Terry in His Heartland is a very special and personal yoga mat for me. I’m so grateful to my team for their creative collaboration and thoughtfulness bringing this project to fruition.
My dad, Terry, had a fascination and love for gorillas. Any primate really, but gorillas in particular. One of my favorite childhood memories occurred on a family trip to the San Diego Zoo. My dad sat on a bench outside the gorilla habitat with my little brother, Thomas, and me for over an hour. My dad led this observation, and by his example we were content to sit there and simply be present. Thomas and I were — incredibly — not impatient, and we didn’t bug my dad to hurry up so we could move on to the next awesome thing. We sat there with him, in peaceful and somewhat sad observation.
My dad said things that day that I still think about a lot.
- “It’s amazing how much we have in common.”
- “If you look hard enough you’ll have a hard time finding the differences between us.”
- “Look at those eyes — you can see right into their soul.”
- “I hope we’ve done the right thing — bringing them here for our entertainment. Something tells me we haven’t.”
My dad said the gorilla was his spirit animal — he joked that he looked more like a gorilla than he did his family. (He wasn’t wrong.) Together my dad and I watched Dian Fossey’s Gorillas in the Mist at least five times, and each time he would whisper “disgusting” in a not-so-sotto voce. Years later, when he was really struggling with his declining health, I remember the movie being on as we were channel surfing. I stopped, thinking he would want to watch it again. He put his hand on mine and said, “Babe… I just can’t. I don’t have it in me.”
(I still have tears in my eyes when I think about that moment with my dad.)
My dad died 19 years ago from complications due to diabetes — my son, Jackson, was my only child who met him. And yet, all of my children know about Grandpa and his gorillas. They were were part of Grandpa’s legacy, and sharing stories about his kinship for them is one way my brother Thomas and I have made our dad multi-dimensional to our children.
This fascination and interest was important to my dad, and because of my love for him, it is my honor to present from our Compassion collection: Terry in His Heartland as our featured Mat of the Week. This hand-drawn design features Terry the Gorilla in the heartland of the jungle, peacefully sitting in his world, with Dian Fossey’s ever-present camera hanging in the tree behind him. If you look deeply into his eyes you can see his soul.
Here is a quick overview of The Gorilla Fund and what they are about…
What Is Its Goal?
To support global conservation efforts for this critically endangered species.
How Do They Help?
Daily Protection for Gorillas
The best way to save endangered species and conduct effective conservation is with direct, sustained protection in the wild. This is the foundation of our work and why mountain gorillas are the only wild ape whose population is growing.
We operate the longest-running gorilla research site in the world, the Karisoke Research Center. Most of what is known about gorillas is based on studies conducted at Karisoke over the past 50 years. Our research also focuses on understanding many of the unique animals and plants that also call these forests home.
Education is key to empowering people and creating the next generation of conservationists. We work directly with local educational institutions and partner organizations to strengthen their programs and capacity, training hundreds of young scientists each year.
We believe that working with and helping local communities is crucial to effective and sustainable conservation. Only when people are thriving can gorillas, other wildlife and their habitats thrive, too. That’s why our motto is “Helping People. Saving Gorillas.”
Where Does the Money Go?
Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda.
Saving gorillas is an important mission, but the value of this work is even more far reaching. When gorillas are protected, so are their forest habitats, which are critical ecosystems that support our planet and all life on earth.
(Fun Fact: March 21 is the International Day of Forests which seeks to celebrate forests while providing a platform to raise awareness of the importance of trees. Clickity-Click here to read about their key messages and programs!)
How Did the Gorilla Fund Originate?
In 1967, Dr. Dian Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda’s Virunga mountains to protect and study the endangered mountain gorilla. Although Fossey’s life was brutally cut short, her work lives on in the people and programs of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and its continuing conservation success story.
The following quote is from this week’s Freebie Friday post: