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Leaving the place better than we found it
Seeing with my eyes closed
Thomas Jefferson on gun control
How to lie convincingly
Our hardy heartland
Breaking the cycle
How to catch the sun's comings and goings
Thoughts from the inside
Leveraging the internet to build our walls
Twitters from the past
And the invincibility of youth
Without ego projection
Yet another gift of the road
The charming side of obstinance
The creative part of photography
A movie critic looks in the mirror
You are on this page
As part of the system
Mastering your master
The end of Kumbaya
The wanderer's poet
Running out of dirt
Striking a balance
The Bay of Fundy, where the sea breathes
How to photograph them with anything, even your cellphone
A simple question we get every day
We may be failing to fail
And why no one should hesitate to examine them
Becoming a hero in one's own life story
A writing assignment
A new discovery of something old
Finding new eyes to see old landscapes
Hick humor
Toys for photographing wild places
Experiencing life with God
A radical thought about our radicals
Redemption with style
Hidden heroes among us
Resetting our parallel processor
A village with heart
A lesson from the road
The bullet dodged
A soul sparkles
Isolation in style
Painless ways to lose your virginity : 11/12/15
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Ancestry
We are not alone
09/24/16

Quite often, photography is just a calling card, an excuse to happen upon something amazing without anyone questioning why I'm still staring.

So it was that I swung by the Indianapolis Zoo one morning. I started at their Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, and late in the afternoon, I was still there.

The viewing areas had a section where the orangutans could hop up on a ledge and sit inches away on the other side of the glass. One took an interest in my photo bag, looking intently at what I pulled out. It made hand gestures to tell me to turn my fisheye lens around so it could see the backside. It followed my every move as I swapped lenses. I felt it learning, like it wanted to understand cameras -- or perhaps fooling me when it really wanted to know how lenses tasted.

We spent some time amusing each other, blurring the arrangement about who was on exhibit. And then came the moment when it looked up, right into my eyes and held its gaze, searching for clues about who I really was. The sensation was like a forbidden gaze stumbled into with a fast food counter clerk who forgets to avert her eyes after handing over my burger.

No, I haven't been on the road so long that I'm looking for love in all the wrong places. It was a look of wordless communication. It spoke of confinement, how she wanted to touch me, to explore. Yet the eyes also spoke of merriment, how I looked comical so hairless and gangly legged.

The look grew from the eyes to searching each others faces. I stopped being able to think of the orangutan as an it. It became a she, a person wondering about me even as she revealed herself. I put a palm on the glass against hers. She didn't retract hers, but stared at my fingers, perhaps wondering how I could get by with such sickly little digits.

But the epiphany came later in their computer lab. The orangutans had their own computer, and they used it to match text terms and spoken requests to pictures and symbols. They were not doing tricks for us; they stopped to look over the screen and thinking was as plain as the lack of a nose on their faces. Given all the years I've taught computers, I was amazed to see the same perception, learning, discernment, and finally insight. The recognition of kinship was undeniable.

For days to follow, I thought about the relatives I had chanced upon, and decided to get involved. Those who read my story about the evolutionary origins of music wouldn't be surprised that I started wondering if my new-found kinfolk had primitive vestiges of musical appreciation.

So it was that I contacted Dr. Ron Shumacher, the Zoo Director, and proposed building a music lab for the orangutans. Next I contacted P.D.Q. Bach, alias Peter Shickele (distant modern-day relative), a famous musicologist, and there is now the possibility of a team forming to give the orangutans and us a place where our loneliness as a sentient species may be further assuaged.

People who see me dragging my camera around probably don't suspect how often the camera is dragging me around.

Indianapolis Zoo
Orangutan Research Facility

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Can we learn to love each other?

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You got a problem with my hygiene?

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Reflections about ourselves

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She knows our secret

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Nicky

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Computer operator

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Complex problems

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It became a she in front of me

For more pictures of Indiana, click here.


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