably going to make the jump from crib to bed before much longer now, which probably isn’t the most fortuitous timing (bedtime is already a bit of a struggle, and if she’s able to get out and run around, we make ourselves vulnerable to interrupted evenings). Every time I turn around, it seems that things are that much closer to grown up; when you walk through the gates at the Zoo the first thing you see is the flamingo pond, and those juvenile chicks we saw this spring are now adult in form but not color. So it goes; I say to theVet sometimes how figgy seems to be skinny-ing out, but it’s not just the next size up and steadier feet. Three people now, and the road ahead just keeps brightening up.


Dragons Fly

5 September 2009

Dear J-

The heat broke a bit today; we went to the Zoo and didn’t exactly melt, but we struggled a bit with the wills today. I’ve become inured to the fact that we’re not going to be using the backpack or stroller much — not when the arms are so willing to hoist her up in the air, not when it’s so easy to reject the other conveyances with the rigid back arch to slip out of our grasp. Therefore, both arms need to be free when we head out; I’ve tried using a shoulder bag, but I gave up on that a few weeks ago when one of the straps broke and dumped one of my cameras on the ground.

Dragon Cling 5517 -sm

You have a choice between what you get to hold, then; I did bring along a fair amount of gear today, but didn’t have much opportunity to pull the camera out of its holster or even swap lenses (recall that you will always have the wrong lens on the camera). I did dress like a freak, too — probably twenty pounds of gear, between diapers, water, lenses, and cameras distributed in the various pockets of a MOLLE LBV; that worked well in holding all my gear accessibly, not that I did much accessing. My hands were usually full with child — holding, lifting, and twirling — and to be honest, I’m not sure I missed any opportunities today.