Thursday, May 2, 2013

A startling surprise at the relaxing Cottage Inn

I took a short retreat at a relaxing Country Inn at the far edge of a sleepy Idaho town. I was looking for a place to calm my frazzled nerves, do some light reading, and engage in some healthy conversations with folks I had not yet met.
* Everything was flowing peacefully well above the steep Canyon the first two days, however; through some observations, I sensed that this crossroad sometimes attracted chaos and mayhem.
* There were three nights where it became especially noisy. The first was after midnight, and involved a weary traveler who was obviously going through a challenging time. He yelled viciously at the top of his aqua-lungs with a supernatural energy, even going so far as to chant strange languages, including Ancient Greek and Cherokee. This wild man of the Borneo dragged the facilitators up and down the hall, waking every living soul with a fright from their bed. Even the mice dashed back into their holes, though they had barely started nibbling at the cheese bar.
* Seven burly Peace Officers were summoned in to quash the pandemonium. But even after they held him down with all their mighty strength, and gave him a strong tranquilizer shot, the officers still were having trouble subduing the untamed man. This continued for hours.
* I glanced out from my humble room and saw that not only were the long row of house guests visibly upset, but so were many of the facilitators. One of the leaders came into my room and we helped each other chill, all the while to the background cacophony of a one man band making the unsettling noise of ten.
* A week later I realized that while this troubled soul was exorcising some of his personal demons, I was reflecting on some of my own, and trying hard to become a better man, although in a quieter manner. You could even say that the uninhibited stranger was speaking for me in some way.
The next morning the managers of the house held a short debriefing for the forced insomniacs. The leaders declared that the matters of the previous night should not concern us, as it had nothing to do with any of us. However, intense Twilight-ish Zone episodes like these do concern me, and I have written at great length about such things before, regarding the dispossessed and the poor homeless. On top of that, I suppose that I had recently grown accustomed to drifting off to sleep with some light peaceful music in the late evenings and not a madman ranting and raving and stomping around for hours. It was a nice reality check and makes me appreciate the comfortable part of my life that I am privileged to have and have worked hard to retain.
~ There is more to this story regarding further interruptions at the Country Inn; However, glancing forward at my notes they pale in comparison to the meat of the story above, so I will stop here for now.

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Friday, February 15, 2013
Where wild things are
Endless Conversation

Express Staff Writer
Someone put a large tropical bird in the monkey house at the Boise zoo. It squawks loudly from time to time, sending the family of gibbons next door leaping through the ropes and tree limbs of their dwelling. 

Zookeepers call this “enrichment,” activities that stimulate animals in ways that imitate life in the wild.
There are a great many other creatures great and small at Zoo Boise, from legless lizards and Komodo dragons, to the native squirrels and geese that roam the grounds, teasing the snow leopards and bobcats into stalking mode. Each animal has a role in nature.
When things calm down at the Monkey House, young Li Bao, a female gibbon who was born at the zoo, once again tussles with her parents, who loll about a lot more than the youngster. 
It is easy to become emotionally attached to this troupe of primates, to wonder what they are thinking and how similar their feelings must be to ours. 
Li Bao’s mother abandoned her for a period of time when she was born. Because the mother had never seen a Gibbon raised in the wild, she simply did not know what to do.  
Zoos are no longer the private menageries of the rich and famous. They serve an important role in captive breeding programs, and serve to educate young people about the many animal species that thrive around the world. Zoos also inspire youngsters to become involved in wildlife habitat conservation efforts around the world. 
Last year, the Boise zoo hosted the birth of a liter of serval kittens—long-legged, big-eared felines that hunt the grasslands of Africa. At the zoo, they live near a pride of lions. The old scarred male sends out a roar from time to time just to let everyone know who is in charge on the savanna. I stared him down through the thick glass one day last year and he walked over and took a swipe at my face. Now I know what drove my ancestors to get busy making all those spear points.
Watching the 18-foot-tall giraffes lumbering about, so specialized for grazing high branches, one has to wonder how they have escaped extinction all these years. Likewise, for the nearby copper top tamarins, hand-size arboreal primates who rank as one of the 25 most endangered species in the world. 
These tamarins have been extensively studied for their high level of cooperative care, as well as altruistic and spiteful behaviors. Only dominant couples have young.
Zoo Boise has come a long way in recent years, providing richer environments for its animals, thanks to funding from a long list of Homo sapien donors who see value in preserving portions of the earth for other species. 
We can thank Ketchum resident Greg Carr for funding parts of the African exhibits, which draw attention to his environmental conservation efforts at Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.
We can also thank big-cat scientist Maurice Hornocker, who lives on Broadford Road in Bellevue, for his years of field research among the Siberian tigers. 
Hornocker’s work to preserve these magnificent cats from destruction is celebrated at Zoo Boise’s Siberian cat exhibit. The exhibit inspires others to provide donations for his continued work.
All the animals at Zoo Boise have stories. Thankfully, they also all have human friends who have cultivated their altruistic behavior enough to help make room in the world for all of us. Maybe this is what humans were put here to do.

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