I threw open the back door of my workplace and walked out. Tears were blurring up my vison and I wiped my nose on my sleeve. It was 6:45 am and I had just emailed my supervisor and told her I was ill, I needed to leave. I would have to face the consequence of that action at a later date, but If I knew anything in my 53 years on this earth; I recognized when I was going to snap, and nothing productive was coming from the state of mind I was in. Best I leave before I got written up for being belligerent .
The sun was just getting up; the golden hour for photography. I stepped over the guard-rail of the old Jemseg Road and slid my way down the bank to the riverside to take a photo of the calmness surrounding me. My hope was if I stayed just a few moment in the solitude of nature, I could regroup and go back to work. It turned out the longer I listened to the frogs burping and watched the ducks nesting, the less I wanted to go back to the chaos.
The damn pandemic has brought me to the brink. Yes, I have gotten out and hiked this winter, dragging my friends out into the woods to experience local places like Friar’s Nose, Sussex, New Brunswick, Parlee Brook Amphitheatre, Sussex New Brunswick., Bald Mountain Adventure Trail, Clarendon, NB, St. Martins Sea Caves, New Brunswick, Maliseet Trail to Hay Falls, N.B. but I have pretty much exhausted the borders of my province of New Brunswick. Then it hit me, I have not been to the zoo.
Before I knew it I was on the Trans Canada highway to Moncton because the inscription on my epitaph was not going to read “Work was her life” – and I heard they have an excellent big cat exhibit.
As I drove I recalled standing in a safari jeep and our guide Eric, plowing on the brakes and I stumbled forward off balance. Something here was drawing the attention of other jeeps. Upon the halting, Eric interpreted what he heard over the radio in Swahili, “a well-known male lion is in the vicinity.”
He didn’t have to say a thing, I saw the big cat leave the tree line and walk our way. Unable to speak, I pointed and I shook with adrenaline, “Tttthere he Is” I stuttered. as he crossing in front of the jeep. His feet the size of platters, and a wild strut that was undeniable, he owned this land. So bold and confident. I wrote about it in What Kenya Did to Me: Samburu. Would a lion in a zoo evoke similar feelings?
Ninety minutes later I arrive to find the zoo was closed till 10am, so I had time to look around and experience Magnetic Hill-Moncton, New Brunswick. Nine dollars seemed like a steal, to access the adrenaline rush and fond memories I had of Kenya. The arrows pointed to Africa, South America and Asia and I followed the path.
I could hear him before I saw him. Drawn to his huffing call I followed his voice. It seemed fitting that he surveyed his domain and she was sprawled not far from him. Both happy among the New Brunswick dandelions. With no doubt, this beautiful couple call this their home, be it Ol Pejeta or Moncton, he is king and she his queen. He is not quite as muscular nor wild as I recall from my first African encounter,, but still a ferocious presence resembling his Kenyan cousins, and I was still in awe to see them.
I stayed for a while taking lots of photos, he was a ham and came over leaping up onto the wooden platform built for him and she continued to lounge in the sun posing for my camera like she had a thousand times.
Part of me felt bad for the animals. I saw the camel had a huge paddock but he would never experience a Sahara crossing like his Berber linage suggested . He seemed happy enough grazing and smiling for my camera, but Is ignorance bliss? Is it enough? Do they look forward to the spectators of resent us?
When I got to the zebra he rolled in the dirt and I remember them so fondly in Lake Nakuru and Lower Masai Mara Lined up exactly the same distance apart, following their leader- when he or she rolled, each successive member rolled in the same spot. Dropping, rolling-getting up, and moving on. Then the next member of the herd did the same. I was fascinated. What did it all mean?
I pass ring-tailed lemurs and secretary birds then I left the African area and entered South America, Gibbons swung about their enclosure, restless and constantly moving. making it hard to capture a decent photo but I got a few.
My fingers were crossed telling myself, “I will get to see his natural habitat,” and a sorrow-filled moment knowing he never will. But a breeding program keeps his DNA safe. I tell myself, but it doesn’t help, The guilt that he is locked up and I am on the outside of the fence looking at him is heavy
The Lamas and alpacas are so cute. I was so close to seeing them. Last May my long awaited trip to Peru was cancelled like everyone else’s, dream trips. Plans that went up in smoke. “I will get there,” I tell the black and white alpacas. They make me so happy, such wonderful characters.
There is a petting zoo with farm animals filled with children having fun. I avoid it, keeping my distance. Covid stuff. A tiger -right here in New Brunswick such a majestic animal. He paces his enclosure, swiping by the glass viewing area for me to get a good look at him.
Some of the animals pace, others howl and holler out. Some seem happy for the attention, other cower in their shelters. There is a Leopard, a cougar they are so stunning. The Owls huddle together eyes closed, but one peeks at me, playing look out. A black panther, a caribou and a cougar. A Rhea I think looks a lot like the ostrich., All beautiful.
When I come to the end there is a black bear, He lays on a log newly awakened from his winter slumber. He sees me and couldn’t care less, he wriggles in the dirt, smells the air and shifts from laying to seated. I adjust my camera setting to pet photography. I need to get this right and clear, he is so close but the wrong setting could come out blurry and useless. My friend Tracy from work texts me says “Hope you are ok, you just disappeared.” I snap a few more photos of Mr. Black Bear then text back, “I am at the zoo.” She writes back, “That is awesome. say hi to the bear for me.” I smirk and say, “Mr. Bear Tracy says Hi.” He flops down on the log and stretches out lifting his one leg in the air like he is waving. I think he understood. I text Tracy back “Hi from the bear.” and send her the picture with a wink emoji
“All is good, I will see you Monday.” I reply All will be good thanks to the zoo.
No money, discounts of gifts were received for this post, it is my own experience.
Happy travels from Maritimemac.
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