I spent three full days in Washington DC last week and logged nearly 37 miles of walking, which is the equivalent of 87,954 steps. Most of those steps took me to one place – the National Zoo!
I know there are so many wonderful educational and cultural opportunities available in DC, yet every day I couldn’t bear not seeing the pandas (pun totally intended). Although, I did experience some angst that first evening as I debated where I should visit the following day.
After “shoulding” on myself for about half an hour (i.e., I should go here, I should go there), I realized I had a choice to make. I could visit several museums or monuments that are iconic of DC and have a rich and storied history, or I could go back to the zoo, visit the pandas again and see all the other animals I didn’t get a chance to because I literally spent hours watching Bei Bei sit in a bucket that first day.
The choice wasn’t really a choice at all. I went with my heart and headed to National Zoo again on Tuesday and then Wednesday, as well.
I know what makes me happiest, and even though I value intellectually enriching experiences, at this point learning about art and history is not a priority in my life.
As I wrote about in my blog last week, I feel some sort of shift coming in my life, especially as I relate to the natural world around me. My few days at the zoo reaffirmed these feelings.
I know some people may think of zoos as an awful place, a jail where animals are held in captivity. But I like to think of zoos as the proverbial Noah’s Ark of the 21 century. Some animals will not survive without the work zoos are doing on a daily basis and many zoos are the bridge that first connects people, especially children, to these wonderful animals. Without these connections, we stand to lose even more animals, habitat, and natural resources that are so precious and necessary for human survival.
Most zoos today are leaders in animal science and conservation. They have accrediting bodies with standards and quality of care for the animals they house and every day they devote time, money, and personnel to scientific advancement and achievement. I celebrated these facts for three days as I marveled at the animals I observed, loving every minute of it, and smiling along with the other zoo guests.
Seriously, if you’re ever feeling depressed, head to a zoo and listen to people watching the animals. Their laughter and joy will warm you from the inside out. I felt nothing but gratitude and inspiration at the chance to experience such exuberant joy
Those three days in DC were a wonderful gift. I’m so glad I know myself enough to not waste time on anything else that’s not going to fill my heart with joy. Next time, I hope to completely skip the “shoulding” on myself and head right for those bears. I sure do miss them. I wonder if they miss me?