Lion Cubs, Sumatran Tigers and Giant Pandas, oh my!
The day started with driving to the Smithsonian National Zoo which Nick now says was a tactical mistake. We didn't know how timing would work with the drive vs taking the Metro and getting back in time to change for the wedding. We did find parking and it did start us at the right end of the zoo, namely by the big cats.
The National Zoo is built on a hill - the main entrance is at the top on Conneticut Ave and the parking is at the bottom. I actually prefer starting by going uphill and then finishing by going down. So we started hiking up and came pretty fast to the big cats. They're in a nice round area that is subdivided into three habitats. Each habitat is laid out in tiers resulting in lots of ways for the cats to leap and bound and sun and not-sun. We came first to one of the Sumatran Tigers and then the other. We have Sumatrans at the San Franciscan zoo - they are the smallest of the tigers. Ever since we had our tabby cat Leela, I've realized that sumatran females remind me of her. I've gotten quite good at identifiying the females vs males of most tigers this way - from the face and then confirming when they walk away, tails held high. [I will spare you my rant about the typical zoo visitor referring to each and every animal as "he."] I did learn from a long chat with a volunteer - the female here is the mother of the male.
Finally we got to the third enclosure. I had thought there was one lion and one lioness and they had five cubs. I was wrong! One lion and two lionesses AND seven wonderful, adorable - one litter was born in Sept and the other in October - cubs! Did I mention, adorable? Still had spots on the legs, the males just barely starting to get their manes. I took many pictures. I was having odd exposure issues in manual - which I sorted out several days later [I'll get to that.] Eventually, I agreed to see other animals.
We learned during the baseball game that Ken and James lived within walking distance of the zoo. So, we made a plan to meet for lunch. Nick & i worked our way uphill to one eating area near the pandas. First Ken and then James showed up - after confusion about which spot we were at - there's a Panda Terrace and a Panda Cafe and by now I've forgotten (I'm still a week behind here, sorry) which was which AND they came in the main entrance.
We had a good conversation at lunch. Ken works for CQ reports covering the Supreme Court. Turns out he also worked on Al Gore's presidential campaign (both from Tennessee and at Harvard together.) I want to recommend Ken's blog. He is very articulate and insightful and honestly, it's the only one I semi-regularly read. You can find him at Jost on Justice. I learned more about James' work - which in a different market, is similar to Nick's.
After eating, we all slogged up the hill (in their case back) to see the two pandas. Walking with James, who is from Taiwan, I learned that Chinese government charges a zoo one million dollars a year to have a resident panda. He pointed out the peonies in the panda's enclosures,and said it was appropriate. Peonies are considered the royalty of flowers by the Chinese and that's why they appear in so much artwork.
By then, it was time to head back to Silver Spring to change, so we all said goodbye. I convinced Nick that I had to check in on my cubs on the way back down and we did. Then we hustled to the parking lot, remember, downhill at the end is better. Unfortunately, we got misplaced when Nick thought he'd found a shortcut. We sorted it out but really had to hustle at the hotel but made our next destination with a tiny bit of room to spare.
Here come the Brides!
The prime reason for this crazy trip was to attend the wedding of another troop 757 alumna, Christina, to her soul mate Meigh. It was held at the Woodlawn Manor in Sandy Spring, Md. We had not yet met Meigh but had seen their save-the-date video and knew they shared a silly sense of humor and a lot of creativity.
Because they're both women, they had to have a civil ceremony earlier in D.C to be legal. What they had at Woodlawn was a beautiful handfasting ceremony presided over by a pagan minister. Christina's brothers were her bridesmen. We knew them and her parents from the troop days. Meigh had three bridesmaids. The color scheme was a deep shade of burgundy. We've been dealing with rain the entire trip but like good Girl Scouts, they were prepared with a lovely white tent which had windows.
Each had written her own vows. There was some loveliness and some silliness and one bride cried a lot during the vows. This was followed by a ring exchange. C & M had made a series of cords in different colors. As the minister draped each one around their arms (hands held) she asked questions starting with "do you promise to ..." And of course, the response was "we do." At least once, we all were asked to support them and heartily said "we do" After draping all cords in a complex manner, which Christine later told me they forgot to practice, the minister did an overhand knot joining first one set of ends and then the other. When the young women let go hands and pulled their arms out - the entire middle was also joined! It was quite cool.
The reception was great fun. First we went from the tent to the historical house for drinks and appetizers. When we went back down to the tent, the tables had been set up. Christina is from California, of course, and Meigh is from North Carolina. They had two sets of entrees, salads and vegetables - one set was califorinia cuisine and the other north carlolina. There were also mini-ramekins of mac and cheese that fit the occassion and the weather! Each table was served family style and that led to good conversation. Even the rain didn't spoil a thing!
Coming next: the road trip begins as we go to Pennsylvania!
© 2011 Esther A. Heller