Winter here on the eastern slopes of the Cascades can be difficult. We go to work in the dark and return home in the same. The wind stings, the cold air bites. Thick mats of snow and ice cover the landscape. Wintry conditions turn scenic drives across the mountain passes into foggy, wet, anxiety-inducing ordeals.
Yet, we carry on.
We play in the snow with friends, take our vitamin D supplements, struggle to keep our houseplants alive, finally read the books we bought in a frenzy over the summer, stay in touch with friends and family, exercise in some loud building under fluorescent lighting, and make the most of the relatively warm days when we get them.
Eventually, the days start feeling longer again. The wind stings a little less, the temperatures rise a little. The snow melts to reveal the wet dirt underneath. We begin to make plans for the coming weeks without worries of getting stranded, spinning out, or missing a flight. One day at a time. Suddenly, we find ourselves standing in an elk-trodden meadow of balsamroot and lupine watching the spring thunderstorms roll by.
From last week into this past weekend, the chimpanzees have had quite a bit of drama and it’s been a challenge to navigate. But, as Diana and Jenna pointed out in their respective blog posts, there has also been a lot of rest, recovery, and reconciliation going on. Chimps are great at filling the intervals between conflicts with productive, calming activities: building nests, grooming companions, playing chase with caregivers, foraging on some greens you found on the Hill, etc. Perhaps the best way to get you and your loved ones through hard times is just to give someone a breathy pant, eat an icicle, pile up some blankets, take a nap, and move forward. As someone told me recently, why worry about the whole necklace when you can just keep putting beads on the string?
Cy’s group, the chimpanzees who have been fighting the most frequently lately, have actually been relatively peaceful for much of their tenure as an integrated social group. It wasn’t always that way; we can all remember last spring when their union was so new and fragile that we gave them nonstop supervision, around the clock, for weeks on end. If you had visited me in the foyer one of those nights and told me those new relationships would continue to grow and thrive for six months before enduring a rough patch like this one, I would have been ecstatic.
Yes, there are tough times that seem like they will never end…
…but they always do.
The distant glow of sunrise over the Chimp House front entrance at 4:44am on June 23, 2022. It wasn’t an unusually important day, but I have this photo from my overnight shift that I have never posted here before. I looked back at my notes from that morning. The chimps slept relatively peacefully after a string of tumultuous nights.
Dr. Erin watching the chimpanzees via the security cameras:
Gordo taking a moment to relax today in the playroom:
The hallway between the Lupine and Marmot Mountain playrooms after a day of cleaning:
Jamie peering down from atop a platform (where she had made a humongous nest):
The shovel that now lives outside the greenhouse door (which keeps getting blocked in with ice).