August 2, 2010

One day this week in Divaland, while getting a drink at the back of the barn, Minnie was giving herself a shower. Each exhalation and burst of water was followed by a vocalization she does very often—a humming, almost wheeze. However, with the force she was using to blast water all over her back, the hum/wheeze was ending in a high-pitched whistle. Hum/wheeze WHISTLE, hum/wheeze WHISTLE. This is the music of Minnie showering. She followed this by grabbing the end of the water hose expertly in her trunk and shoving it along her teeth and gums, almost as if she were brushing her teeth. Water was spraying out everywhere. Minnie should have a large version of one of those fancy electric dentist toothbrushes.

It has been a very peaceful week at the New Asian Barn; quiet days resting in the shade, and mellow evenings grazing out in the fields. Even after years of daily routines here, the beauty of this place never ceases to take your breath away.

At night feed, Tarra and Shirley were grazing in one of their favorite places—Right Field. It's a bit of a ride to get there; down a road, through the woods, down a hill, past a meadow, around the point of the lake, and into one of the two fields that lay at the edge of the lake. With the full moon, the drive is nothing short of spectacular; light filtering through the trees as you drive through the woods, the beautifully lit meadows, and then the reflection coming off the lake that illuminates everything around. As you approach the Girls, even Bella is more reserved; still coming first to greet you—but no barking, simply leaning and requesting pets. This is a time for quiet 'hellos,' trunk pats, delivering hay, and giving Shirley her apple with her CoQ10 directly into her mouth and out of Tarra's reach. This routine is just a short stop, a check in of sorts, and then we leave them to each other in the peace and quiet they consider their home. In driving away, just a glance back is enough to bring peace to your heart; a silhouette of two elephants grazing in this open space, seemingly without a worry in the world.

DelhiLeaving the barn a couple of evenings later, the moon awakened some memories of Delhi. Coming around the bend, seeing the moon hanging low in the sky, with a hint of orange haze circling lazily around it, thoughts of Delhi come rushing in. After Delhi moved to the New Asian Barn, she spent a lot of time in the south yard because her feet were sore and she did not wander far. As is the case with all the Girls and our one Boy, Delhi taught us many things, one of which was to stop and take time to appreciate what is around you.

When it was time to feed Delhi, it was never just a quick visit. She received foot soaks twice daily, lasting close to an hour, helping to soothe her achy feet. During those times she would eat, drink, bathe, have any bugs swatted away, and get her back scratched with a rake; all with much laughter and many touches that brought her delight. Each of the Girls is different, and Delhi was one who happened to revel in human contact, affection, and any form of pampering. Her extended caregiver time was necessary for her well-being. So that time was wonderfully special for all involved.

Because of the extra time spent with Delhi during the first two feedings, she expected more than a quick visit at the last feeding. So, under the moonlight in the south yard in the open field, Delhi would calmly wait for her nightly visit. It became a time to reflect on things, appreciate the total beauty of this space and place, the complexities and all of the things (the good and the not so perfect) that made each Girl who she was. All of these reflections create the wonder of being a part of their lives and journeys.

Delhi's presence brought a serenity and strength that put everything into perspective. After 50 years of being in chains and often neglected, she was still able to forgive. Considering the physical discomfort she would sometimes feel, she still managed to live joyously at the Sanctuary. Just her "being" seemed to put everything else in check. A playfully stubborn grandma who had lived through so much—making her strong as well as wise and loving. Delhi was an utter joy to be around for both caregivers and elephants alike. We are thankful that she has left us her moon to remember her by.