On a recent day, I joined a small safari at the Animal Farm Petting Zoo & Family Park in the wilds of Manorville. My daughter asked me to tag along with her, my two granddaughters, plus her friend and that woman’s daughter. We were six Amazons in search of adventure.
Our exploits weren’t as dramatic as the “Wonder Woman” kind, but they proved to be full of wonder.
Armed with bottles of milk and buckets of feed provided at the entrance, we stopped first to see baby goats and pigs. They scrambled to be fed and quickly drained the bottles while the children smiled and talked to each. The girls have dogs and guinea pigs as pets, so they’re used to conversing with animals. What could be more natural?
We proceeded to bigger goats, as well as pigs and ponies, which were more interested in solid feed. Then we encountered an array of species that flew, hopped, chirped and strutted.
At a petting station, the children held guinea pigs and chicks. Friendly staff members told the children how to handle each, and it was joyous to see the snugglefest as the children took turns, clearly finding comfort in holding each animal.
I heard versions of “I’ll take the gray one and you take the brown one, then we will switch,” and, “Mom, may I hold the white one . . . ooooh or the one with the fuzziest hair?”
My daughter, the safari leader, eventually signaled for us to go on because there was much more to see, including peacocks and deer. We stopped to watch a monkey holding her baby. Mama gently stroked the top of her baby’s head while holding it firmly. No one instructs animals to care for their young; they just do it. Love seems embedded in their DNA.
Some wildlife also do strange and unusual things, as we realized when approaching a cage with two vibrantly colored parrots, their feathery palettes unmatched by any painter’s brush. To our surprise, instead of hearing something of the Polly-wants-a-cracker variety, the two started laughing hysterically. We asked the birds, “What’s so funny?” They laughed even louder. Soon we joined in. Maybe they were laughing at us. What were they seeing?
I had been discovering the different shapes, colors and sounds of the animals. Then I looked around at the shapes, colors and sounds of the people in the park and realized we humans seemed just as diverse, a mixed bag of wonder and delight. What fun!
When we came full circle, the girls asked to return to the petting station for one last cuddle. As I watched my wonder women in action, I knew they, and many other little and big people, would depart with greater reverence for nature. I was filled with hope for the future of both the animals and us.
Reader Susan Scalone lives in Shoreham.