Swiss Family Zoo
Peacocks and chickens ranged freely across picnic tables, scrub grass hills, and low hanging live oak branches. The wind sweetly murmured through wooden wind chimes scattered about, and the mid-February sun flexed its muscles. I sat: soaking in the sunshine, listening to clucks, holding my new babe. I had chosen to accompany Joshua and the kids to the Austin Zoo for my first big excursion since labor and delivery – and it was wildly successful.
We visit the Austin Zoo a couple times a year, but hadn’t yet been when our Olivia-Animal-Lover could walk on her own power. The plan was for Joshua and the three oldest to go gawk at tigers and feed the lamas while I stayed home with Cora, but at the last minute I wormed my way in with promises to listen to my body and be willing to sit for long stretches if needed. Our friends Sky and Wyatt joined us there; after stocking up on the pre-packaged animal food we headed out. First stop: petting/feeding zoo.
Goats, goats, goats. Butting one another and straining against their enclosures to lap up every kibble. Judah, Kenzie, and Wyatt followed our lead, balancing food in flat palms tenuously held up for quick retrieval by surprisingly soft lips. Olivia, ever-confident her animal love set her apart, was selecting a piece of kibble at a time to offer between finger and thumb to the animal of her choosing. She squealed with joy each time an offering was accepted. Our visit could have ended there, and Olivia been euphoric. Lamas, deer, and sheep however, awaited our feeding as did plenty of other animals that we would NOT be feeding. We ventured forth!
The two weeks of postpartum bliss (sleeplessness, dirty diaper counting, eating everything in sight) brings to the Torrey house a special, new movie – a tradition started with the birth of Judah. After welcoming child number two, Kenzie watched the Sound of Music practically on repeat. Mary Poppins sang to Kenzie and Judah while Olivia settled in. This time around the antics and heroics of The Swiss Family Robinson filled our home and infused the play of Kenzie, Judah, and Olivia. It also made our trip to the Austin Zoo extra special.
When Fritz & Ernst discuss how their island became home to such a wide variety of animals, the leading theory involved a land bridge from Asia. What they ought to have considered was the generosity of Austin locals who opened a Zoo refuge for animals hurt, abandoned, or illegally brought to the country. Walking through the Austin Zoo was like walking onto the island with wild-child Francis, finding rare and familiar animals. Four large ostriches stretched long necks to eat (attack?) food placed high on a wire for them. Ernst may have tamed the ostrich they caught, but one look at those large birds with even larger beaks and I was backing away slowly. I’ll walk any day rather than attempt to ride an ostrich!
We watched pigs shuffling along, enjoyed the antics of climbing monkeys, and admired the terrible beauty of pacing tigers. Animals that had recently graced our screen in technicolor were now present in living color. The kids were enthralled. For me, the highlight of the trip – by far – came near the end. Galapagos and Sea Turtles inhabit a barn and paddock like structure, separated down the middle by a path that zoo-walkers can tread. We kept to the outside section to watch the sunning animals who quickly exhibited the determination and drive that caused Mr. Turtle to trounce Mr. Hare in the old moral. Although not fast, these turtles MOVED. It was a sight reminiscent of Ernst lassoing and harnessing swimming-turtle-power to move the raft along. Those intrepid turtles gave me courage for the days ahead.
Postpartum life will transition to mom-of-three-and-an-infant. I will most likely move slowly with an outside world (and any mirrors I happen to pass by) seeing very little in the way of progress. Each day might feel like I’m swimming in rough waters towing an over-full life raft through shark-infested waters (that Swiss Family Robinson is nothing if not dramatic!). No matter the circumstance or the struggle, I’ll envision the hard-shelled determination witnessed at the Austin Zoo and keep swimming for shore. On my best days I’ll let the power of Christ (rather than my own) move us forward, but on every day I’ve been promised new mercies and grace for the journey. It is an adventure I thrill to.