It was still a little dark when I arrived at the chimp house this first day of winter morning. I always like to greet the chimpanzees by quietly opening their doors and whispering “good morning” so they know it’s me. Just as one would in anyone’s home, we try our best to start the day quietly, leaving their lights off until they are up and active. Of course some days they’re already hooting and hollering before we even walk in the door, but that’s their business.
The construction folks start their day even earlier than we do and Mave, Willy B and Honey B are usually up by the time we arrive, their space lit softly from the workers’ lights next door. But when I poked my head in their door all was still and quiet, the only light, their Christmas tree. That’s when I spotted Honey B, right across from the tree, sound asleep in her nest with the blanket pulled up to her chest. I wish you could have seen her! By the time I pulled out the camera, she was up and ready to say hi. Solstice morning made, right there.
Much of the day was shrouded in fog and rain which kept us all indoors for the first part of the day:
As the chimpanzees shifted seamlessly throughout their home as the humans cleaned around them, I feel like every time I looked at them, they were busy. Jamie sitting in her nest looking at her books, Honey B engaging in her daily ritual of dragging all the warmest and heaviest blankets out into the chute where she builds a cozy nest and sits and watches whatever it is she watches, Burrito on an endless loop of chase with a steady stream of humans, Foxie playing with her dolls in between fiercely kicking the neighbors’ door and yelling chimp profanities at them, Jody wrestling with Burrito and Negra wrestling with Burrito and Foxie wrestling with Negra, everyone sitting together grooming, everyone curled up napping.
All the while, we humans wound our way through an ever-shrinking path that winds between ever-growing heaps and stacks of holiday gifts for the chimps (thank you!!!). Doing laundry, cleaning this and cleaning that, baking sweet potatoes and apples, serving meals, doing dishes, spending time with our chimp friends, Christmas trees aglow. I don’t know, all this to say the entire day felt so much like one big family, hanging out at home, weaving between one another, together and alone.
Willy B enjoying a movie:
Beloved Annie only has eyes for her best friend, Missy, and to be precise, Missy’s whereabouts. Once the rain stopped, Missy, along with Burrito and Jody, raced up the hill on a mission. Annie declined traipsing through the wet grass (can’t say as I blame her), but waited patiently in the greenhouse doorway, her eyes peeled for Missy’s reappearance:
After zooming around, Missy decided to take in the foggy sights, like the true Pacific Northwest chimpanzee she has become:
And Annie watched. And Annie waited:
Then there was Mave. When Mave is excited, be it playful, angry, greeting her chimpanzee friends, or otherwise, she becomes a spring. Quadrupedal, she literally springs straight up into the air (at least a foot or more off the ground) and she does this repeatedly. It’s impressive and unexpected all at once. It’s hard to capture because you just never know when she’s going to do it for sure. While we cleaned the mezzanine, she was enjoying some time to herself in the front rooms and whenever I walked by she’d suddenly be airborne in a bounce, then play bow and roll over laughing, and the next she would look like this, as if nothing had happened and I was making up the tallest of tales. She is a joy and a surprise every minute.
May you all find the rest, comfort, beauty and magic held in the special days and long nights that this solstice season holds. May you celebrate something every day, no matter how small. And may you know in your hearts how deeply we appreciate you being part of our chimpanzee (and bovine!) family.