November 29, 2010

Recently we were graced with several nights of lows in the upper 50s, which allows the girls to sleep outside if they so choose. For caregivers at the New Asian barn, the second morning upon coming in, Sissy and Winkie were in the barn to greet them. They had access outside, and the small amount of dung inside let us know that they hadn't been in all night.

Tarra was in the field just outside the barn "err err erring" away, making sure everyone knew where she was. She and Bella decided they were just fine where they were for their meal. Sis and Winks stayed inside for their breakfast.

Next to feed was Shirley, who had leisurely walked to Deep Valley Meadow the day before. This meadow is a distance away, usually further than the Girls go during the colder weather, but that was where she decided she wanted to be... so that is where she spent the night. As the four-wheeler came around the curve, there was Shirley, covered head to toe in a thick layer of mud and beaming with a smile on her face, squinting and silly. She spent the night doing what she loves, napping in a big meadow, grazing, and coating herself in thick red clay. Her contentment was unmistakable.

Being at the Sanctuary every day, it is impossible not to realize the specialness of this place, but there are some days when the Girls make sure you feel it more deeply in your heart. That utter peace and happiness is what is embodied here. Providing space of course, but more importantly, the healing that all of these elephants have to go through—finding out who they are, and learning what it means to be a true nurturing member of the herd (even if you need to learn some of it from a dog).

All of this must happen on their own time. Some open up almost immediately and heal more quickly, while others take longer to find the confidence to even begin the process. For many of the Girls, there are struggles along the way, and some definitely have to try harder than others. However, when seeing those moments of inner peace, one can't help but admire their strength and embrace their process.

It may seem that we are always talking about the weather, but it plays such an important part in the cycle of life at the Sanctuary. We have been so lucky to have such pleasant days this late in the year. You can tell that everything in our little bio-bubble is responding to it as little flowers continue to bloom and the insects are still abundant. We know that cold weather is on the way—making days like these all the more enjoyable.

In Africa, Tange has been spending almost all of her free time grazing out in her "savannah." It's not quite clear what she is eating, but it must be good because she keeps going back for more. It is so nice to see these elephants in the open habitat doing something that they would naturally do in the wild.

One afternoon, Flora and Tange were out in the western plains and spent a couple of hours charging one another and trunk wrestling. Ears and tail out, Tange spun around in a circle, did a yoga "downward dog," and faced Flora, who kicked her back leg out in the air. Tange spun again with ears out, and backed up to Flora for some more action. Flora then kneeled down and let Tange stand over her, their trunks moving up, then down and flopping back over their heads. With their trunks entangled, caressing one another's ears, eyes, and mouths, they spoke a language only the elephants know.


Tange and Flora