Monday, June 29, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are Mesmerized

Our Trip to the Invisible Zoo, Part 2
(Where the Wild Things Are Mesmerized)

Our trip to the Invisible Zoo was still surprisingly enjoyable despite all the unexpected vacancies. And there were a few critters for us to actually, you know, see. They just weren't stereotypical zoo critters, so it was more like a trip to the farm.

We brushed the goats and touched a giant tortoise. We saw birds and frogs and alligators. (Or crocodiles. I always forget which is which.) We fed fish.

We had been there a couple of hours and had seen most of the things there were (and weren't) to see. Max suddenly stopped walking, grabbed my hand, and said, "Home." He was content and satisfied and tired.

We were heading back to the main gates when I realized we had missed one exhibit. To our delight, it was the tiger -- the one thing we had talked about expectantly! (And a bona fide zoo animal, to boot!)

And that is where the magic happened.

There was some kind of crazy connection between this tiger and my son. I'm still not quite sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing, but it was electric.

First the tiger lazed around by the viewing window, directly in front of us. Max immediately plopped down on the ledge to get closer. (Here he is signing "sleep.")

Though it's not terribly clear in the photos, I assure you there was a thick sheet of Plexiglas in between the two of them. Which was entirely necessary, considering what happened next.

The tiger began to exert his status...with his rumbly "I'm not sure you're taking me seriously enough" roar, swatting his paw, and baring his teeth. It was all aimed directly at my small, fearless son, who did then express a few fleeting signs of fear...but it mostly just ratcheted his excitement level up another notch. He hunched over and turned his back for a moment, in an instinctively submissive pose, but he never once left the window.

I felt like I was watching some primal dominance ritual on National Geographic Channel or something. My heart was pounding, and I kept eyeing the Plexiglas to make sure it was intact. I couldn't decide if it was scarily terrible or innocently magical, or just simply fascinating.

I was completely mesmerized. The tiger never walked away and it flat-out ignored the other kids; it only had eyes for one.

In the moment of climax, Max pressed his forehead against the window, and the tiger bared his teeth and placed his wide-open jaws on either side of that tender little head. (I caught the first moments of that on my cell phone camera and then dropped it because I decided we needed to END THIS GAME. NOW!! Red Alert Level 1, my internal sirens were blaring...)

.....and then, strangely, they laid down side by side, as if some kind of understanding had been passed between them. It was like they had established their own little pack. And the calm was instant.

It was the wildest & tenderest, silliest & scariest, most disturbing & enchanting thing I've ever seen.

That one single animal turned out to be the only one that the zoo really needed.

But I don't think we'll be returning any time soon....that one's gonna last a while! (My heart is STILL pounding -- the whole thing is much scarier in retrospect!)

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Rachel said...

Julie! What an incredible story and pics! Max is part tiger. I'd not have guessed it right off.

Daniel has a strange connection to the Siamung (?sp) monkeys. I have a photo somewhat similar, with bonding through plexiglass, and the animal fixated on Daniel but ignoring all the other kids, but nothing so dramatic as Max and his stripey friend.

Very cool photo story.

Kathleen said...

Wow, Julie. That is amazing, and the pictures read like an adventure story... you have your character and plot development, climax, and resolution. Bravo for letting him experience that and trusting the plexiglass!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard about IAHP?
Check the website, your child might actually get much better then he is now.... Mine got better