I will never forget the first time the Cle Elum Seven chimps saw rain.
Central Washington is very dry in the summer, and a couple of months had gone by after their arrival without any significant precipitation. Every day was hot and sunny. Imagine this from their perspective. They had lived for decades in windowless rooms. Some hadn’t been outside since they were infants; others may have never seen the outdoors in their entire lives. As far as they knew, this is how the outside world was and always would be.
Then one day, the skies opened up and it poured.
The chimps were in the playroom at the time, and they ran to the doors and windows to see what was happening. Missy and Jamie started to alarm call, alerting the others to this frightening and confusing turn of events. Jamie was brave enough to go outside, but she immediately turned around and dried herself off head to toe with a towel. When it was over, they cautiously ventured out to inspect the aftermath.
It’s both heartbreaking and awe inspiring to watch a 35-year-old learn about basic things like rain. As the years went by, the chimps grew accustomed to the sight and sound of rain, but they still didn’t like to go outside in it. They’d spend rainy days indoors in their nests, and if they were unfortunate enough to get caught outside in the rain, they’d run as fast as they could to get back inside.
But this year, Jamie decided that a little rain wasn’t going to keep her from walking around Young’s Hill. And as I watch her walk, drenched from the rain but determined to carry on, I can’t help but admire her.