Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tipping the Scale

I wish, I just wish I could explain how happy I am right now. Does this get old to hear? I'm sorry if it does, but it's just so overwhelming and true right now.

I had a great day. A really awesome, great day.

I was driving home from the zoo, thinking about it, everything, just thinking. And it occurred to me how lucky I am to have such strong passions. How lucky I am to have been able to follow my heart and my dreams, how happy I am because of it, and how lucky I am, really, to have dreams to follow. I know people find things to do and are happy doing them but if you were to ask me what I wanted to do most in my life, what I'm doing right now would be the answer. I get to do the thing I most want to do in life. I just know it and I feel it and it's right and it's wonderful. I feel like I have a good sense of who I am and that's great. Really great.

I got to wander around the country a little. I got to pick the city I wanted to live in. I get to do what I love every day. I knew I wanted to do these things and I got to do them.

I was driving home from work and all of this was going through my head. I have a passion. And I've been told numerous times that that in itself is unique and special because so many people lack passion and direction. I have the courage, spirit, tenacity, stupidity, whatever it needs to be called and whatever moment, to follow that passion and to continue to follow it.

I'm just happy. Content. I feel like I'm exactly where I am supposed to be right now. Not where I'm supposed to be forever. Where I'm supposed to be right now.

Now about my really great, super awesome day.

We finished our morning cleaning early. Awesome. One of the keepers bought me lunch. Awesome. The keepers were talking about elephants and the AZA and all sorts of things and I love learning about all of it, and the different opinions. Awesome.

Cherry on top:

I created an enrichment project that the leopards enjoyed.

Silly, you say? Not so awesome, really. Except it totally and completely is.

At the beginning of the day one of the keepers told me and another intern that we needed to make enrichment for Suchka, the female leopard, by the end of the day. We brainstormed a little and thought about doing elephant poop burritos. But I love enrichment so my brain kept storming and when we got to the project I decided I wanted to make hanging balls of elephant poop to dangle off a stick so they could bat them around. Here's the catch: we can't use normal things because it has to be edible and non-toxic. We sit down with banana leaves and palm fronds and I get to work. The banana leaves tear too easily so my original idea doesn't work so well, so I take shreds of palm frond and start weaving them together to form a little basket. Meanwhile, a couple people are standing around watching and thinking I'm nuts and it's not going to work and why hang them anyway, it won't work. I weave some more until I figure out how to make it work and get a woven ball with a clump of poop inside it. I make a second pouch, too, and the other intern likes my idea and makes one sort of ball thing in addition to her two burritos. We use some more palm fronds to give them strings to hang with and get dried stalks to hang them from.

Moment of truth comes after we put them in the holding areas for the leopards and let them in. Mine went into the Suchka's holding and she never plays with things, hardly responds to enrichment, and if she does it's never in front of people. But she did! It took her awhile because the first time she swatted at it and it swung she got scared but she started really playing with it and it was so cool to watch! So cool! To see my idea work like I wanted it to was just so awesome! I gave her something she's never seen before, something she could do something with. It's a really neat feeling.

That was my super awesome day. And you know what it completely overshadows?

The fact that yesterday was cockroach day. They swarmed out of the walls when the keeper applied insecticide and while they were swarming, and volunteer and I were picking roach eggs off the walls. That's what I did yesterday.

But today I got to see an Amur leopard play with a ball. Do you know how cool that is? I will absolutely deal with a cockroach swarm every couple of days if I get to see an endangered leopard play every once in awhile. It more than balances out.

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