Church with the Giraffes

Christmas Day 2011

I went to the zoo for Christmas. It was a different year for me without my two older kids here and I didn’t want to stay at home and feel their absence even more than I all ready did when we got the tree and put it up. Or when we went to church and after wards ate Chinese food. The thing is, not a lot of places are open Christmas Day so the choices for outings are limited.

The zoo is open. Who knew? Not many, because it wasn’t very crowded which was an added bonus. I like people, just not all in one place at the same time.

The animals must like it that way too because they were so active and easy to see. Very few enclosures with animals hiding out of sight. It’s disheartening to look at a little sign with promises of what you could see, but can’t see because the critter is hiding out in the back. I’ve always suspected that there really is no animal in there and it’s just a cheap trick to get us to come back in hopes of seeing the actual bear, tiger, whatever.

But not on Christmas Day. The tiger was RIGHT THERE. So were the grizzly bears. The one was just plopped out with her head on a rock, basking in the sun.

So, when we went to the zoo I expected to see animals. I did. I expected to delight in seeing my toddler son see animals. I did. I did not expect to have a spiritual experience. But I did.

With the giraffes.

At 3:45, the sign said, you could have an up close experience with the giraffes at their barn. Apparently, the nights in San Francisco are chillier than they are in Africa, so the giraffes have a custom built barn (duh, like there’s a market for mass produced giraffe barns). This barn has radiant heated floors! So we go into the barn and stand there, waiting for the doors to open. And the giraffes were waiting too. There’s a huge picture window that looks out onto their pasture. Every few seconds, a giraffe would amble by waiting for the doors to open.

And I didn’t see a door open, but then there were three giraffes walking with their sort of loping-along gait towards me. Well, really, towards the leafy branches and hay above me, but still.

I guess there was about thirty of us in there. And everyone sort of oh-ed as the barn filled with full on giraffey-ness. We spoke in hushed whispers. I don’t know why we whispered. There were no signs. I never heard anything about giraffes attacking if you spoke in normal tones.

And then I knew why we whispered: reverence. We, of the iphones and the digital this and thats. We, of the needs that are all wants. We of the been there, done thats.

We were in awe.

Of giraffes.

First, they really are that tall. And their colors are gorgeous. No one else could pull off those browns and yellows so perfectly. Especially spots. It’s a look for sure. And those weird little furry antennae things on their heads. They are so tall and weird and gorgeous. And they were so…just so calm and confident as they strolled in and ate their leaves.

And I loved that all of us in that barn on Christmas Day got that it was special and wonderful to stand there and behold those creatures doing their thing. And that we all got that their thing is amazing.

And it was Christmas.

And it was Beautiful.