Sunday, October 03, 2010

Poem for Sunday and National Zoo Conservation Institute

World Below the Brine
By Walt Whitman

The world below the brine;
Forests at the bottom of the sea—the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds—
      the thick tangle, the openings, and the pink turf,
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold—
      the play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks—coral, gluten, grass, rushes—
      and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there, suspended, or slowly crawling
      close to the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface, blowing air and spray, or disporting
      with his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard,
      and the sting-ray;
Passions there—wars, pursuits, tribes—sight in those ocean-depths—
      breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do;
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings
      like us, who walk this sphere;
The change onward from ours, to that of beings who walk other spheres.


Dementordelta is here so we can go to the Pennsylvania Renfaire together on Sunday, so I will make this quick! My family went on Saturday to the National Zoo's Autumn Conservation Festival at the Smithsonian's Conservation Institute in Front Royal, where the zoo breeds critically endangered species and researches wildlife habitats. Some of the animals, like the clouded leopards and the rare birds, can only be viewed at specific times even during visiting weekends, but we managed to see both, and the red pandas and bison even deigned to wake up and walk around for us. Plus we went to see Pops, the oldest kiwi in captivity, and his keepers.

A pair of red pandas at the Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute.

One of two young clouded leopards born at the Institute last year.

White-naped cranes Alex and Amanda and their chick Bill.

Pops, one of the first kiwi permitted in a zoo outside New Zealand.

The National Zoo also has a baby kiwi in the downtown Bird House, and people can vote on its name. (Squeak!)

Adam took this photo of me by the outdoor kiwi exhibit.

Inside the bird house at the conservation center are rare Asian crows. This one's name is Russell.

The bison live on a hillside surrounded by mountains.

Since the festival ran only till 3 p.m., we had a picnic, then headed to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, where we stopped at the visitor center, several overlooks, and one of the camping stores for drinks. The trees were just starting to turn red and yellow, and the weather was gorgeous -- 60s, brilliant sunshine, late summer wildflowers, birds soaring on the breeze. We came home and had pumpkin peanut soup, and now Delta and I are watching some second season Merlin and she brought chocolate and pumpkin-cream cheese cake with her so life is very good.

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