sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

January 30, 2006

it’s a sunshine day
posted by soe 12:50 am

I awoke Saturday morning a little bit cranky and unready to face the day. Sure, we had tickets to go see Butterstick, but it was the weekend and I thought I ought to get to sleep in a bit more.

But Rudi was stirring impatiently and Susan was meeting us at the zoo, so I decided I’d better get a move on.

And thank goodness I did.

We called Susan as we were sprinting to the Metro. Luckily Susan shares a similar sense of timeliness with us, so she wasn’t yet pacing at the Zoo’s entrance.

Just missing our train, we raced back up the Dupont escalator stairs and up Connecticut Avenue. We made it about three blocks before finding a cab to hop in, pulling up to the zoo’s entrance with moments to spare.

We walked right into the Panda Exhibit and were ushered up to the new observation deck.

Unfortunately Butterstick, Mama, and Papa were all asleep.

I could understand — it was easily 65 degrees in the sun. A snooze seemed like a great idea to me, too.

So we watched them all sleep for a while and then wandered off. Three elephants — including a toddler — and a giraffe joined us in mutual admiration — and goofing off. One of the elephants decided to shove some hay in another’s eye. The giraffe stared down some pranksters who were rustling the bamboo. An elephant trumpeted.

We decided to seek out the camels — my college mascot — and were instead greeted by a wild Mongolian horse. The zookeepers lured him out of his far pen by offering him treats in a dog-toy-like contraption where the horse had to bat the toy around in order to get the treats inside. The horse showed them who was the boss by nosing it back to the inner pen.

By this time, Phillip — who hadn’t been able to join us earlier in the morning — caught up with us and we wandered back to the Panda Café area where you could see the panda enclosures without having timed tickets. We were in luck. It was clearly getting toward lunchtime, because Mama Panda was up and wandering around. She kept doing loops between the inner enclosure and the outside — presumably wanting to keep an eye on Butterstick who was still asleep in his tub. Then Papa got up too. He found an apple and happily crunched on that. Then he plopped himself down in his pond. Then he climbed a tree. There’s nothing quite so surprising as seeing a panda a story up in a tree. I was looking for him to be about five feet up, and instead he seemed to be about a dozen feet above the ground!

(In case you’re wondering, while Papa has easy access to trees and a pond, Mama’s side of the enclosure has been baby-proofed. The pond has been drained, and the trees all have a five-foot metal tube around the trunks to prevent jumping and climbing. Papa’s display was a clear caution as to why this could be necessary.)

The keepers came out to bring Mama some fresh bamboo (which is trucked in from a farm in Maryland) and to waken Butterstick. He had been groggily poking his head up from his bucket periodically, but was unwilling to climb out and play. So the keeper unceremoniously dumped him out, laboriously picked him up (he’s getting heavy!), and pointed him toward the fresh bamboo. He begrudgingly clambered up to the pile of bamboo, where Mama joined him and cuddled him briefly. She then set about the serious task of eating, while Butterstick nestled up next to the fence, where he sucked on a stalk contentedly for quite a while.

We left via the zebra, gazelle, and cheetah walk. The cheetahs Rudi and I first saw last February have grown substantially — one was intentedly watching his meaty neighbors. We also met a zoo police officer, who regaled us with humorous zoo stories about errant deer, viper nappers, and ape escapes, as well as the odd story about his days on the Metro police force.

We ended the afternoon with a tasty lunch at Open City in Woodley Park before parting ways and loping home in the waning sunbeams.

I think I’ll go for a walk outside now —
The summer sun’s calling my name.
I just can’t stay inside all day;
I gotta get out get me some of those rays.
Everybody’s smiling.
Sunshine day!
Everybody’s laughing.
Sunshine day!
Everybody seems so happy today —
It’s a sunshine day.

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