Natural Events

What happened shocked us all, including the guide, Bob, with his many years of experience at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.  The tram hauled us through the African Safari area of the park attracting  the attention of our two grandsons focusing on the white rhinos, oryx, gazelles, giraffes, red deer and other wildebeests.  The day was partly sunny and the animals were active and the tram ride line had been long.

The guide with the gravely voice and hint of joy in his job stopped the tram providing a distant but broad view of a hillside inhabited mostly by giraffes and oryx, a small sleek animal with long, sticklike horns. Our attention was drawn to a baby oryx walking as Bob had noted on still wobbly legs.  The baby must be a newborn or perhaps a day old.  This was the guide’s first sighting. We watched for awhile as the mom oryx watched her baby’s tentative march toward her.

Enter a straight and tall adult giraffe advancing seemingly without purpose toward the teetering baby oryx.  The giraffe’s advance threatened the baby and raised the ire of the mother.  She expectantly stood in a defensive pose near the giraffe.  The unexpected happened, the giraffe kicked the baby who fell to the ground and remained still.  There was a loud gasp among the tram riders and Bob expressed his disbelief at such a happening .

He managed to say that he would report the incident and the tram continued down the way.  Needless to say, the mood on the tram had changed.  We were all saddened and curious about the incident but tried to pay attention to the remainder of the sights in this part of the park.
(NOTE; thanks to our daughter in law, Miriam’s persistence, we learned a few weeks later that the baby oryx was doing well).  

Our two grandsons were aware of the seriousness of the incident and later in the day, quizzed a staff member about the event.  He had not heard any news but assured the boys that the welfare of the baby oryx would have been observed by the surveillance devices in the park.  Decisions are constantly made when to interfere or when it is wise to avoid human intervention and let nature take is course. 

Such strange encounters, probably common in nature, are beyond our comprehension.  It seems so unlikely that such dissimilar creatures, a giraffe and an oryx would be inclined to clash.  Perhaps this is a simile for all life on this planet, spontaneous cruelties and attacks, planned battles and war being as incomprehensible as the incident seen from the tram.  Can we define the boundaries of what is natural?  Human intervention on all accounts remains a fragile course.    The  staff member acknowledged that the outcome of the incident would not be public knowledge.

Ann Carol Goldberg 

Thrill of Victory–Agony of Defeat

Dedicated to Luge crash victim Nodar Kumaritashvili

Sports minded I am not, at least I don’t think of myself in that light.  And then, when the Olympics begin and our rig is hooked up to cable service, we somehow tune it in, mostly looking for the ice skating events.  I watch with one eye on the screen and one eye in my current read.  After all of these years of living, I  know and accept that everything in life changes including expectations.

Olympic events have evolved, beyond what I recognize from past years.  Missing;  the simple slalom and the ski jump, gone and obsolete, fallen into disfavor displaced by the extreme sports of today.  Athletes throw themselves down almost vertical slopes, one at a time or 4 abreast, or dance on their skis and snowboards at what seems to be miles above the spectators heads.  Skaters attempt 4 airborne twirls betting on landing gracefully on their blades set for the next step in their complex routines.  Sledding on Bobsleds and Luges reach frightening speeds.  There is no cap to the thrills spectators seek during the events.  

snowboard6579L3w Bring on the young athletes, legs splayed apart in the dancer’s 2nd position, hooked to a snowboard, long hair blowing, (male and female) clad in plaid shirts and blue jeans or snow pants, not the tight body suits or garb featuring feathered hands.  They appear with helmet-covered heads, complete with what appear to be ear wires tucked behind their frog-eyed goggles.  The track starts with a scary vertical drop over a snowy lip, down and then upward toward the sky.  Both of my eyes now leap up to the screen. 

They fly!  They soar!  20 feet or more above the cameras, floating above a tremendous snow-packed ditch called a half pipe.   Not only can they slide up and down the inclines of this half cylinder thing, but they carry acrobatics to the extreme by twirling 3 or 4 times above the edges of the pipe somehow maintaining perfect form and grace.  I confess, both eyes remain focused on the screen, my book fallen onto my lap. 

