Have You Ever Wondered What It’s Like to Sit Beside Elephants?
What can we compare it to? Sitting beneath a giant milkwood tree, its branches twisting all around you, the leaves crisscrossing to cover you in shade. But a tree that could move at any moment, its stillness broken by a declaration so loud you can feel it in your chest or a jolt that could tear the earth beneath your feet in two. Sitting beside elephants is to be in a forest of these unpredictable trunks and their explosion of green life. In the company of such trees, it’s difficult not to contemplate its aliveness, even when it isn’t seemingly animated, no leaves moved by a breeze, no fruit falling to the ground. Such immense entities make us feel our own potent energy.
In attendance with elephants, a herd of towering bulls and protective cows can shake your insides, but it will make you feel more alive than ever. It isn’t merely their size that does it, but this does cross your mind. You can’t help but notice your shortcomings as a human, when eye to eye with a four-tonne animal with pointed spears beside a massive, highly dexterous proboscis with too many muscles to count. A giant who doesn’t speak English and isn’t accustomed to the etiquette you’re used to. It’s a privilege to be so intimidated. To be so close to something so commanding. Their strength and stature aside, sitting with elephants also has a deep stillness to it, especially when they’re a little further away.
Watching them, when they’re not watching you, seeing them in their natural habitat is a glimpse into the wilderness as it continues when you’re not there. A world revolving in secret. When the elephants are submerging their immense bodies in the dam and turning about in the water, or splashing their trunks to break the quiet of the waterhole, you exhale deeply and catch yourself doing it, calmer than you were a second ago. The younger, little ones emerge and flop their legs and tails over each other, or climb onto a friend with their tree-trunk legs, and in the moment there is a silliness that reminds you to take it all less seriously.
Like looking at a mountain range in the distance, just their presence quietens your mind. There is no thump thump thump in your chest, only a happy inner child wanting to be nowhere else. Sitting beside elephants, you’ll do your best to lock eyes with at least one of them, to halt time, feeling as you do so that you can understand their thoughts and wishes. No doubt, they’re as inquisitive as you are, perhaps a little suspicious, fearful, uncertain, but in the end, confident in their own animal instinct, in the space between you, and in their power and authority.
Have you sat beside elephants? Tell us how it felt for you.