Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Zoo

I've watched We Bought a Zoo three times in the last three weeks, and have developed a bit of a love affair with the cast, music, and message behind Cameron Crowe's latest work.  It's not every day I find a movie I want to watch over and over again, a movie that has me smiling and crying through the entire thing, sometimes at the same time.  I'm not joking.  One minute, I'll realize I have this big goofy grin on my face, and the next minute, tears will be streaming down my cheeks.  It's touching, it's inspiring, and it makes me want to take a magnifying glass to my life and discover new ways to live out this adventure.

Oh, and then there's Matt Damon. 

So I've been watching this movie and trying to put my finger on why it speaks to me so much.  And I've been thinking about how all of this relates to my life, a life that feels like my own zoo most of the time.  It seems we're going a mile a minute, making plans and tackling to-dos, going after dreams, and attempting to build a strong, solid foundation for our family that is most definitely a work in progress.  But in the midst of our zoo, I'm learning to be content in the chaos.  I'm learning that the importance isn't so much in my ability to conquer the waves, but to ride them and learn from them.  And as any surfer knows (or so I've been told), the waves are unpredictable, mighty, and if not careful, they have the capacity to swallow you up.  But you don't let them.  Instead, you grow and get better at knowing how to tackle them, and eventually, you become a far better surfer having been through the big stuff.   If everything came so easy, I fear we would lose our ability to fight.  And the fight is what makes the victory so rewarding. 

I'm in the midst of my own battle right now, but am learning that so much depends on perspective.  I think sometimes we get so hell-bent on the picture of the way things should work in our minds, that we lose sight of the adventure that is unfolding right in front of us.  Life is too short to dwell on what's not happening, especially when there is so much good happening around us.  I'm learning to look at this life as my own personal adventure, uniquely mine, perfectly flawed according to God's plan, a plan much bigger than I could ever dream up myself. 

No one embodies this perspective more than little people.  Tonight, I hauled Cruz's easel upstairs, and the two of us drew chalk pictures of houses with trees, flowers, and stick people to represent Cruz, Mom, and Dad.  He was so into it, evidenced by his excited shrieks and my favorite little gesture where he puts his hands on his knees and squats down beside me, gets really close to my face, tilts his head, and whispers something I can't make out, as if the experience is just too good to share with the outside world.  He absorbs experiences like this with every fiber in him, and his innocent excitement is untouched by outside pressure, stress, or expectation.  He is 100% himself, living for every moment, and ready to absorb as much as someone is willing to give.  I admire this about him and have so much to learn from his sweet, childlike perspective.    

This movie reminds me that sometimes, the best adventures are the ones that force us out of our comfort zones a bit.  I am a romantic in many ways --- I love words and books and food and reflection, but I am not one typically inclined to sit back, ride the waves, and take chances.  But this movie lights a fire under me, and leaves me lost in dreams of adventure for my family.  While ours will most likely not involve buying an abandoned zoo, lately I've been dreaming of our own fresh start, and a new chapter for us.  I dream of rocking swaddled babies on porch swings, picnics on patchwork under the stars, and a simpler life.  I have an itch to be in the country lately, and although the thought may be a temporary one, it sure is fun to dream about.

During one part of the film, Benjamin's daughter, Rosie, asks her father why he doesn't tell stories anymore, and he replies, "Because we're living the story."  I love the thought of filling in the pages of this blank story of our family.  And the way the story is written is highly dependent on the way we choose to live our lives.  We're all poets, called to write our own unique masterpiece.  

If you haven't seen We Bought a Zoo, I encourage you to add it to your Netflix queue.  If anything, the two child actors will completely melt your heart, and the thought of a zoo in the middle of the country is charming and full of nostalgia.  

Oh, and then there's Matt Damon. 

Pictures are courtesy of At Play Photo.  Documenting our zoo since 2010. 



  1. Beautiful post Ashley! Whatever your personal battle is right now, remember that God is using it for good!

  2. I am in awe at your ability to capture feelings and put so much feeling into words. I find myself relating to more and more with each post...and I'm not married and I don't have any children! I hope that whatever battle you are going through now and in the future proves to be a learning experience to make you even stronger. Remember that challenges in life make us better people.

  3. Gorgeous photos! You have the cutest little family.

  4. Seriously, your posts are so awesome. Thanks for the honesty---and now you may have convinced me to actually watch a movie, it's RARE around here!


  5. Beautiful, Ash! The pictures are beyond beautiful! As always it make me cry and this time...pray! Love you!

  6. What a beautiful post, Ash! Written, as always, truly from the heart! The pictures are amazing.:) Remember Romans 8:28.... I love you!



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