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Friday, July 11, 2014

Sometimes We're Happy

Some people watch the videos of Bow displaying, and they say weird things about how he seems depressed. Sometimes they even preface their comments with "you don't have to be a primatologist to see that..." Well, I don't know about being a primatologist, but you at least have to have seen some other chimpanzees displaying before you make that judgment. It's a normal behavior for chimps, whether in the wild or in captivity. They don't do it because they are angry or sad or depressed. They do it because there's an urge to do it, and chimps are very uninhibited. When they have an itch, they scratch. When they feel a need, they find some way to meet that need. They are not embarrassed to show how much they enjoy food. They are not embarrassed to show how big and strong they think they are, either.

Which is not to say that Bow is never depressed. Sometimes he gets depressed. Sometimes I do. Now, by this I don't mean clinical depression, but a momentary sadness. Neither of us are getting exactly what we want all the time. Most humans -- and most chimpanzees -- don't. Our desires are frustrated. Our hopes are crushed.  Sometimes we get upset, and sometimes we express that, but then the feeling passes, and we move on to a different kind of mood, a different emotion, and we have a whole set of behaviors to express each one.

Yesterday, on my walk, I noticed that the phlox was in bloom again. This reminded me of my children's book, In Case There's A Fox. "When Sword goes for walks, in the fields full of phlox, she is always concerned that she might meet a fox."

There was no fox, but I did see the first ripe blackberry of the season.

I picked the blackberry and proceeded on my way to the road, where I noticed some calves in the neighbors' pasture.

One of them got spooked, as he felt I was getting too close. So I went turned back, and on the way to the house I picked another, smaller blackberry.

I washed the blackberries by the rock garden outside.

Then I went back into the pen and gave the blackberries to Bow.

Of course, those two blackberries were just symbolic. It's a way to share every aspect of my walk with him. I also showed him the videos. For lunch, among other treats, we had fried bananas.

Is Bow super happy every moment of the day? No, but I don't know anybody who is.

We change our feelings many times a day, just as we change our posture. Right before dinner time, I noticed Bow doing something unusual. Something I had never seen before. He was walking around in circles, with one finger on his face.

I was getting ready to prepare dinner, so I was not inside with Bow, but I decided to go in and investigate. I was worried that something might be wrong. Bow kept going around with the finger on the side of his face, close to the nose. I asked him why, and he did not answer, but he let me remove the finger from his face. There was nothing wrong with the finger -- or the face. He seemed to be doing it just for fun, because he could. Afterwards, he decided to groom my big toe.

I have seen Bow playing blind man's bluff by himself before, covering up his eyes and walking all around the pen. The finger on the face seems to be a variation on that. It's called playing.

After dinner, and after everything was cleared away, Bow was very playful with me, wanting me to chase and tickle him, before he lay down to sleep, on top of one blanket and covering himself to the waist with the other. After that, I sang him our song, and he grunted happily as I wished him a good night.

We all have moods. We all get sad sometimes, because of the things we cannot have at the moment that we might like to have. Bow is no different. But all in all he is emotionally resilient, and his life is pretty happy. Could it be better? You bet! And it's in the hope that it will get better that we carry on each day.


  1. That's funny that Bow plays Blind Man's Bluff by himself sometimes and very interesting. I agree, we all have our ups & downs, yet somehow, we manage to carry on every day....well, most of us do, anyway.

    1. Hi, Kathy. Bow can be very creative entertaining himself. Yes, most of us manage to carry on each day, even if we are not one hundred percent happy with every aspect of our situation.

  2. I still need to try fried banana one of these when I have regained my interest in bananas. I ate four one day, and then have not wanted to see a banana since.

    1. Certain members of my household are already feeling like that, Julia. Today I served banana slices in gelatin for dessert.