Saturday, May 20, 2006

An Elephant Pause - Thinking out loud thread

The bones have been there for a long time, likely 2 years or more, cleansed now in the contributive way nature does these things. Bleached by the sun, they lay harmless and mute, meriting no more than a glance - if that - from the creatures she once shared this space with, as they pass by intent on the living and having no more use for this carcass of the dead. Or so it seems.

They are still a ways distant, moving slowly and ponderously due to their weight, and the lack of anywhere else to be at this time except where they are. The old bones could be quite easily avoided, by choosing a route less than a hundred yards to the right or the left - not much, in a migration that has already covered hundreds or thousands of miles - except it seems for this stately procession the bones are not a detour, but a destination.

The matriarchs arrive first, their enormous feet stepping gently as they arrange themselves around the bones, maneuvering their mammoth forms in a way that should be clumsy, but is not. The head matriarch makes the first move - the tip of her trunk gracefully moving back and forth before settling in to softly caress the shape of the head, follow the line of a tusk, pat a ribcage. The others perform their own rituals of touching, scenting, before one by one they move aside, their places taken by the aunts, uncles, pushing forward the little ones who were born following the past closing of the circle and so are meeting whoever inhabited the old bones, for the first time.

Finally, the last ones finish their touching and then turn away, moving into the end of the already moving line of forms. They will again range hundreds, maybe thousands of miles, seeking food and sustenance - and perhaps again pausing from time to time to... what? Mourn for those who were unable to make it? Seeking strength or wisdom from an ancestor? Remember times past? Or maybe just to smell old bones. I don't know.

I've been fascinated by the idea of the elephant pause since I first heard of it. I have no idea what they are doing, or why, so until they can tell me, I put my own interpretation on it, and, while I love the story, for me it's never just about elephants. It's about pausing, in whatever way suits one best, perhaps to consider where one has been, and what lies ahead (although that can't be known). Sometimes it's about thoughts that bring joy, little incidents that produce an involuntary smile at the memory of them.

Maybe it's about who walks with you, or who you instead walk with. Destinations, detours, circles - what is worth meeting in the middle and who gets to decide what you do there? Is the destination the same, or is what may be your main pathway just someone's detour?

Or maybe it is just about old bones.

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