August - the season of winds. Winds of change blow through our world heralding a change of seasons. First the winds are icy cold telling us of snow on a mountain top somewhere. Then the winds are warm, gusty, like the first days of summer. As if the gods of wind are trying on shoes, they go back to the icy winds again. They try those on for a day or two, then decide no - those are so last season. Lets try summer. Oh the agonies of indecision.
In the meantime. the grasses are drying, and waterholes recede revealing cracked crevices of thick glutinous mud. As the bones of the earth are laid bare by winds, so the bones of the animals start to show beneath dusty hides. We are not meant to see the rib cages of elephants - but there they are, showing a line of shadow ridges as the herd pauses to soak up the wintery sun.
The elephants are passive, intent on eating yellow grass - a bulk diet of roughage. They conserve their energy and stay focussed on their immediate needs. There should be a young calf by every female elephants side, instead we are seeing one young calf per breeding herd. These elephants are struggling - traveling many miles for food and water. Predators are taking their toll. The day seems benign - sunny and bright - yet we are looking at creatures at their limit on the cusp of the season.
At the elephant beach at midday, we watch the big bull elephants arrive. Sonic rumbles of greetings reverberate through our own skin and bone. Its the deepest sound. More elephants morph out of the grey scrub bushes around the lagoon. The water reflects a bright hard tanzanite blue. The elephants walk into the water no deeper than their ankles. They are careful not to disturb the shallows, reaching further in with long extended trunks.
The air is icy cold and elephants stand like statues in a sculpture garden, showing their broadsides to the sun - soaking up as much warmth as they can before the afternoon begins to cool. There is no splashing about on such a day. Even the tiny calves content with playing in mud and dust. No-one wants to be caught soaking wet without a towel as night falls.
Elephants stand all around our view, reflecting in water, morphing into the tree line,
conserving energy, maximising heat, rehydrating, living with intent. Before the shadows lengthen, there is a sign that we humans cannot hear, and the herds begin a slow move back into the treeline. Everyone heeds the sign. In minutes the herds are gone from sight. Silently they are moving into the forest. The beach is deserted again, with only the carpet of footprints and droppings steaming in the afternoon view.