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Friday, February 28, 2014

Lessons Learned From Elephants



For as long as I can remember, my mom has collected elephants.  It was her favorite animal by far, yet other than a trip to the zoo, I don’t believe my mom ever came close to one.  When I asked her about why she liked them so much, she’d shrug and smile and never really gave an answer.  So my brothers and sisters and I accepted it as “just one of those things.”

When we moved mom from her small two-bedroom condo to the nursing home where she now lives, we had to pack up her “stuff” and my sisters separated items each of us had given her from those things she took along with her.  Because her room at the nursing home was so small, you can imagine that over the years, there were fairly large piles for each of my brothers and sisters.

And then there was her collection of knick knacks.  And among those knick knacks was a large collection of elephants.  Different shapes and sizes and colors.  Each elephant made out of different material.  She could tell you stories about them, who had given her this one or that one and on what occasion it was given.  In my office at school, I have a small set that my family had given her.  A nice reminder and they cause me to smile when I look at them.  A nice and fond memory.

One of my writer/author friends on Facebook posted an interesting story on elephants.

Laurence Anthony, a legend in South Africa and the author of 3 books including one titled, The Elephant Whisperer, passed away on March 7, 2012.  Two days after his passing, wild elephants showed up at his home led by two large matriarchs.  Separate wild herds arrived in droves to say goodbye to their beloved man-friend.  A total of 31 elephants had walked over 12 miles to get to his South African House, and they traveled in a solemn one-by-one, single file procession.

All I can say is, “Wow!”  Yet, that doesn’t quite cut it.  I had, and have, many questions.  How did they know he had died?  How did they know where to go?  What did they do when they arrived?  What did his family and friends do when 31 elephants showed up at his house?  How long did they stay?

I think we’ve all heard the saying that elephants don’t forget.  I don’t know if that is the case or not, but I think there must be something to it.  After all, how would these 31 elephants behave this way if they didn’t?  Just how smart are they?

Another of my writer/author friends posted a picture on Facebook of a momma and baby elephant with the caption, “Do you know that baby elephants throw themselves into the mud when they get upset?”

Hmmm . . .

A whole lot comes to mind . . .

Not quite sure what the appeal is.  Not quite sure what the attraction is.  I know there are mud baths and mud facials, but I can’t help but feel that sounds sort of gross.  Okay, maybe a whole lot of gross.  A lot of disgusting, actually. 

Well, I’m not an elephant and like my mom, other than a trip to the zoo, I’ve never been around them and I’ve never studied them, so I have no great knowledge of elephants.  None. 

But I think if a baby elephant sticks his or her head in mud, there must be some sort of comfort, some sort of appeal.  The elephant must seek some sort of comfort in mud that the baby can’t get from anything else. 

I know that it seems that mud is a kind of magnet for little children.  Seems they can’t go around a puddle, but will instead, stomp and slog right through it with an earnest, if not mischievous grin.

I know water soothes.  I know there is comfort in water.  Seems to me that water is a lot more appealing than mud.  But, hey, that’s just me.

I do know we seek comfort when there is distress.  I know it is human nature to give comfort when someone is in distress.  Whether we seek mud, or water, or a hug, or a shoulder to cry on and an ear for listening, or perhaps a silent and solemn presence like the herd of elephants, to give and to seek comfort is natural and necessary.  For each of us.  To each of us.  Evidently, for elephants too.  Something to think about . . .

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Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe