About a year ago I listened intently as a friend described her trip to Rwanda and the guided trek she took into the mountains in order to spend an hour 'hanging' with a group of wild silverback mountain gorilla. I was fascinated with her story.
A few months later there was an article in our local paper describing much the same experience. Once again I was captivated by the story and tried to imagine what it would be like to stand five feet away from a 500 lb wild gorilla in his element, no bars between us, making eye contact with him and wondering if this was the day he would decide he was fed up with gawking tourists and become aggressive. Strangely, I'm not eager to come face to face with a bear on one of our local mountains, so why the desire to meet the gorilla?
Today there were two more accounts of the same wonderful experience in the Vancouver Sun. I read them, mesmerized. They described the excitement, the wonder, the thrill of watching a 2-yr-old gorilla showing off for them, pounding his chest so hard he fell over. It sounded much like the antics of so many 2 year old children I've known. How I yearn to experience such a wonder, and yet to do so I'd have to face some of my greatest fears.
I am not a risk taker. Never have been. Just travelling to Rwanda, adjusting to the culture and giving up my creature comforts would be a stretch for me. Add to that a hike that might be more strenuous than I could handle and the potential danger of actually coming face to face with these marvelous creatures ... well, I don't know if I could actually step onto the plane when I consider all of this.
And yet... there's just something about these magnificent beasts. After all, they share 98 % of our DNA. The Rwanda guides say it is like meeting your relatives. I imagine that is true. Apparently they look at you, really look at you, like a fellow human being, sizing you up. When I look at them in pictures their intelligent faces always make me pause. I feel I am looking into the eyes of someone familiar... almost a deja vu feeling. It's not like looking at a cat or dog. This is a fellow primate. Their expressions are so wise and thoughtful, so incredibly like one of us, yet not quite. Take a long look at the picture at the top of this post. Study his eyes. Do you not feel you 'know' this creature?
I often wonder... how did humans evolve away from this great beast, this creature who, unlike us, lives in complete compatibly with Mother Nature. Maybe we can find some answers in observing them, that is, as long as we don't pass on any of our diseases to them, and if the poachers don't get to the remaining 700 of them that are left on this planet...
Perhaps it is time to abandon my fears and plan my own trek. As we all know, life is too short to put off until tomorrow what we could do today.