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Moonridge 2006

LOL! As usual, I'm late in getting my impressions of the day posted. But, if you're interested, my short report is here.

MOONRIDGE 2006

Arianna’s Report



Once again, I’m a bit late with my report of the day’s events, so you’ve already heard how wonderful it was – the great weather, the fun of getting together with old friends and meeting new ones, and especially meeting good online friends in person for the first time. The animals were more skittish this year – the raptors very unsettled, Nova and Cascade both far more restless than I’ve seen them before. We’d heard the wolves and big cats howling and screaming during the previous night (blood-curdling, actually), and some of us speculated whether there was the electricity of an impending storm in the air (there was lightning and thunder later that weekend), or if they sensed some movement in the earth (though we felt no earthquake), or whether the little zoo has simply become so crowded that the animals are reacting to the density of their population, as humans do (too high a population density leads to aberrant behaviours). But their new ‘home’ is now just over the horizon, and they’ll have much more room and more comfortable, quieter surroundings. However, Jasmine was her usual phlegmatic self, as single-minded as ever in wrapping herself around Garett, her face caressing his cheek and head with reptilian rapture.

But the zoo personnel and Garett did all they could to calm the animals and give us the opportunity of photographs with them – often, even usually, with Garett quietly placing himself between us and the animals, to ensure our safety.

As I sit here after midnight in a hotel by the marina, with my flight back home tomorrow, I find myself remembering the past three Moonridge events, and reflecting on the way Garett’s manner has changed over the years. The first year I was able to attend, he was personable, charming, attentive and very careful to thank people who won auctions to donate to the animal’s care over the following year. He clearly thoroughly enjoyed kidding around with Richard but, to me at least, he seemed reserved. He was accompanied by family and his usual security person.

Last year, he arrived alone but for the security person. He was looser, more engaged with the crowd, and posed for photos with ‘winners’ and a lot of the animals. He joked with individuals in the autograph line and was charming. And he seemed to have a good time – certainly Hollyberry, the cub, and Cascade, the cougar, made him bright with laughter.

This year, he arrived alone … and without an outside security person. A cheerful young man on the zoo staff was assigned as his escort for the day (and the lad seemed to be delighted with his task). And from the first moment, this year was very different. He began the day by waving and bowing at us from the balcony above the grounds, clowning around. And then he made a point of moving amongst all of us, greeting us, shaking our hands, thanking us for coming. All day he joked and entertained, clowned, kibitzed and generally made everyone feel individually special. He posed with the vast majority of animals, and auctions of each animal waited until the photo sessions were done. There was a relaxed ease about it, a comfort in the pace, a personability that was warm and engaging, a friendliness that was very affirming. He and the zoo staff went out of their way to ensure everyone had a good time.

For example, as many of you know, I have some mobility challenges because of widespread, systemic arthritis. A chronic condition, it never improves … so this year, I had both a walker and a cane to help me get around. Still, moving over the uneven ground presents challenges and, well, I’ve been lucky enough to have photos with the animals and Garett in the past, and for every auction there were numerous winners from matching bids, so lots of photos to be taken – so I had decided that I wouldn’t take the opportunity to pose with Garett and the animals this year.

Still makes me smile, and my throat tightens at the kindness of Betsy, the photographer and zoo animal handler and Garett. One of them noticed that they were short a ‘winner’ during the photo sessions, and Betsy spotted me sitting on the end of the last bench and realized I’d not come forward. She signaled to another staff person who asked if I wasn’t going to have a photo taken and I said, no, that moving across the grass was a bit difficult but that that was alright and they shouldn’t worry about it. Well … the call went out and though I shook my head and waved them back, not wanting to take the extra time or cause a fuss, the next thing I knew, the animal handler was kneeling in front of me to pose with the skunk, and Garett was leaning over the bench behind me and the photo was taken. I was so surprised and so touched by the unexpected, unlooked for and certainly unnecessary kindness. Clearly, he and the staff were committed to ensuring that no one was overlooked.

::chuckling and shaking my head:: And I quickly learned to show up for photos expeditiously, so as not to cause any further delays or to excite more special attention!

Poor Garett. I was standing with the handler between he and I when Ares, the eagle, became agitated and flapped his strong wings fiercely, trying to get away. Garett got clobbered. He didn’t complain, didn’t flinch, and I wouldn’t even have known except I looked back to thank him as I was walking away, and both of his eyes were badly reddened. I don’t know if the feathers had irritated his eyes (I think he was wearing contacts), or if the reaction was to pain, but when I stopped and remarked on it, wondering if he was okay, he grinned crookedly, joked about being whacked by the wings, and then went on posing for photos with others.

