A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
by Whit Gibbons
November 25, 2007
Look down. Look under. That is good advice for people engaged in guerilla
warfare, folks playing hide the thimble, and city-dwellers taking a walk
through the park. I thought about how the advice applied to city-dwellers
while watching the Walt Disney movie "The Wild."
I feel certain
I will not destroy your viewing pleasure by telling you that the plot
involves an escape from the zoo by Sampson the lion and his friends, who
include a giraffe, a python, and a koala bear. After an easy life in the
zoo, with meals delivered from tray drawers in the wall, this bunch of
talking animals ends up in "the wild."
well-known personalities in the acting world signed on to do the voices
of these animals. As a result, the koala, wildebeests, squirrel, and vultures
have voices that sound like you might think these animals would sound
if they could talk. But a talking giraffe? I thought the loudest sounds
we would hear from the giraffe would be the beat of his hooves as he ran
away from the lion. Oh wait, wrong movie. The lion and giraffe are friends
in this one. Clearly, this is not an educational nature film.
I thought a lesson could be learned from the film. People, particularly
city-dwellers, have much in common with zoo animals. Those who live and
work in an urban or suburban setting are really like zoo-kept animals.
In place of food trays, we have grocery stores to which big trucks deliver
our food each day. At night and in inclement weather, we can retreat to
the safety of our covered cages, which we call houses. But unlike the
denizens of real zoos, we can escape anytime we choose and experience
the excitement of "the wild."
And in that
reality, lies the film's lesson: get out; then look up, look down, look
I made an escape from my own covered cage with two of my grandchildren.
We went for a walk in our version of "the wild," and we were
constantly on the alert for excitement. We looked up, down, and under
for anything of interest, living or dead. Even on a cold day in November,
we found much to appreciate.
up and saw a turkey vulture, also known as a buzzard. These birds are
beautiful as they glide above treetops or circle high above you. Admittedly,
close up they pretty much define the phrase "a face only a mother
could love." And goodness knows you don't want to get too close to
anything they're eating. But a child who does not find a few moments of
delight in watching the aerodynamic marvels of a buzzard or a hawk till
it glides out of sight is spending too much time indoors.
under logs and some pine straw revealed a couple of cold wood roaches
and a spider. Big, little; vertebrate, invertebrate; colorful, dull; plant,
animal--everything counts when you are tallying up what you find on a
walk in the wild.
our most rewarding experience in the wild when we looked down. In late
fall and winter, plants can provide abundant treasures. I looked down
and saw a pointed, star-shaped sweet gum leaf alongside an old, but still
prickly and round, sweet gum ball.
to the kids that plants package their seeds in different ways. With a
mission to find more kinds of packaged seeds, we looked up at a magnolia
tree and then down to find one of its fruits on the ground. We removed
the mahogany colored seeds tucked inside.
on our way, picking up different kinds of acorns and pinecones. Given
the opportunity, most children thoroughly enjoy touching and holding real
life things in the wild. They find the experience far more rewarding than
passively watching a movie or TV. So, in fact, do most adults.
from the zoo. Take a walk in the park, the woods, even your own front
yard. Enjoying the wild may simply be a matter of which way you look.
you have an environmental question or comment, email