This moment changed my life.
I was at Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney. It was a gorgeous day for it. I had never been before and was not expecting it to be much more than just another zoo.
But it was.
As we paid our entry fee, we were offered sacks of feed for a small charge. I assumed it was for feeding through a cage or something like that.
I immediately burst into smiling at the sight of wallabies, kookaburrahs and other wildlife freely roaming about the place. It was like living in a Dr Doolittle story.
You know the first thing I did?
I made a bee line with my little sack of feed straight toward the first wallaby I could find. They were all sort of just lounging about the place, as you might expect from such human-spoiled cuties.
Quick aside: before I met & fell in love with an Australian (who later smashed my heart into a million pieces-but that’s a whole other Oprah), I’d never really been interested in visiting the country. As much as I loved Steve Irwin, I have to admit I ignorantly thought the place was full of horrifying creatures that would find and kill me!
Eventually, I entered the koala habitat. In the state of New South Wales, you can pat or touch koalas but you may not hold them. However, you can hold a koala and have your photo taken with it up in Queensland at Steve Irwin’s Zoo. I was just excited to be able to even see an actual koala at all, let alone touch one!
Most people love koalas because they’re notoriously sedentary animals. They sleep 18-22 hours a day, so it is rare to see them active. Much of the time when visitor come to see them, most of them are sleeping. Their carers explained how they don’t require water in the same way that most other animals do because they get almost everything they need from the gum tree leaves they consume.
When that moment came, I cannot even begin to describe what I felt. I was fortunate enough to pat two different ones, and one of them was much older so its fur was a bit coarser and not quite soft. But even the younger one didn’t feel soft either. I was expecting it to feel like a Russian blue cat, but it was rougher than that.
When the koala experience was over, I couldn’t just turn around and leave. I wasn’t ready. I had to keep being in this place, so I wandered around the exhibit space and paused near one of the habitats. This koala had been sleeping the entire time, but as I walked up, I noticed it start to slowly open its eyes and blink a few times at me. It sat up and looked around and eventually, our eyes met and then—-it smiled at me!
Now, I am not a savvy photographer. I often forget to take photos. I try to feel present when I’m creating a new memory. Taking pictures can often lessen an experience, make it feel staged and inauthentic. I was truly there, in that moment.
Thank you to Featherdale Wildlife Park of Sydney for all your caring and ceaseless efforts on behalf of every living being out there suffering as a result of these tragic bushfires. My heart is with you. Although I cannot be there to support you in person, I have shown my love and commitment to the preservation of these beautiful souls through symbolic adoption with the WWF.
It’s not too late to participate, although I believe the adoption kits are on backorder due to their overwhelming popularity. Well done, fam!
I decided to edit this photo using Canva because it was too small and required resizing. I placed it on a 500 x 500 background image and voilà! There is also an eggshell-like border that came from Instagram when I first shared the pic online. I didn’t feel it required much editing or altering as it’s just such a beautiful moment, best leave it be.