Today would have been my dad’s 59th birthday. I went to the zoo this afternoon to celebrate the first of his birthdays without him. My dad didn’t particularly like zoos or most outdoor activities and, if I’d asked him to join me on a trip to the zoo while he was still healthy enough to go, he would have most likely declined the invitation. So why the zoo? Here’s my answer to that question:
I knew I needed to spend time with nature today. The great outdoors is my safest safe space–expansive enough to hold even the most humongous of emotional outbursts and magnificent enough to draw my attention away from my inner workings for more than mere seconds. I go outside to heal. But today I needed more than my usual dose of natural healing and meditation. I needed to remember my place in the world. I needed to remember how ginormous the known world is and wonder at the mysteries which still exist despite all of humanity’s attempts to understand and explain them. I needed to be small in the face of nature’s radiance.
As I visited each animal in the zoo, I marveled at how very much exists outside myself and my concerns. Even my enormous grief over the loss of my dad is less than a minuscule speck on the radar of the entire universe in all time past, present, and future, if it even registers at all. I’m not minimizing my sadness and pain. It’s exists within me and affects my life. But today I gained clearer perspective. I’m so brilliantly teeny in the grand scheme of existence. So was my dad. So are you. And yet. And yet as tiny as we are, we get the chance to matter, to make a mark on some corner of the world if not the whole world itself. We get to enjoy the phenomenal beauty offered to us by our precious planet and the stunning allure of the worlds beyond our little ball of earth. We get to ask questions and fall in love and watch birds soar and laugh at squirrels and hope for our futures. Existing is amazing. Yes, life can be devastating and excruciating at times. But that’s the price of being alive and aware. And I think it’s worth the price. Being at the zoo and seeing glimpses of worlds and wonders I’ve never explored although we share this planet was exactly what I needed today to turn what could have been an unhappy reminder of the certainty of death into a celebration of life.
Happy birthday, Papa.