April 19, 2010

The hotter weather lately has brought out the bugs, the Peeper frogs, our long-time resident deer, turkeys galore, and for the first time here at Q-Barn (that this caregiver recalls), a pair of beautiful Canada Geese. They waddled along through the pasture, honking occasionally, while a caregiver led Lottie and Minnie out at a leisurely pace to deliver their breakfast in a quiet corner of Field 6, still pretty much undisturbed by any ele-feet until they decide to re-explore the outer points of their habitat. The Girls just seem to glance in passing at all of their co-inhabitants, but are never curious enough to delay or miss a meal.
 
Today, after a light splash in the pond, Lottie and Minnie retreated to the shade of nearby trees to dust at a favorite dugout spot in the bank. Once dirt and mud are sufficiently caked on, they head over to rub and scratch on each other and the trees. It seems they can't decide which works better, so they take advantage of both! Debbie and Ronnie are enjoying the full benefit of the longer grass, and all four girls seem to prefer that to the hay offered at meal times.
 
Everyone is also dining on the new buds and leaves sprouting everywhere in the woods. Lately, they have spent most of their days grazing, napping, and wandering around in the sun...just enjoying a wonderful springtime and all it has to offer so far. For caregivers and elephants alike, days are peaceful and content.
 
Wednesday night Sissy and Winkie spent the night at the lake, for the first time ever. This may not seem like much; however, when you consider the steps it has taken for them to get to this point, you'll realize it is quite an accomplishment.
 
During their first summer here, Sis and Winks stayed around the barn, hardly venturing further than the adjacent fields. The next summer, they explored somewhat further, but would initially need to be led away from the barn by a caregiver. Their wanderings that summer mostly led them to Dr. Scott's, and barely any further. In the third summer here, they were more apt to wander away on their own than they had previously. Yet for most early days of that summer, they followed a four wheeler. Later in the season, they explored all the way down North Road, spending time at all the places in-between, and seeming to thoroughly enjoy each new place. Once the temperatures remained warm at night, the girls stayed out and did not see the barn for the rest of the summer.
 
This year Sis and Winks walk themselves out and away daily, picking the area where they choose to spend their time. Their hay was dropped on Lake Road by the woods on Wednesday morning. They took themselves down the hill and to the creek, a place they have previously gone only when they were following a caregiver.
 
At 5 pm feed, they were taken around the lake, so they could eat in one of the two meadows lining the lake. They stopped repeatedly along their walk, at the numerous spots the water almost touches the road, and would put their trunk out in the direction of the water, with Winkie backing up towards it several times. When they got into Left Field, Winkie put her ears out, her eyes got really big and she just kept looking around making her "happy noises," trunk touches alternating with "ooohs." She seemed so distracted that she barely got to her dinner before Sissy had all but finished her own. At late feed that night and early feed the next morning, both of the girls were in Right Field, and each time greeted their caregivers with more sounds.
 
Sissy and Winkie were both very insecure when they arrived at the Sanctuary in 2000. Their common issues did not stunt their emotional growth, but rather aided in their healing, lending to it a deep understanding of what the other felt. Previously they both had very rough lives, and the scarring does not heal overnight. In 10 years they have come through a darkness from which most humans would not have found their way. The fact alone, that they ever open themselves to another human, speaks volumes about their inner strength of both mind and spirit. Their transition has been immense, but it is still ongoing. There are constant "baby steps" which show that they still remain open to that process. They don't seem to have the same human association with phrases like "I can't" or "it's too hard" but rather, "I can try" and "maybe someday."


Winkie and Sissy

Shirley and Tarra seemed to be a day behind each other for most of last week. Tarra would be at Marcella's one day and Shirley would show up the next day when Tarra had already moved on. This went on from place to place until Tarra returned back to the barn and spent the day with Dulary and Misty. It had been a while since they were together, and Tarra was met with lots of smells and touches, as if to make sure nothing had changed.

Dulary remains constantly in check with where Tarra is, putting her trunk up over her back and leaning into her a bit. She seems to want to be dominant over Tarra. Like Misty, Tarra has never seemed to care about that sort of thing. It just doesn't matter to her. So Tarra allows the behavior, backing up to Dulary and sticking her tail in her face. Then they spend the majority of the day just standing together, grazing and eating.
 
Later that evening, Tarra left Dulary and Misty and finally met up with Shirley. The two have been together, visiting all the different areas of Marcella's off the main left branch, sharing a shady spot in a little patch of trees for a nap the first day. Shirley has been a little quiet since the two had been apart, but she is very smiley and light, just not very chatty. Tarra, of course, is still chatty and silly, making up for her sister's silence. It may just be related to the weather—this is our first long stretch of temperatures over 80—and the girls are in a spot that does not have a large body of water for bathing, but it seems to be a favorite of Shirley's and water is a relatively short walk away.
 
Well, "Spring has Sprung" and we are starting the spring cleaning and planting here in Africa. The Garden has been tilled and seeds are in the ground—red cabbage, collared & mustard greens, cucumbers, kohlrabi, pole beans, radishes and lettuce. The lawn is returning to a glowing green carpet, our donated crab apple trees have bloomed and the little delicate leaves are unfolding. The cherry and pear trees planted last season are trying very hard to come back. The barn is surrounded with different kinds of evergreen shrubs that are waking up and our Roses of Sharon are budding. Things are coming alive for the year in full force.

The woods that surround us are turning vast arrays of greens, yellows and purples, slowly shedding the winter browns and tans. The wildlife which share this space are poking their heads out—foxes, howling coyotes, turkey and plenty of deer and rabbits. Each morning we are awakened with new bird songs.

Then there is the painting—touching up in the barn where the Girls made their presence known all winter. The corral fence that is near the barn and the people doors will be renewed with fresh vibrant colors.

We look forward to a new and very colorful, lively and warm year.