portrait of The Empathetic Penguin

Sunday, June 7, 2020

thoughts from The Empathetic Penguin

I see you returning to the colony as the storm continues to blow. The huddle is starting as the wind picks up. I can tell that you've weathered the seas for a long time. I see your exhaustion: your feet drag over the icy snow, your wings hang heavily at your sides, and your beak droops downward. I feel your fear: you flinch as another wave violently crashes against the shore and your eyes continuously scan the area for danger. I sense your loneliness: you glance back at the unforgiving waves and relentless wind with a knowing heaviness that this storm is not short-lived. My neighbor, I see the sea has not been kind to you.

I admire your perseverance: the way you orient by the sun to always return home, the way you dive back into the sea and swim with exceptional grace, the way you hold your head high with pride each year during weeks of unglamorous molting, and the way you loved this year's chick even after tragically losing one last year. Neighbor, it shouldn't be this hard for you.

I stand here in the warmth of the huddle feeling the support of community. My wings bump up against familiar feathers, I tuck my head down out of the wind, and I see it's nearly my turn to move inward to the toasty center. I conjure up peaceful images as the world around our huddle swirls by violently. I picture a flower as white as snow. It has recently pushed up through the leaf litter using vital nutrients from the fertile soil below. Its petals are so soft, its curves are so elegant, and its stem is so fragile. I offer this imagined oasis of peace to you. You are welcome here in this community. You are deserving of this warmth. I will not allow you to weather this storm alone. I will stand by your side, and we will keep each other warm. I invite you to tell me your story of the seas; I'm here to listen. My dear neighbor, I'm so glad we are here together.

“Common Penguin Behaviors | California Academy of Sciences.” Accessed December 13, 2020. https://www.calacademy.org/explore-science/common-penguin-behaviors.

Gorvett, Zaria. “BBC - Earth - If You Think Penguins Are Cute and Cuddly, You’re Wrong,” December 23, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20151223-if-you-think-penguins-are-cute-and-cuddly-youre-wrong.

Hogenboom, Melissa. “BBC - Earth - In the Frigid Antarctic Winter, Emperor Penguins Get Too Hot.” In the frigid Antarctic winter, emperor penguins get too hot, November 7, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20151107-how-penguins-avoid-overheating.

Encyclopedia Britannica. “Penguin | Features, Habitat, & Facts.” Accessed December 13, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/animal/penguin.