The first time I met him face to face two years ago, I was so stunned and in awe, so struck by the focused ‘listening’ quality of his eyes, as if you are the only thing of interest to him in the whole universe, at least in those moments, that I was speechless (an odd and unusual state of affairs for me). The second time I met him, at the Cascade Con, I was at least able to speak, if not yet with grace and ease and humour, at least with warmth and sincerity. This time, his own manner, his apparent level of comfort and relaxed ease, made it easy to chat a bit, and even to joke with him. ::laughing:: Actually, I think he must have come to think I’m a pleasant woman of a certain age but rather bland, because when I teased him about something this year, he blinked as if surprised and then grinned and joked back.

He was terrific. Funny and warm and charming … and even quietly, unobtrusively, protective. And, thinking over the years, and the gradual but distinctive changes in his manner, I found myself wondering about the changes. I’ve heard that while he appreciates his fans very much, he’s a reserved individual who’s uncomfortable in crowd settings, and the first time I saw him, that’s what I saw. Someone kind and generous, but reserved in manner – someone I wasn’t sure was having a good time, though he helped generate an atmosphere where we’d all have a fine time. The second year, a lot of reports commented that he seemed more relaxed, and seemed to enjoy himself – but he still tended to have modest barriers between himself and the crowd. This year, there were no barriers, he mingled freely, and he laughed and wove his magic with engaging generosity.

And I wondered … is he getting more comfortable with us (with seeing many of the same faces, so he feels as if he ‘recognizes’ acquaintances if not actual friends)?

Or are we seeing a measure of his commitment to making the day special, for the people at the zoo and for us; that despite his natural reticence, he moved out front, past the boundaries, mingling and being vibrantly cheerful and amusing.

Were we seeing a guy really having a blast, a non-stop great time, personally?

Or a consummate performance grounded in courage to move out amongst us when he’d perhaps prefer to be more reticent, and a generosity of spirit to ensure we had a great time? (Several people have remarked in their reports that it was like seeing ‘Blair Sandburg’ more than it was Garett’s more usual demeanor and, at least from my limited exposure to him, they’re right. The man’s such a tremendously skilled and subtle actor that I wonder if he wasn’t putting on a show just for us, to entertain and amuse us, to make the day great for all of us.)

I hope it was the former, as I’d sure like him to have had as good a time as he ensured we had. But either, way, we saw a noble, generous, very kind man giving of himself to put smiles on our faces and warmth in our hearts.

There were moments when he seemed very much taken by surprise and touched. Having admired and signed a number of Janet’s wonderful quilts and quilted zine covers that day, I think he was completely blown away when she presented him with his own Memories of Moonridge quilt. He examined all the pictures and the detail of the little paw prints, and was smiling, his eyes dancing – and people were calling for him to show it to them. For a few moments, I think he forgot he was the entertainer, and was simply a man blown away and very touched by the unexpected gift of beauty. And later, when he was given the portfolio Aly had made, with the amount raised (incredibly more than $18000! Go us!), and the names of those who contributed on the online auction, and where those contributors live around the world as summarized on maps and, finally, a printout of the birthday messages from the website, he asked quietly as his hand stroked the leather binding, “I can keep this? This is for me?” So, again, he seemed touched and pleased, though he quickly covered by joking about not really being able to cash the mock cheque. And when the bouquet of candy was presented on behalf of Aly and all the ‘moonies’, to thank him for what he gives to make each year’s event such a success, he protested it was too much, laughing about the sugar high he’d have if he ate it all himself … as the day drew to a close, he opened the plastic protecting the arrangement and began eagerly sharing the candy treats with fans on the way out of the park, all the while still thanking everyone for such a great day.

So, what do I remember most about this year’s event, called Sentinel Day to honour him and all of us for our exceptional commitment and support for more than five years now in helping to raise the relocation funds, and to help care for the animals in the interim? I remember the animals, of course. And the kindness of the zoo personnel. But most of all, I remember how amazing Garett was; how outgoing and friendly, how kind and amusing, how thoroughly delightful he was.

He did all in his power to ensure we thoroughly enjoyed the day.

I sure hope he enjoyed it as much as we all did!

