Unfortunately, all of my pictures of Charlie are a little blurry, but this one is my favorite.
I was already unsettled, and the setting was completely alien -- thick underbrush, roots and wet leaves underfoot, quiet except for whispers and camera clicks, and the rustles and grunts and croons and crashes that are apparently the soundtrack to the daily life of the mountain gorilla -- but the gorillas themselves were somehow strangely familiar.
They are so much like us (we share 97% of our DNA). Looking into those beautiful, deep-set eyes and having them gaze calmly back was a profound experience.
I see you.
I see you too.
It made me feel rooted again. I was far from home, sick in a strange country, but among friends.
And yes, I realize that this is all the most extravagant projection. Charlie was probably not aware of our presence except as something he had to evaluate as a possible threat to finishing his snack and taking a nap, but he did allow us to get close to him and his family. That acknowledgement and acceptance was the most thrilling part of the experience.