Reflections from an old Zoo Keeper


More from the book Hannah’s Dream by Diane Hammond that I finished last weekend:

An elderly zoo keeper to her to the man

she entrusts as an elephant caretaker:

” ‘ I’ve lived a long time, Mr. Brown, longer than most. I should be grateful – indeed, I am grateful. And yet, I would give everything, everything, to do it all again.’ …

Max Biedleman stood sihlouetted in the parlor window, silent. Finally she said, ‘Do you know what I’ve been thinking lately? I’ve been thinking that we’re animals, like any others-we senesce, we sink into decrepitude just as they do. But I’ve wondered if it isn’t our special hell that we are able to register the swift passage of time, the lightening speed of it all, and the absoluteness with which it is gone…

indeed, the world is a finer place

when one sees it from the back of an elephant.‘ “


Worried Wednesday: Vulnerable in Aisle Nine

In mass this morning I was trying to come up with an analogy about regret and how cluttered our life can become, which in turn stands in the way of experiencing joy.

After a bit, our puppy came to mind. My youngest son and I enjoy many things about little Paul, but what makes us laugh most is his commitment to being a thief. The driving force behind his gathering of funny items is all about the theft, as he tends to take his booty to his pen and lay among these items with a limited amount of chewing.

If you’ve ever watched a Dauchund run, you can imagine how funny it is to watch him make a run to his pen on his stubby little legs. The click-clack of his nails on the wooden floor completes the experience. The items that he has gathered include shoes of course, along with the usual: socks. Who would guess that his favorite steal would be undies (eww, sorry). He also snags up pen and pencils, which I suppose supports my joke that he and our other dog have day jobs as journalists. Other interesting objects of Paul’s eye have been a refrigerator magnet, a ball of aluminum foil, and on four different occasions, the contents of my knitting bag – needles and all. As a matter of fact, when I’m knitting he sits near me just waiting for me to get up for a potty break and goes in for the kill as soon as I walk away. The funniest robbery was when I found my wallet and all of its contents in his pen, with a credit card laying about as if he had just ordered a crate full of chews in my name.

And how this relates to Lent and Ash Wednesday? In his sermon, the priest commented on how odd it is that we hear a reading in which Jesus encourages us to be private with our prayers and good works, yet how can we be private when we have big smudges of ash on our foreheads for the remainder of the day? Perhaps, he mentioned, when we catch a look at ourselves in a mirror or a window reflection we might be reminded that along with needing to be truthful that we are vulnerable to temptation, as Christians we are called to help tidy up the mess that others make with their own lives.

Just as I clear Paul’s little pen of things that don’t belong, we can take comfort in the oddity of the ashes that we are in part advertising a need: “Yo, vulnerable in aisle nine!”

And, like Paul, there is every chance that my feet will pad toward temptation of some sort as often as his little claws click toward some item left unwatched.

So, there we have it. Here we go.