Will there be another event like this? We don’t know. If all the permits get arranged and all goes as planned, they’ll be in the midst of their move to the new park next summer. And, these annual events have been held especially to obtain the funds for transition that are over and above their normal operating costs. So, that need has been met.

But, as the day ended, Betsy said if there was no event next year, she planned to host a really big celebration party the year following. And Garett called to her that whether it was next year or the year after, he’d be there, we’d be there.

So … we’ll see! Maybe there’ll be more future events, perhaps to help achieve other objectives. But if there aren’t, this series of annual events, coupled with the online auction organized and administered by Aly, have shown the generosity of this fandom, our staying power in supporting an ongoing commitment that ran over several years, and we have collectively made a difference for the good, a significant difference.

I feel so grateful to Garett for having sustained his personal commitment to volunteer his time to support the annual fundraising event. And to Aly and her teams of people over the years, for creating the venue for so many generous people to contribute items of value as free donations, so that other generous fans could be ‘rewarded’ by receiving really neat stuff in exchange for making donations to Moonridge. Altogether, something like $100,000 in donations. I’ve heard other fandoms wonder and presume that TS fans must be ‘rich’. But, we’re not, not in the way it was meant. But we are genuinely wealthy in terms of having giving, supportive spirits and hearts, where everyone gives what they can, even if it’s the only extra bit of money they’ve got for a year, money they could have otherwise spent on making their own lives more comfortable, or a piece of memorabilia that they’ve cherished but decide to put forward in a good cause; or who donate time and talent to write stories or create spectacular artwork.

Yep, it was another great year of treasured memories, both during the special day, but also in the times shared with friends over the weekend and the past couple days. I feel so, so lucky to have been one of the many participants who were able to be there, to represent all those who couldn’t be present physically, but who were certainly there in spirit.

Addendum: Just got home and saw Aly’s note on Senad that there will be a special auction next year! Go, Aly!

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
aerianya
Jun. 29th, 2006 09:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for your report and insight on the event.Since I can't enjoy it in person I really love hearing how much you all did, and seeing the wonderful pix published on ljs and lists.
This is one of my favorite things every year in this fandom.
caarianna
Jun. 30th, 2006 07:28 am (UTC)
Ah, thanks, sweetie! I wish everyone could be there! It's such a lovely day each year for so very many reasons!
pattrose
Jun. 30th, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)
I loved your report on Moonridge. I wish I could have been there, but between your report and all of the pictures I've seen, it feels like I was there. Thank you for the wonderful words. :)

Hugs, Patt
caarianna
Jun. 30th, 2006 07:27 am (UTC)
I wish you could have been there, too, Patt! Would really love to meet you in person! Thanks for commenting on the report!
sallye
Jun. 30th, 2006 02:36 am (UTC)
glad you got home ok. Loved your report. It was so concise. Mine sounded like a fangirl wrote it. Oh right... I am a blushing fangirl. Loved meeting you and hope we can do it again next year.
caarianna
Jun. 30th, 2006 07:26 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed meeting you, too, Sally ... and fingers crossed for next year!
shiredancer
Jun. 30th, 2006 07:05 am (UTC)
Oh, this was a really lovely report! Thanks so much for sharing your insights on the changes/differences in GM over the years. How incredibly neat to be in a position to observe it all!

I'm glad to have been there and... seen you there, LOL! Next year we'll actually meet, okay?
caarianna
Jun. 30th, 2006 07:15 am (UTC)
Next year we'll actually meet, okay?

LOL -- absolutely!!!!! I very much look forward to that!

Thanks for your comments and for your own terrific report. I enjoyed it immensely!
luna_61
Jun. 30th, 2006 09:13 am (UTC)
With all my wandering around at Moonridge I missed meeting you! How did that happen?

This is a wonderful report.

There were moments when he seemed very much taken by surprise and touched.

This being my first contact with Garett and having read some of the past posts on him being shy and reserved I was a little shocked. He was not shy with us, he was relaxed, happy, really enjoying the day and I think that you are right in your assumption that he has grown comfortable with everyone. Protecting those that took photos with the animals. The awe that showed on his face when he was looking at the quilt and the book, the fun he had with the raffle teasing us with the numbers, sharing his basket of candy--but not the snickers or the reeses, lol. And on our way out telling us to be careful on the drive down the mountain, which he said to me and others. He is someone who truly cares.

