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Thursday, April 9, 2009

elephant dreams

Driving into the setting sun - molten gold spilling onto the warm tarmac. Elephant shapes moving steadily, rhythmically through the liquid light make shimmering silhouettes. The giant dome of the evening sky blooms with cumulus clouds tinted rose and silver. The last rays of sunlight slant through trees bent by aeons of elephants on their way to the Chobe River.

We arrive at Ngoma - the border between Botswana and Caprivi Strip. Floodwaters from Angola have filled the floodplains, catching the evening light and reflecting bright silver behind dark tree shapes.

The sun is gone. In the blink of an eye it is dark. Deep velvet darkness lit only by starlight. A scops owl chirps his rhythmic call and crickets fill in the background sound. The stage is set - let the night begin. Enter left a thirsty buffalo bull heading down the well worn path to water. In the distance an elephant screams and growls - unearthly sounds that leave a vaccuum when they stop. The ensuing silence brings its own tension and we listen for lion, or leopard - the super predators that own the night.

We hunker down in the comfort of our canvas walled hut, pulling up the blankets against the early winter chill. Night air moves freely over our faces through the large gauze windows that keep the insect mayhem at bay. We drift gently away to sleep.

Hours later - I am awake. The moon is up. Though sliced in half it is already as bright as day without the colour. Branches snap and break all around us. Elephants are feeding here. The sound of soft footfalls, and thorn brush scaping leathery hide tell me they are very close, but among the broken shadows of the monochrome landscape and behind the bushes, they are almost invisible. I can hear the wetness of their mouths chewing, but I cannot see them.

The munching and crunching sounds intensify and soon we are surrounded by a breeding herd of elephants. Trunks curl into the moonlight stripping the branches of leaves. Droppings fall softly, wetly, steaming in giant piles that look like fresh bran muffins. 

Elephant flatulence fills the air. The sound of it - the miasma that follows the sound. Elephant smells replace the soft fragrant night air that washes over us. So this is how it feels to be in the middle of the herd.

There is a throaty rumble from the matriarch that calls the herd, and one by one they drift off down the ravine, and we drift off to sleep again.

Dawn light steals in quietly layering colours on the landscape again. A francolin calls loudly near my ear and the distant sound of ground hornbills heralds the new day.




19 comments:

Lori ann said...

Oh dear lord you are a magician with words Val. I am just now starting to breathe again.

gorgeous.

lakeviewer said...

Yes. We are there with you, with all our senses ready, smelling, seeing, hearing, feeling and attempting to sleep with all the life around us. What a description!

I too think you're a magician with words. Thank you.

Janet said...

Gawd - I was right there!!! I'm sure I heard them here in my lounge.

Fab post Val
x

karen said...

Lovely, Val... it was marvellous to see you up here in the land of floods.. isn't that evening light on the floodplains just magical?

Angela said...

I will read this a couple times, Val! How wonderful! And when you mentioned the elephant dung smell - I had it right in my nostrils! Your words are drawing us into the picture, and as you said, we were right in the middle of the elephant herd. I still have goose bumps!

Catharine Withenay said...

Thank you - this was beautifully written and, like your other readers, I was right there, in the middle of the herd with you. The great, lumbering creatures filling all the senses, their lives lived irrespective of their human companions.

Beautiful. Thank you once again.

Fire Byrd said...

This is just such powerful poetry. I read it earlier and couldn't find the words, but re-reading it now it just cascades around my senses so that I am there.
Beautiful words and an amazing, if potentially dangerous, experience.
xx

Kristin said...

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. Sigh.

Debby said...

Thank you....yet again.

Val said...

thanks everyone - i am so glad you like this! am overwhelmed by your kind words :-)
Lori - i cant wait to hear your AFrican stories from your trip
Lakeviewer - thanks so much
Janet - hehe you can tell if they were there by the steaming piles of muffins..
and the footprints in the butter..
Karen - yes real magic in that view x
Angela - always glad to have you with me :-)
Catherine - thanks - eles are amazing creatures
Fire Byrd - it didnt feel dangerous at all - quite relaxing actually to listen to the sounds around us
hi Kristin and Debby - and thanks for your comments.
always love reading all your comments and really appreciate the encouragement!
happy easter all
love V

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Your words dance a samba which is punctuated by the photo at the end. Beautiful.

Rob Inukshuk said...

A brilliantly told tale of a night in the bush. Well done. You are a true Wordsmith!

Janelle said...

ah SO GLAD you're up and back babe! BEAUTIFUL writing. just back from west kili which was elephant inundated! will post later about it. it was AWESOME! lots love and happy to be reading you again. roger over and outtt! lots love x j

Reya Mellicker said...

This is incredible! I felt like I was there with you. I could even imagine elephant farts! Wow. Thank you so much for this.

Do those elephants "talk" to you?

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I echo what Lori says - you truly have a magical way with words.

Love your title - I just posted a pic to my flickr account called Elephant Dreams - a slightly photoshopped ellie pic :-)

True Blue Texan said...

Oh my, that was amazing! You are so talented.

Val said...

Thanks all for the very kind comments - so pleased you enjoyed my elephant dreams :-)

Janelle its good to be back in blogland - was awfully cold out there...

Reya - in a way - there's a lot of body language stuff, and you can talk to them too; they do ultra sonic comms and there was a group looking into the healing effects of elephants sounds, rumbles not screams! it certainly is very calming to listen to them peacefully feeding and interacting.

Vxx

itdawnedonme said...

Just beautiful! Thank you!

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