Wednesday, June 1, 2011
We arrived shortly after 9 and set out with our private guide. She's likely in her late 60's. She's stooped and weathered. But she has a kind, warm face richly etched with wrinkles that tell her story. She's done a lot of smiling and a lot of worrying.
She takes us in and around the various exhibitions. She herds us through the crowd and navigates the larger groups of tourists and class trippers. She's experienced and knowledgeable. She's been volunteering longer than she can remember, or so she says. The kids crane to listen to her tell the stories of the animals and she tries her best to answer every question tossed at her. The kids attentions spans are short but she's on her best game. She knows her audience and keeps us going at a pretty good clip so no one gets bored.
We make our way from one end of the park to the other and finally our tour is nearly done. We pause for a moment at a bench and she's quiet. I thought we were pausing so that everyone could catch up and she would tell us where we were headed next. Instead, she drops her head for a moment. Not caring what was going on around her, she takes this moment and she brings her fingers to her lips. Purses, kisses her fingertips and reaches out to the plaque on the bench. "In loving memory of Walter". A moment later, she's off and on her way again, briskly. Leaving me speechless.
This one moment. This one stolen moment. I've been thinking about it on and off all day. I wanted to pay homage to this moment of unguarded devotion, and this woman. I don't know her. I don't know her story but one can only surmise that her husband has passed on and that she misses him and thinks of him often. That, that bench may have been a place where they once sat together. That this place, this zoo may have meant something to him. That perhaps he had dedicated himself to it, just as she does still.
I felt like I had stumbled on that intimate moment like a clod. I couldn't even bring myself to drop my eyes to give her privacy. I was mesmerized. I was just so touched by this simple act. This quiet moment of remembrance. What must their lives together have been like? Were they soul mates? Did they have a great passion? I hope they had great passion.
Just a simple bench. Now it's a monument to some one's life together. A tribute to a life spent. Come sit by me. Think. Breathe. Be.
The zoo is forever altered for me. I hugged my child a lot today.
Posted by Katie at 5:10 PM