Wildernesses of Freedom

October 16, 2010

“His stride is wildernesses of freedom”
     — Ted Hughes, “The Jaguar”

Jaguar at the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle

Jaguar at the Woodland Park Zoo

Jaguar, Woodland Park Zoo

Stopping by the jaguar enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo, I’m most likely to find the jaguar snoozing in the sun, just inches from the glass separating us.  Like our house cat, the jaguar has found a sun-warmed spot, and lolls with sleepy eyes.  But on the occasions when it is up and pacing through its cage, the jaguar is coiled intensity.  The Woodland Park Zoo gives its animals spacious environments, with running streams, trees, and grasses that replicate their natural habitats.  Except for the challenge of photographing through glass, as I look through my viewfinder, I can imagine being transported to the wild.

I do have my own wild cat story from my 2007 safari in Africa.  My cat was a leopard, as jaguars are found only in Middle and South America.  The leopard closely resembles the jaguar.  But their spot patterns are different.  The jaguar has larger rosettes surrounding a center spot, while the leopard has plain rosettes with no middle spot.

I was with a tour group in Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana, and our guide, clued in by the agitation of birds, spotted a leopard.  We pulled closer in our jeep, and not long after, the leopard walked right by our vehicle.  Shortly thereafter, a herd of impala wandered by, and the second they became aware of the leopard, they froze as one body on high alert. Then they chittered, stamped their hooves, and again stood at attention.  But the leopard was not interested in them.  It climbed a tree, and then we discovered the reason for its disinterest.  It had already killed, and it had dragged its impala carcass up a tree, where it was guarded by another leopard.  The two leopards had a little spat, and one jumped down while the other fed.  Nature, tooth and claw. . .

Leopard in the wild, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Leopard, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

A leopard attracts the excited attention of a tour on safari.

Impala, sensing a predator, stand on high alert.

Leopards with their kill, safe in a tree

Spots and Dots

July 20, 2009

Spotted lily

Spotted lily

Daisies like yellow polka dots

Daisies like yellow polka dots

Spotted leopard, Botswana, September 2007

Spotted leopard, Botswana, September 2007

Pied giraffes, Botswana, September 2007

Pied giraffes, Botswana, September 2007

Seeing the twin fawns started me musing about spots.  My skin is getting more spotted, splotched, and freckled as I age.  I suppose it’s payback for the hours I spent in the sun in my youth, seeking the perfect tan.  A summer tan is no longer important to me.  I now cover up as much as I can to protect myself from more harm from the ravaging sun.

Still, there is beauty in nature’s offerings of spotted, dotted, dappled, stippled, and freckled things.

Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things —
   For skies of couple-color as a brindled cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plow;
      And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
      Praise Him.