Day 32 - Being Elephant


May 3rd, 2020

11 mins 57 secs

Season 1

Your Host

About this Episode

The days are shortening and there is a distinct chill on the air when I open my eyes onto the branches of trees in the morning. I feel saturated with natural beauty. Winter is the time my ancestors used to come to this land back in the hunting days. It is the time when many tribes would sweep off the escarpment.

I cross the river just after dawn moving on instinct to where I though the sound of the lions roaring is. I would need time to crack this code as the tracks go in all direction. But up on the crest of the clearing, impala are alarming. Then a lion roars. I walk up to Ximpalapala koppie and then see a big black maned lion up on the hillside. The plains below them are full of zebra and wildebeest.

In front of me steam is billowing out of a chimney spout like breath on the morning air. Underground the work of thousands of termite is causing the termite mound to release energy and heat.

Every elephant’s foot is cracked like a fingerprint. But it’s too difficult in a mess of tracks. The key with elephants right now is freshness. If you get onto a bull and the tracks are less than an hour or two old and you may have a chance. Sometimes I just speculate on a direction, full of doubt but going for it nonetheless. Today I am right, a bull feeds in the clearing on a termite mound. He walks through the ground and then lopes through the grass. He feeds almost continuously, sleeps standing during midday in the shade.

He will live to about sixty, chew his way through multiple sets of teeth, cover thousands of miles, pollenate plants, cause awe and fear and still there is a different between what something does and what it means. What an elephant’s presence means in our world is utterly impossible to say.

In the late afternoon another herd comes through camp, close to the fire pit. It’s like they expect me here. Two young bulls wrestle with each other. I walk out with my cup of tea in my hand, they look at me and move forward but with no intent.

In late January I tracked a small elephant bull with a group of close friends. We tracked the bull for a few hours, seeing his huge tracks and into the dry riverbed. At different times a different person tracked. Each of them acquainted themselves with the elephant. As each member of the group trailed that elephant we became harmonized in perfect unfolding. We feel into intimacy with the elephant and each other. Where he had rested in the shade so did we. As we followed we started to know each other. Whatever happened after that day, there was an elephant we knew. We found him at sunset and not a word was said.

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