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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Place Like Home

Yesterday, Lawrence came over to play with Bow. It was a rainy, dreary day, and everything looked greener than usual as if in a subtropical clime. Bow gets sleepy and lazy when it rains and there isn't much sunlight. He was very quiet most of the morning, until he saw Lawrence's car drive up, and then he vocalized loudly to let me know someone was coming.

Normally, Bow and Lawrence play rough together, but yesterday Bow mostly wanted to groom. He also used his voice more than he usually does. Usually, Bow reserves his vocalizations for when he is excited or upset, but this time, he made a lot of lower, softer sounds, and I really think he was trying to talk. He claims he can in fact talk, only we don't understand. I want to encourage him to keep trying, because with practice, he might improve his efforts, and we might be able to improve our listening ability.

All day long until lunch, Lawrence and Bow socialized, while I ran errands, buying dog food, parrot food, chicken feed, chick feed, and groceries for Sword, Bow and me at the store. We need food, and I haven't yet found a way to get it all delivered here. After shopping and putting away the groceries, I relieved Lawrence, and Bow and I had lunch together in the pens. Around 1:30 Lawrence came back, and he and Bow even went out for a bit in the outer pen, but it was too cold to stay long. So they went back in and resumed grooming each other. Meanwhile I did housework, paid bills, fed the critters, and met Sword at the mailbox when she got off the school bus. Sword came by the pens to say "Hi" to Lawrence and Bow, and she told them about her day and how she disliked social studies. Then she went off to have a snack, and Lawrence and Bow happily resumed what they had been doing. At 5:00 pm, I replaced Lawrence in the pens, and he went home to his family. Sword, Bow and I had dinner together, and then Sword watched Bow, while I cleared the dishes. I then came back, and Sword went out to do her chores. Between 7:00 and 7:30pm, I started putting everything away, and then I brought in Bow's teddy bear and his blanket, and I sang him a lullaby and put him to bed. He let me know when he was ready for me to leave, with a sweeping gesture of his hand. "You may go now," it seemed to say.

That's what happens on a day when I have help. But most days, I have no help at all, and I stay in the pens for twelve hours straight.

I can't leave the pens unless someone relieves me. I am stuck in here just as Bow is. We are both confined to a cage, but the confinement doesn't mean what people might think it means. We are confined, but we are at home, and contact with the external world has not been cut off, so it's not nearly as bad as it sounds.

Think about going to prison. What is the worst, the scariest part? To me, when I think of prison, the thing that scares me the most is the other inmates. They are violent. They are criminals. I am not. They would hurt me. They would bully me. That's why prison is bad.

What's the second scariest part? Being cut off from family and friends. Not being able to talk to or touch the people we love.

What's the third scariest thing? Being forgotten. Being lost in time and space. Not being able to tell my story.

Bow and I are confined, but we are confined at home. There's no place like home. We can't go out, but we have our friends and family right here. Those who are not here can reach us by phone or Skype. We get to tell our story. We get to hear feedback. And best of all, we get to keep the bullies out of our private sanctum. We are not alone, and we control our space. What more could anyone want?

Other chimpanzees. A mate. Yes. But we're working on that. In time, that will happen, too.


  1. I like the way you described your home. Being confined is fine, as long as you/we are confined in the home and with the people we love. I enjoy picturing your confined life and the pen that is full with love.

    Since I came to Canada, I have seldom missed the life/people/food in Taiwan. However, once for a while, I missed my bedroom. During the summer time, when it was so hot and humid outside, Hope, Delight, and I stayed all day in the air-conditioned bedroom. We ate in the bedroom too, for we didn't have an air-conditioner in the kitchen. We also watched TV in the bedroom, although there were only three blurring free channels. The TV in the living room was abandoned. I miss my bedroom and the wonderful time we three spent there.

  2. June, I know exactly what you are describing! When I was in Taiwan, I had a similar situation with air-conditioning. Sometimes we can make ourselves a cozy little nest in a confined space, and we and our loved ones can enjoy that nook more than the most capacious palace!