If dragons were common, and you could look at one in the zoo - but zebras were a rare legendary creature that had finally been decided to be mythical - then there's a certain sort of person who would ignore dragons, who would never bother to look at dragons, and chase after rumors of zebras. The grass is always greener on the other side of reality. Which is rather setting ourselves up for eternal disappointment, eh? If we cannot take joy in the merely real, our lives shall be empty indeed.
Maybe our best family trip started at Victoria Falls, which drenches you with spray and is so vast that it makes Niagara Falls seem like a backyard creek. Then we rented a car and made our way to Hwange National Park, which was empty of people but crowded with zebras, giraffes, elephants and more.
Charles Darwin and I and you broke off from the family tree from chimpanzees about five million years ago. They're still our closest genetic kin. We share 98.8 percent of the genes. We share more genes with them than zebras do with horses. And we're also their closest cousin. They have more genetic relation to us than to gorillas.
Elephants, it turns out, are surprisingly stealthy. As the sunlight fades, other species declare their presence. Throngs of zebras and wildebeests thunder by in the distance, trailing dust clouds. Cape buffalo snort and raise their horns and position themselves in front of their young. Giraffes stare over treetops, their huge brown eyes blinking, then lope away in seeming slow motion. But no elephants.
You know that when Irving puts the dog in the car, it is no longer in the yard. When Edna goes to church, her head goes with her. If Doug is in the house, he must have gone through some opening unless he was born there and never left. If Sheila is alive at 9 A.M. and is alive at 5 P.M., she was also alive at noon. Zebras in the wild never wear underwear. Opening a jar of a new brand of peanut butter will not vaporize the house. People never shove meat thermometers in their ears. A gerbil is smaller than Mt. Kilimanjaro.
New eyes awaken. I send Love's name into the world with wings And songs grow up around me like a jungle. Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes Your Spirit played in Eden. Zebras and antelopes and birds of paradise Shine on the face of the abyss And I am drunk with the great wilderness Of the sixth day in Genesis. But sound is never half so fair As when that music turns to air And the universe dies of excellence. Sun, moon and stars Fall from their heavenly towers. Joys walk no longer down the blue world's shore. Though fires loiter, lights still fly on the air of the gulf, All fear another wind, another thunder: Then one more voice Snuffs all their flares in one gust. And I go forth with no more wine and no more stars And no more buds and no more Eden And no more animals and no more sea: While God sings by himself in acres of night And walls fall down, that guarded Paradise.