Running Free

Running Free

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tortoises, Turnips and Hippos

I like to be spontaneous which is why when my DS had asked me several weeks back what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day my reply was noncommittal and fluffy, “Oh let’s just see what they day brings,” said I.

One of the true luxuries of life for me is not having plans. So much of our daily life is microscopically planned, where one needs to be when, etc. So, when I have what I refer to as a “down” weekend or a “down” day- I am ecstatic. It means not having to be any place special at any given time. It means someone else isn’t waiting for me or a loved one to be at some special place at some special time. It means I can do things as I please, when I please.

Ah…the sweet delicious drink of nothingness. It is like no other.

I digress…

Yesterday being the day of giving thanks for Mothers I was thanked with some wonderful thoughts and sentiments by my two boys. And after a morning constitutional with DH to a local French bakery we sauntered back to the homestead where I made the spontaneous decision that I would like to go to the zoo.

Well, after a quick change of clothes we three amigos headed off to the San Diego Zoo. I figured there were few mothers who would want to spend the day grazing and gazing at bipeds, mammals and furry friends- and I was right. It was a beautiful day not too cold, not too hot and we had such a fun time chock full of adventures and laughter. And no crowds!

As always, we began our day with a visit to my ‘ancestors’ as my dear son refers to the wrinkled, wise and crone like features of the tortoises. The males can grow up to six feet from head to tail and can weigh up to 573 pounds. They can live up to more than 100 years- which is why my DS has decided that I will be a long living reptile – despite the fact that I am not a reptile, but perhaps I have more in common than I yet know.

We witnessed a great scene yesterday with a giant tortoise eating a delectable known as a turnip. A Nerf ball size sphere of scrumptiliciousness for a tortoise. How does a tortoise eat such a thing one might well ask. Well, we actually were privy to the amazing feat of this four footed RV on feet. A tortoise doesn’t have teeth, but rather a hard, sharpened edge that he uses to bite with, kind of like a bird’s beak. We stood in awe as this long necked leathered friend held this turnip between his two front feet and with his knife-like beak ripped off bits of the turnip which he managed to swallow whole and seemed to be in Tortoise nirvana.

After our visit to the tortoises we moved on to a collection of lizards in various shapes, sizes and colors sunning themselves on rocks and sand dunes in the soft morning light. We also went to see a show at the world-famous Wedgeworth amphitheater which featured some beautiful birds and a regal wolf and of course a very large sea lion – it was lots of fun - and wetness for those who dared get close enough- we know better and sit far enough back to avoid the splashes from these sea creatures.

Watching the tortoise gobble his lunch had made DS and DH a bit peckish and thus we set off for Albert’s restaurant in the tree house–like setting high above the animal enclosures below with a view that is spectacular and you feel as if you are nestled in a tree. The food was great, the wait was short and we had a lot of laughs.

Speaking of laughs…we strolled the path from Tiger River into the Ituri Forest where we were off to find Hippo Grotto. One of the boys’ most memorable exhibits. Why you might ask? Well, imagine if you will, a rather gregarious river hippo doing water ballet. The luxurious pool in which the hippo named Otis was swimming allowed us to witness some true acts of nature as only she Mother Nature could enable them to be.

We witnessed Otis in all his glory though the spectacular underwater viewing window which showed off his imminent releases – if you get my drift. The guffaws and the ribald laughter that came from the crowd of onlookers was priceless. Especially as we learned that the scratches on Otis were from his “introduction” to the female hippo- seems he is need of some hippo etiquette.
Speaking of etiquette, DS and DH are still laughing about the amount, duration and expanse of poor Otis’ releases- liquid and otherwise. Since this is a G-rated site I won’t belabor the point too much. The humans that came to see them Otis in his luxurious pool were not disappointed.

Great eye-to-nostril encounters were possible through the special underwater viewing window.
Since he’s a male hippo, Otis likes to mark his territory and does it with much exuberance. What does he use? His feces and urine, of course, and the more the better! His paddle-shaped tail swished back and forth as he pooped, making a jet stream along a rock wall along the backside of his enclosure.

Needless to say the boys are still talking about this once in a lifetime moment. And when we asked about this amazing activity in a gift shop the young gal explained that there is a zookeeper wall of shame where those unfortunate enough to be in the line of fire have experienced the almighty power of Otis…

Back to the concept of unplanned moments- we planned none of these great memories-and yet we all had a great time and laughed, learned lots and came away with a renewed respect for what the San Diego Zoo does for conservation and protection and education of animals big and small.

A great day indeed. Spontaneity is truly the spice of life. What more could a mom ask for than the love and good will of her significant others? Not much.