When was the last time you went to the zoo? I went recently with a dear friend whose father was a zoo director. Many years ago he transformed the zoo we visited, changing the enclosures from cages to more natural habitats.

I do have mixed feelings about zoos. Seeing animals in captivity is not the same as seeing them in the wild. And yet zoos often ensure the survival of animals that are near extinction. That they are near extinction is usually due to us. And that doesn’t feel good.

But even so, I also leave the zoo with a sense of wonder. This earth is full of extraordinary creatures. A giraffe is majestic, elegant, gentle and highly improbable (pardon the pun). A baby giraffe is as tall as a tall man. Mama and Papa are several stories high.

Zebras are so strange and beautiful. Their stripes as personal as fingerprints; no two the same. Even elderly zebras look strong, round and robust. They run in groups and their stripes en masse confuse the predators. And if you love words, it’s called a zeal of zebras.

Baby monkeys and chimps, are as naughty as human toddlers but they are stronger and more agile. We watched an older chimp mother trying to nap while her baby wriggled and jiggled and jumped. Restless as a kid, he climbed the window grating then dropped back down the rope to swing above her. Sighing, she pushed his little bum on the swing like a mum at the park with her hyperactive little boy.

That’s where I felt really touched, watching the chimps. Their eyes are so similar to ours. That chimp mother was all maternal love. She was tired, she really needed a nap and some peace but you could also see her love for that little bundle of beans.

And other animals. The lemurs. You might have seen them on the animated film Madagascar. Strange cat-like faces. Strong clawed hands and feet. and black and white striped tails. Who thinks this up? The life-force, I’d have to say “God”, is a crazy brilliant artist.

When you look at all those animals, life is full of wonder. A visit to the zoo reminded me to look for the wonder in life.

  • What did you notice today?
  • What is interesting?
  • What is strange?
  • What seems mysterious? Or puzzling? Or beautiful?
  • What do you want to learn more about?
  • What is miraculous?

Before the zoo visit, I’d been reading a book called The Soul of an Octupus. Did you know that octopuses are highly intelligent? They can solve puzzles and open locks. They have distinct personalities. Aquarium staff need to provide them with enrichment exercises. A bored octopus may dismantle her tank. She may escape and run around at night. If she can’t be constructive she will be destructive. I know that feeling!

It’s a strange and wonderful world.

Where do you find wonder?