Wilma the bison has been alone too long. At twenty-nine, advanced age for a bison, she now will be part of a mini-herd.
I was pleased to learn that Wilma, currently the only bison in the Buffalo Zoo, has been joined by three one year old American Plains Bison, courtesy of The Wilds Safari Park near Columbus.
She now will be part of a mini-herd, no longer the sole representative of an iconic species that once made possible a thriving Native American culture.
Wilma may not sense (or “think,” as some researchers believe) that she soon will be thundering past Mt. Rushmore, but I’d be surprised if life isn’t looking up for her,
To make this reunion even more positive, the three arrivals are half-sisters, so the journey from Ohio to Buffalo, finding themselves near the Nichols School, may have been less traumatic than otherwise if not related. They’re still among family and have a mother-figure to comfort them during a period of adjustment.
I’m sure they’ll miss their former friends, but, being welcomed to Buffalo, they soon may be pleased to be in this new space where they will get special attention. They may even think they’re in show business and will start mooing, “Send in the hay…” (think Sondheim).
They’ll enjoy the pleasures of being part of an intimate group who will be treated with as much consideration and satisfaction as possible in a nurturing sanctuary.
And it may be they will know, somehow across an uncrowded space (think Sinatra), they are serving as a model for what we all need, especially during the Holiday seasons, a sense of belonging to a community so that we feel “at home.”
This is surely one of our human species’ most profound needs, which, unsatisfied, can lead to many forms of desperation: alcoholism drugs, homelessness, and violence towards those whom an outsider, an unaffiliated person, resents for belonging somewhere: a school, place of worship, athletic team – an AK47 (Avtomat Kalashnikova) replacing a homecoming.
During the holiday seasons when so much is made of the importance of home – a virtual TV mythology of the harmonious family – we should be attentive to those people who won’t find presents under a festive evergreen.
Making charitable donations is useful, but more important are acts of reaching out and touching the lives of others of which Michelangelo’s 1508-1512 “The Creation of Adam” is a timeless example.
Such gestures may be as simple as introducing oneself to a neighbor down the street whose name one doesn’t know or as complex as composing a work of art – Whittier’s 1866 “Snow-Bound” (a memory of a household) or E.A. Robinson’s 1921 “Mr. Flood’s Party”:
And there was nothing in the town below—
Where strangers would have shut many doors
That many friends had opened long ago.
Robinson (1866-1935) lived a lonely life, but his words can move us to join the family of man. This may not be easy and may take time, just as Wilma and the sisters will be separated by a fence for a while until it feels safe enough to get closer; but the need to rub noses, if that’s what Bisons do, will doubtless overcome whatever apprehensions they may have.
They’ll probably discover as well that they have a lot in common as feminists and have become Poster-Bisons for acceptance of those among us who seem, at first, to be foreigners.
Howard R. Wolf spent many holidays among new friends as a teacher in Turkey, Malaysia and Hong Kong. He has written an article about E. A. Robinson and thinks it’s time to reevaluate the achievements of 19th century American narrative poetry.