aware

We went to the Frankfurt zoo one afternoon.
It was something I did as a child
that we thought the girls would also enjoy.
Founded in 1858,
it is the second oldest zoo in Germany
(the Berlin zoo was founded in 1844).

Now we knew it had a good reputation
for its breeding program,
but that did not fully prepare us
to see a young tiger romping with her mother,
various ape and monkey babies clinging to theirs,
baby seals sunning themselves.

What made the Frankfurt Zoo an experience
none of us will forget though,
was actually noticing the animals
notice us.

It’s not just that they were more animated
than I’m accustomed to seeing animals in zoos
(though they were that),
it was seeing rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses
react to our presence—
to see them seeing us.
To wonder what an old orangutan
was thinking as it gazed right at you,
or a baby baboon, a seal, a gazelle,
a black bear, a gibbon, or those tigers.

They were all more … aware,
and, somewhat to our surprise,
we stayed until the zoo closed.

I’m not sure what I think of zoos, in general,
but I did not leave this one with the sadness
I often feel.

And I wonder what we could all learn
from care that makes aware.

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