Elephants

The other day I picked up a magazine that transfixed me quite.
Its front cover was graced by a stunning photograph of an elephant, big and bold; seated in a thinking position. I was so drawn to that photograph.

Since then, I’ve had elephants running around in my head πŸ™‚

I think there is no other grander or majestic animal than the elephant. In my opinion, it is the king of the jungle. In all its full might and glory it can decimate a lion with one kick from its powerful leg.

I’ve always been fascinated by elephants. It’s not just their magnificent size but their nature as well. When I was little, I got the chance to go to the Mosi O Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders) National Park in Livingstone Zambia with my family on a number of occasions and that was where I saw my first live elephant.

Being a kid, of course, you’re first overwhelmed by their sheer size. But there is also something else. It’s as though elephants carry who they are in their very presence. Their nature is clearly evident in what they do, how they move and in their being. When you see an elephant, you’re seeing just that…an elephant.

Elephants are powerful but yet elegant; strong but gentle; big but sensitive.
I have seen a mother elephant with her young calf – the affection from mother to child and vice versa is heart-warming. There is a lot of nuzzling, closeness and tenderness.

And as researchers have found, elephants are very sensitive and affectionate such that if a baby elephant complains, the entire family will rumble and go over to touch and caress it. They are also known to grieve at a loss of a still born baby, a family member and in many cases other elephants. I find it simply astounding and inspiring that their big size totally compliments their big hearts.

Elephants are also famed for their memory and intelligence.
I remember a story my Dad used to tell in my childhood about a young, white hunter who went hunting in one of the forest parks in Zambia. His un-guided hunt led him upon two fully grown elephants. Sensing the danger, the elephants made trumpet calls which startled the hunter. Not knowing what to do and fearing for his life, the hunter started shooting and ended up killing one of the elephants. He lived to tell the unforgettable, piercing cry of the surviving elephant. It turned out he had killed its mate and lover. It gets even more interesting; seventeen years later, the hunter returned to the same park and came upon a herd of elephants. And without warning, one of the older looking elephants made a cry of attack and chased him until it ran him over and killed him.
The story goes that that was the same elephant who had watched this man kill his beloved, seventeen years earlier.

I remember being intrigued every time Dad told the story. Though sad, I was in awe of the elephant’s memory and loyalty. It was also the way Dad told the story. Every inflection in his voice made you root for that elephant.

I grew to love elephants because of that story. I love how majestic they are. How they take each step with assurance and dignity. It’s almost as though they are saying, β€œhey, I own this space I occupy”.

In high school I used to be the head girl of my school. I was pretty much the queen of the school, if I can put it like that πŸ™‚ It was a taxing responsibility. I had to show up for the job. I had to carry it within me and with me no matter where I went or what time of day it was.

I’ll never forget one guy who came up to me and said, β€œYou know, you walk like an elephant, as though you own the ground.”
At first, I was offended. I thought; how dare he compare me to an elephant! I am not an elephant!

As I grew older and my immaturity got replaced with wisdom, I finally saw the compliment in his words. I did own the ground I stepped on simply because my presence was always there in the moment, wherever I stepped.

And today, I would take being compared to an elephant any day of the week!

Being sure of who and what you are; knowing your weaknesses, strengths, limits, soaring heights, is not arrogance. It is being defined. And to me that is what elephants represent. Their presence, as big and powerful as it is does not hinder or hide the fact that they are family oriented; that they cry, play and laugh. To me, that is the epitome of wholeness and completeness.

Elephants show up when they need to show up. They own the ground they step on. They are present.

So, today, I’m wishing you the grounded-ness, strength, courage, intelligence, beauty and majesty of an elephant.
And whatever you do, take the time to embrace your inner elephant!

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