but the favoritism stops there.
I will say that as a young kid, younger than Liam, I was completely obsessed with great apes. I acted like a chimpanzee and had an incredibly convincing pant-hoot and set of mannerisms, including knuckle-walking. It was part of my obsession with Jane Goodall's work, the incredible things we learned about these creatures thanks to her diligence and love.
And to this day, I linger longest in the great ape house at any zoo. I will never forget being privileged to stay after hours to watch the Columbus gorillas prepare their night nests. The kids and Bill and I huddled quietly, feeling as if we were intruding in a boudoir. And we were, but the gorillas were gracious about it.
I think much of the fascination for me as an artist is watching the human/animal line blur and dissolve as I watch the great apes. We are so very close in genetic makeup, and yet worlds and civilizations apart from them.
Mumbah the silverback western lowland gorilla was enjoying some epic nose-picking up close to the glass. Naturally, Liam was fascinated. We began to sing a little song: "Everybody's doin' it, doin' it, doin' it, Pickin' their nose and...
It wasn't a very polite song. Mumbah didn't mind. He kept on mining.
Liam watched, rapt. Just the thing for an inveterate Captain Underpants fan, aged 10. And suddenly Mumbah turned his great head and acknowledged this snowy little ape.
Liam tilted his head, and their eyes met for a long and delicious moment.
It is rare for any of the gorillas to acknowledge a visitor, we learned from the Columbus Zoo's wonderful docent, Sue Allison Roberts. But Mumbah has a special liking for young boys. There is a boy who comes to the zoo frequently to draw quietly and be near the gorillas, and Mumbah comes over to stay with him, just a pane of glass away. Sue saw him put his great black palm against the glass to touch the boy's palm one day.
Perhaps Mumbah picked up the artistic bent in Liam. Perhaps it was Liam's special gentleness that attracted him. Maybe he thought our song was funny. We'll never know. But Liam was electrified by this contact.
And Mumbah went back to his toilette.
All photos of Liam and Mumbah in this post are by Bill of the Birds
who had the right lens to catch the moment.