It is fairly rare in life to feel a true sense of contended connectivity with someone or something that you’ve only just met; such feelings usually take time to develop, if they are ever to develop at all. Discovering such an immediate affinity can happen, however, and it just so happens that it happened to me.
Wheeling my way carefully around the humid South American habitat of a zoo in Norfolk, I suddenly stopped in my tracks. Peering through the various Cana Lilies, Hanging Lobster Claws and Bird of Paradise Plants, an upside-down ball of mangled fur caught my eye as it made its way slowly and steadily towards a branch directly above my head. Its mouth seemed to be set in a permanent expression of smugness, or was it contentment? or even indifference? It was hard to judge as it made its way slowly but determinedly closer to some veg that I could now see dangling nearby. The creature’s graceful movements resembled some kind of artful dance, like an elegant ballet performed live in slow motion. Every movement was carefully executed to enviable precision. I was totally and utterly mesmerised.
The creature was a sloth.
And, yes, it was this very sloth with whom I now held an unshakeable connection.
This wasn’t the first time I had seen the sloths at this zoo, but it was the first time I had seen them moving. Sloths only move when it is absolutely necessary, spending around 90% of the day motionless. And when they do move, it is with a snail-like slowness that is adapted to conserve the very little energy they get from eating leaves. And sloths can’t walk. If they find themselves on the ground, they haul themselves painfully along on their bellies, using their long outstretched arms and dragging their feet pathetically behind them. Sound familiar??
I couldn’t help thinking that these sloths have a pretty unfair reputation. Their very name conjures up connotations of such frowned upon traits as laziness, lethargy and languor, as well as being a Deadly Sin, but they are none of these things. They are simply lacking in energy, and we can all relate to that!
As I sat there staring up at this most fascinating of creatures and it hung there grinning(?) back at me, I had a strong feeling that I knew him and he knew me.