Minor highs and a major goodbye

I am at full throttle, high tensile, red zone. My husband’s 40th party is this Saturday at our place, so the culmination of months of planning has boiled down to five days of freak-out mode. A few days later, we are hosting Thanksgiving for a crowd. It comes in waves, the holy s&$@ this is happening combines with, it’s a house party, it’ll be fine. Just gave Matt his first gift: life-sized beer pong, aka Bear Pong. America super sizes some horrible things, but sometimes she gets it right.
  Another minor win is the wreath I’ve been working on, as documented in my last post. It’s done, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Other than the wire form, purchased last year, all items were collected (read:free- other than the fake flowers for $1.99) from our farm or nearby.  

Best compliment was from Matt, who said, you could sell these! Glad he noticed it at all, and thought to comment. If a dude notices a wreath, that’s good stuff. Next project is another wreath, using pine cones collected from two of our cat yards at the zoo.

Speaking of the zoo… Today was my last full day with Chisulo, one of our three juvenile male lions. Wednesday, he is flying out in the morning to Fresno Chaffee Zoo. We watched him being born, and have loved watching him grow into a 350 lb teenaged lion. His mane is a work in progress, but he has matured well so far. He has two females waiting for him in a brand new exhibit. It is a difficult thing, sending him off. We have done it many times, so in practical way, it is rote and procedural. That part I can handle. The emotional side is, however, hard to wrap one’s brain around. For me, it is felt most the day after. When you’re counting lions in order to safely enter the lion yard, or when preparing food for “all of the lions,” and somehow you try to prepare one more. 

We have done our best to get him comfortable with being away from his two brothers. We tell ourselves that we will visit him soon. The reality is, on a zookeeper’s salary, such trips are often either not financially feasible or for family reasons, not possible. We have sent seven cubs from previous litters to other zoos. I’m embarrassed to admit that while I can see them thriving through the the photos of those much more talented than I, I have yet to make a trip to see any of them. Someday, someday, I tell myself. 

So I have to be content for the time I have. Today, I spent all morning with Chisulo doing our last training session, a painting, and preparing him again for going into his transfer crate. He doesn’t want to hang out with me, necessarily. He is happy to take meat as a reward during training and painting. I am content with the fact that we did everything we could to raise a healthy, happy lion. He will be able to lead his own pride and be loved by a completely new fan base. He will help inspire a new generation to want to protect his wild counterparts, which is one of the reasons zookeepers do what they do for a living.

It just sucks for me to see him go. As a young cub, he got very ill and fortunately, we were able to save his life. He is one of the few cubs we as keepers were allowed to name. We close “Chisulo”, which translates to “strength of steel.” He survived his illness and thrived enough to become the largest of the litter. His nickname is “Chui”.

Chui, a little bluish from a frenetic painting session, and his abstract artwork. Best of luck to you, big guy. I’m sure your new keepers will fall in love with you like I did.

Tourist in my own town

I was fortunate to have a few days off of work. What a needed breather. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and I took myself on a local field trip. This time, with a dog in tow and no roller skates.

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I was euphoric. The warm weather, beaming sun, freedom from the work commute, and the growing enroachment (and my dread) of colder, shorter days made me approach random views along my travels with awe.

After a mini road trip around town, I made my way to Calvert Cliffs State Park with one of our hounds — I chose Buster, since the trails wind down to the Bay and he has the most proclivity towards the beach.

The beauty that one can find in absence always makes a tremendous impression on me. It’s the monolithic in-your-face-ness of seeing Mt. Rainier for the first time, the mind-boggling gape of the Grand Canyon, or simply having a fall-themed trail to yourself.

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What really caught my breath was the expanse of the marsh, nestled below the brilliant trees and sky. A wasteland, yet not.

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The beach was quiet. Buster went for a quick dip after our hike — any time you take a hound for a walk, plan for it to take about 8 times as long to get to your destination with all of the sniffing.


Contemplative Buster, pondering the expanse of Chesapeake Bay
Contemplative Buster, pondering the expanse of Chesapeake Bay

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The cliffs themselves are generally off limits, as they are in varying stages of crumbling into the water below
The cliffs are generally off limits, as they are in varying stages of crumbling into the water below
Into the sun? Really?
Into the sun? Really? Need to work on our selfies…  and maybe with less drool, Buster?

A lot of us get “nesty” at this time of year. I’m definitely heading into that mode. Last Christmas, I really enjoyed gathering bits and bobs from around our farm and using them to make wreaths. My mom used to do this when I was a kid, and I “helped” her gather pinecones and boughs. She passed away in 1992 but I always channel her most around the holidays. My wreaths are sort of an organized chaos — rustic would be the nicer term to use, I guess.

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This year, I’m getting the bug a little early and decided to go foraging for some fall-themed stuff. Most I found on our farm, but some were gathered while on roller skates during some recent workouts around town.


Milkweed pods, sweetgum bombs, echinachea heads,
Milkweed pods, sweetgum bombs, echinachea heads, “floofy sticks,” assorted grasses, etc.
The white flowers are fake, to add some color to the dried wreath, currently in early stages of development

One last word on the Skate for Kate — Tony Russo, of Oceancity.com, wrote a beautiful piece on the skate. Check it out! http://www.oceancity.com/kristen-beatty/

My dad emailed Mr. Russo to thank him for writing such a great article, and signed off with his name and the title “Former bellhop at the Seascape Motel in Ocean City.” Mr. Russo emailed back and wants to interview my dad for some old-time bellhop stories! Nice!

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