Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.― A.A. Milne from Winnie the Pooh
May 20, 2021
My Gorgeous has graduated from the Zoo and Aquarium Science program at Davidson-Davie Community College. Is it any wonder? Animals and nature are her passion.
What a wonderful college graduation party we had this past Saturday. The last time we celebrated outside in the field under the shelter was Grace’s high school graduation. At that time, her plan was to pursue the Wig and Makeup program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. And what a glorious plan that was. She spent her freshman year at UNCSA, but decided her calling is with animals. When she told Paul and me that she was considering changing direction, we let her know we thought she was making a huge mistake. She was throwing away an incredible opportunity, turning her back on a God-given answer to prayer, and abandoning what we saw as a beautiful redemption of the pain and agony she suffered through Trichotillomania, depression, and self harm.
Obviously Paul and I were wrong about Grace turning her back on God’s direction. What we failed to see at the time is that God’s plan for Grace has always involved animals. Paul and I would be turning our backs on God’s plan if we expected Grace to be anything other than an animal advocate or caregiver. Sometimes our children know what they are doing better than we know.
The zoology program has been perfect for her. She has studied with a passion, and learned so much. Her first internship was at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, and she now knows a thing or a thousand about lemurs. And of course her internship at Rescue Ranch in Statesville has brought her experience and friendship and life lessons too many to count. Out there she has worked with dozen of animals with wings and scales and feathers and fur and hooves and claws.
I have always thought Grace is an old soul, aged by distress and challenge. What a shame that her life experiences carried the painful weight of such hard lessons. But those experiences have prepared her with an empathy and sensitivity that speaks to the largest and smallest of God’s creatures.
To use a critter metaphor for Grace is too easy. Of course she is a caterpillar going through metamorphosis, becoming a spectacular Monarch butterfly. And she’s a cicada nymph waiting to emerge from a lifetime underground. But since I’m her Momma, and I love a beautiful flower, and this is my tale to tell, Grace is a garden peony. She’s a bud holding all the promise of a beautiful bloom. She is too pretty not to bloom. We can’t let this fade on the stem. Don’t prune this away. And don’t let annoying bugs spoil the beautiful blooms. Peonies are sweet, and they attract ants which feed on the nectar without harming the tender petals of the peony. The ants actually protect the petals from more aggressive bugs that would damage and bruise the flower. So this mutualism provides food for the ants and protection for the peony.
Grace has good people who have long been protecting her. Her people hail from so many different places and we are thankful for such a diverse group of people who have supported Grace and wanted the very best for her. We have watched Grace take her journey. There is so much in life that she has to do on her own. No one else can do the work for her. She chose a path. Changed direction. Prepared for the new journey. Took each step. Arrived at this destination, which is really just another launch pad for what is next in her future. But we have proof through so many people that Grace has not walked this road alone. We are thankful for the love, prayers, validation, well wishes, good vibes, kind thoughts, intercession, assistance, mentorship, guidance, support, listening ear, words of inspiration, encouragement, reinforcement, propping up, advocacy, buttressing, and butt kicking you have given Grace.
My Gorgeous is no longer a locked box of secrets. She now openly shares her thoughts and feelings and dreams. She talks like a woman talks. She paints pictures of her future and of who she is becoming. She’s decided she doesn’t have time or energy to waste. She is ready for her future with animals. She has a way with animals that most of us don’t. They respond to Grace, and she delights in them.
As Grace moves ahead, I think about all the ways we have seen her grow into who she is now. She has been many things to many animals. Aren’t the animals blessed to have Grace? Grace the Tegu Talker. Chicken Charmer. Henna Haired Habitat Homemaker. Serpent Servant. Beauty of the Biome. Paradise Protector. Queen Bee. Hamster Hobnobber. Friend of the Forest. Spider Speaker. Dragonfly Diva. Creation Keeper. Bat Behaviorist. Lemur Lover. Creek Walker. Chinchilla Champion. Nature Nurturer. Feline Phenom. Iguana Ingénue. Insect Sidekick. Dr. Doolittle’s Daughter. Field Forager. Butterfly Bestie. Animal Advocate. Crocodile Hunter Wannabe. Wild Whisperer.