My mind races, following these flyers as they soar up into the air wanting to know how they dare take on this extreme sport.  Where do they find the chutzpah to spring into space, twirl and land upright.  Stray and intruding thoughts would spoil their concentration.  Do they feel themselves in peril, are they listening to tunes playing through their ear buds, or do they hear the roar of the crowds?

Perhaps they believe they will launch into space, obtain orbit and soar to the outer limits of infinity, forever flying, spinning and feeling an unfettered freedom mounting high on mysterious space breezes and illusive star winds, forgetting the roaring crowds, the judges, videographers, obtaining perfect form and colored medals.  Just busy focusing on a place no single being has ever flown before until some mysterious apex is been reached and the board flings the athlete back to the revered spot on earth, gliding with ease to the finish line.

The camera captures a close up of the face in a broad smile and a shine in the eyes conveying the privilege of  having gained exclusive  knowledge of where infinity may lie or is the smile simply there upon hearing again the earthly sound through the ever present ear wires strung under the strap of the goggles. 

The crowd roars with approval, the gold is won, the secret of flight into space is attained setting new goals, new orbits, new horizons, but no matter what the challenges,  favorite tunes in the ears at all times seem to be a mark of the Vancouver Winter Olympics of 2010.  Brava and bravo to all of the participants.

Ann Carol Goldberg


Small Talk

Small talk is all about getting to know someone.  For my lifestyle on the road, it becomes a big part of my day, constantly engaging in “stranger talk,” meeting people in a campground or at a rally, gathering for drinks at ours or a neighbor’s motor home, or generally waiting in a restaurant line, attending a performance, a folk fest, a meeting, a fund-raiser or greeting a seatmate on a tour bus or an airplane.  Small talk usually starts with questions such as “where are you from?”.  “Where are you headed?”  And then  comes the default — the weather which, in conversation is always deemed off balance, never quite right and best of all, complaining about the weather is expected.

Small talk occurs with good friends too as a bridge to deeper conversation.  There is still wisdom in the old adage to converse about anything but politics and religion.  Some folks work hard to avoid small talk calling abhorrent and a waste of time.  So be it, it is hard to avoid.

This year the weather has taken first place in conversation, becoming  more than just a default topic. It is on everyone’s mind and lips.  This year, everyone is astounded at the severe cold, the heavy snowfall where tepid temperatures usually reign and heavy rain where drought has been the rule.  Still, all we can do about it is complain and look for blame.

Small talk can feel clumsy and uncomfortable.  It can feel forced or insignificant but helps us gloss over difficult moments.  I wonder how far-reaching this conversational tool can go.  I wonder about first meetings between world leaders behind those “closed doors?” Do they begin with did you get caught in the latest blizzard? or do they jump the hurdle right to the latest political debacle.  I bet the weather comes up first bridging safer ground and breaking the ice so to speak before addressing the more complex conversations on the agenda.

I remember my acting days when our director instructed us on utilizing “stage-small talk” during rehearsal for Our Town by Thornton Wilder.  As the small-town chorus, we had down time when the protagonists were in the spotlight and we had to stay in the background.  He suggested reciting the alphabet to each other A–Z or  Z–A, counting up and down, reciting a grocery list, or discussing the weather forecast, but warned us “don’t loose concentration and miss your cue” bringing you great embarrassment as you spoil the play.  The weather becomes a small talk default once more.

Kids use small talk as a learning tool.  They mimic the adults in their lives.  They experiment with ideas by bouncing conversations off their friends, their toys and in imaginary play.  Perhaps their “default” is less the weather than the fantasies they conjure up in their minds.  My kids drew endless images of bright sun-house-trees, dragons, whirling dervishes, volcanoes, hurricanes and floods.  housetreesuntextweb This year, weather is a big issue.  Blame has been launched at El Nino, pollution, climate change and Mother Nature.  I believe mom nature is god’s implementer, god’s right hand.  The earth belongs to nature, nature rules.  We can’t do a thing about it accept to take better care of what we have.  But we surely would like to be in control.  Maybe that is the reason that this tired topic is deemed safe to smooth over the awkward moments we encounter in our busy lives.