The lion moved around its enclosure and Mike watched it from maybe 30 feet away, a thick cluster of vegetation and rock as well as a 15-foot deep moat and a fence between he and it. It was pacing in the cool fall morning air, exercising an instinct that in the wild would have included looking for that day’s meal.

Mike moved to the left to get a better angle. The lion explored the environment in full, its long legs landing easily on whatever terrain they landed on, the paws gripping firmly every edge, impression in the dirt or other variation in the landscape. No other creature on Earth moved like a big cat and it was breathtaking when you looked at it. The combination of grace and ferocity and assured movement made the animal look like a spring about to uncoil, a hurricane that is being held back but bursting at its restraints.

The word to describe all this eluded Mike but he knew this primitive behavior spawned all definitions of the word “elegant.” It was efficient, beautiful and powerful and intuitively conveyed to the viewer that they were lower on the food chain. The thought humbled Mike and made the activity around him, which included children in states ranging from elation to extreme disapproval, parents trying to corral them, teenagers out on dates, young marrieds using the zoo for a walking path and vendors hawking their wares seem small and insignificant. This animal before him cared about none of it. All those protections were necessary and Mike wondered at the hubris of trying to contain power like this, even if it were for educational purposes.

He moved on, the lion still prowling the edges of his environment. It was out of sight right now, temporarily hidden by the foliage the designers of decades ago had put in place, another testament to its intent and potential, the elegance out of sight for the moment but ready to pounce on whatever might cross its path.