It was a wonderful event and everyone who was there was touched by it even the staff. I'm so glad I was able to go and experience it first hand.
caarianna
Jun. 30th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC)
Luna, LOL -- you didn't miss me! Just met me as Marilyn, my real name, up in the chalet! Thanks, sweetie, for letting me know you enjoyed the report! ::chuckles:: yeah, he kept the snickers and the reeses and the special mocha flavoured ones ... guess we know his favourite candies now, huh, for future 'tributes', should the occasion ever arrive!

::hugs::
luna_61
Jun. 30th, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC)
LOL, OMG that is too funny. All these names to merge is making my poor little head spin. What a great time that was at the chalet, thank you.
snailbones
Jun. 30th, 2006 10:42 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for your report - I have to admit I've OD'd a bit on them this week, but each and every report has been different and fascinating. It's great for someone like me who can't be there to read such personal impressions. Garett sounds like a real sweetie, and whether it was a good performance, or he really was happy and comfortable, he's obviously 100% committed - I admire that so much in any one.
I'm glad you guys had such a good time... maybe one day I'll get to join in, but reading your report really is the next best thing. Thanks for sharing. :~)
caarianna
Jun. 30th, 2006 10:54 am (UTC)
Hey, thanks, sweetie, for your comments! I truly do wish everyone could be there, every year, to share in the magic of such a special day. As you say, maybe next time, whether next year or the year after, depending on how the move to the new zoo facility goes. Would sure love to meet you in person!
snailbones
Jun. 30th, 2006 12:11 pm (UTC)
*g* - I'd love to make it one day... you all sound (and look) so nice. :~D
gillyp
Jun. 30th, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks SO much for such a magical report!

I almost made it this year so, maybe next, if it happens? I'm dying to meet everyone! But in the meantime, between all the reports and pictures, I've had a gorgeous time by proxy - thanks again.
caarianna
Jun. 30th, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for your warm response to this report! And it would be great to meet you, so fingers crossed for either next year or the year after, whenever the next event is held.

slipperieslope
Jun. 30th, 2006 07:31 pm (UTC)
*sigh*

That was beautiful, thank you so much for sharing.
caarianna
Jul. 1st, 2006 12:03 am (UTC)
Hey, thanks, sweetie! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
angelvette67
Jul. 1st, 2006 06:25 am (UTC)
Reading your wonderful account of the day was great! Reading these reports really make these days more real in my mind. I really wish I can go there some day. I'd love to meet all you wonderful ladies that I've met here on LJ. Of course, seeing GM wouldn't be an incentive either, nooooo, of course not *G*
caarianna
Jul. 1st, 2006 06:47 am (UTC)
Of course, seeing GM wouldn't be an incentive either, nooooo, of course not *G*

::grins:: What can I say, LOL? It's a good cause, sure ... but he's so unique, so special and, um, yeah, soooo gorgeous! I genuinely hope that you'll be able to attend the next event, whenever it's held. If I could wave a magic wand, I'd bring everyone there, so he could see how many people hold him in high affection and esteem; how many people he's had impact upon in terms of brightening our lives. (They really would need to be in their new, larger park, though -- the current zoo couldn't hold us all!)
theantipam
Jul. 3rd, 2006 04:03 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting such a great summary of all things Garett from Moonridge this year. It's tough to hit all the highlights when writing up an event report - and you did a wonderful job of describing our day and our Garett.

I sure enjoyed visiting with you at the house - even though there was hardly enough time to talk with each person... Hope to see you at the next TS event!
- Pam/Pamster/TheAntiPam (three names, no waiting)

caarianna
Jul. 3rd, 2006 06:19 am (UTC)
Pam, it was great to meet you, too, even if only briefly. Thanks for your kind comments on this report. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 5th, 2006 03:25 am (UTC)
Hi Marilyn, Loved your report, as you know I don't write, so I have really enjoyed all the reports I have read, to take me back to that day. Most of all meeting & spending time with so many great ladies.
Look forward to doing it again one day.

Janet
caarianna
Jul. 5th, 2006 05:14 am (UTC)
Janet, it was SO great to spend time with you (and Vern, too)! Let's see ... it was your birthday yesterday, right? Hope it was a great one! And if we don't chat before, have a good trip home.

peter_neverland
Jul. 6th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday darling! Many happy returns of the day!.
caarianna
Jul. 7th, 2006 02:15 am (UTC)
Thanks, sweetie! Much appreciated!
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )