*This piece was previously published in the Levittown Leader.*
My wife and I had the chance to visit The Wilds, which is a wildlife conservation and safari-type park near Zanesville, Ohio. The conservation park, which is affiliated with the Columbus Zoo, sits on reclaimed surface mine land that had been reformed in the ‘90s into rolling hills, grasslands and pastures. We stayed on the property in a Yurt, and yes we had to look up what a Yurt was before we booked the reservation. These accommodations are perched on a ridge that overlooks ponds and pastures and we enjoyed sitting on the veranda at sunset watching and listening to the zebras, camels, and giraffes settling in for the night. These were nice, quiet, and peaceful moments.
The Yurts are separate structures not joined by any common building other than a walkway. For meals, overnight guests followed the trail to a main building which housed a restaurant that sat at a high point along the ridgeline and provided a beautiful view across the conservation areas. In the mornings before the general opening for the day, the restaurant opened early to serve the guests who stayed overnight. After our first night of enjoying the sunset and the distant sounds of wildlife rustling in the pastures, we were in a peaceful and contemplative mood as we walked up the trail in the morning to the restaurant. We found the view there was even more striking in the sweet morning light and spent a good deal of time looking out of the tall windows across the pastures.
I am an amateur photographer and really appreciate the skill and art that others create through their photography so it was inevitable that my attention would be captured by the photography mounted on the walls of the restaurant. While we waited for our breakfast to be served, I made my way around the sparsely occupied room to look more closely at the images. I enjoyed them all and hoped, that some day, I would be able to produce such images.
I was careful to avoid disturbing others in the room as I moved about, especially three couples who sat at two near-by tables whose heads were bowed. I thought that it was nice, particularly in a place like this, that some took a quiet moment to pause and reflect in a way that meant something for them.
After our food arrived and I returned to the table, my wife mentioned to me in a whisper how nice it was to see people taking the time for a morning prayer. We both glanced over to the two tables to appreciate their moment and noted that the prayers continued, longer than we would have expected. Perhaps the food was really that good. I think we both realized at the same time that none were actually praying at all – each was focused on a cell phone screen and bowed forward as if in prayer. We laughed, finished our breakfast, and went out to enjoy the day.
Kevin Deeny (a lifelong Levittown, PA resident)