The following is a blog post as part of Blogapalooza, a ChicagoNow challenge to write and post within one hour of the topic being revealed. Tonight’s assignment: Write a love letter, but it can’t be to a person.
Don’t worry, I’m strong enough, you said.
I was telling you, as you carried me on your back, how grateful I was to be there and to have the chance to be in the presence of your beauty and wisdom.
You knew the routine: Carry the clutsy human around. Lie down, sit up, backward, forward, up the hill, in the pond, spray her with water. Get some bananas and sugar cane out of the deal.
You had done this hundreds of times, but for me it was a remarkable moment.
I felt so safe in your care.
An enormous creature, so powerful and wild. Yet you would lift your foot, gently place it and carefully shift your weight as we climbed through the thick brush. Over fallen trees. Down a steep hill and back up again. Every step. Beautiful. Still. Intentional.
So when I heard you assuring me you were strong enough, my first thought was—is this really elephant telling me not to worry about my extra weight on her back? I mean, if an elephant is telling you you’re heavy, it’s time to throw in the towel.
And then something came over me. I realized this wasn’t about me (shocker). But you were referring to the weight of the world. Quite literally. The plight of your nearly extinct species. The aching Earth under your hard-working feet.
I had consciously been trying not to convey my distress about how I was feeling. The elephant abuse I had witnessed elsewhere in Thailand. The escalating slaughter for ivory to satisfy the greed of my own species. The human-elephant conflicts on the rise as we have destroyed their homes and food sources, they have nowhere to go.
Excuses of ignorance were being peeled away every moment, exposing me to emotions I didn’t want to feel and things I would rather not see.
But I didn’t have to tell you how I was feeling. And my attempts to shield my heavy heart were thinly veiled at best.
I could feel your wisdom envelop me. I leaned forward on your broad shoulders and rested my head on yours. Your ears flapped back gently like butterfly wings. I was sure you could feel my tears.
I. Am. So. Sorry. We have failed you, I whispered.
Don’t worry, I’m strong enough, you repeated.
I know, you’re strong, I get it. I replied. But what can I do? I am so small, and the ignorance is so big.
Be here with me now. Learn to walk like me. I can’t control the outcome either, so I just keep walking.
An elephant was teaching me how to walk.
You taught me things I will never forget. With total awareness of your being, you moved through the thick trees—leaving absolutely no trace of your passing. With graceful balance, you made sure there was enough space on all sides for both of us.
Thank you, Beau. The presence of your ancient wisdom is undeniable and will always be with me. I was so humbled—not just because of your majestic size, but because of the enormous accumulation of shared consciousness that you hold.
At 37, your knees give you trouble from years slaving in the logging industry. So we stopped to rest a few times and lagged behind the group. But I didn’t mind. I wanted all the extra time to learn all from you that I could get in this precious moment.
And I'm writing to you now, because I want you to know that I do my best to walk a few steps, just like you taught me, every day. Watch my feet and feel the Earth. Clear the mental chatter and be totally present. Be conscious not just of my own space, but of how every choice I make affects the entire planet we share.
And that brings me peace.
Beau is cared for by the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which was established to be a safe haven for abused elephants or those who cannot work. The Foundation provides employment for good mahouts, allowing them to continue working with elephants and help ensure the survival of Thailand's wild herd.
I met Beau through the "Thinking Like an Elephant" Earthwatch volunteer program that supports the efforts of Think Elephants International, a nonprofit organization that focuses on conservation through elephant intelligence research and classroom education.
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