I am very lucky to be able to volunteer at our local zoo I am on the Behavior Observation Team….We track behaviors to make sure the animals are doing well and if there is anything unusual or different going on that needs to be attended to. I observe the elephants. These big, beautiful, sacred creatures. We have three elephants at our zoo – we had four but sadly one of them died over a year ago. We all feel the grief still. So we have two females and one male. I get to observe them all, depending on which elephants are on the exhibit at the time . Our male can sometimes, in his youthful exuberance, be frightening or annoying to the females – so they are on the exhibit at different times.. But they can touch each other and interact across at the fence, which is lovely to behold. Elephants can greet each other by putting their trunk in each other’s mouth as a way of saying hello. I feel in awe of these animals. They have a majestic quality to them, and we can learn much from them. They are huge and wrinkled and saggy – and yet are loved by so many who come to see them and call them beautiful and amazing. They are themselves, and do not pretend to be anything that they are not. They eat, play, sleep, rest, and do whatever they are called to do at the moment. With no apologies needed. And we are mesmerized by them. My shift is for two hours, and it goes by so quickly. I am amazed at how the average time spent at each exhibit by guests is two minutes. Two minutes. I feel that I am only beginning to know them and I have been doing this for about 7 years now.
I show up for my shift…in whatever state that I may be in at the moment. As of late, my mood has been one of sadness and grief about several losses that I have had….and also about a sick kitty (an older kitty who I adopted in January after her owner died) I had lost my two 17 year old kitties recently, so I thought we could grieve together and offer each other some comfort. I don’t know if she will recover from this. I may face yet another loss. She also teaches me about resiliency, the spirit to live, the drive to survive. And how unique each of us is. She cannot be like my previous kitties. I cannot be like her previous owner.
And I start my shift at the zoo….watching, observing,, recording. I soon become lost in their world. The present moment and what is in front of them, and me, right now. All else fades for a bit, and we are in a meditation together. I like to think that they now know me and recognize me……who knows? For moments, I forget all else except being with them in their world. I feel blessed to be so honored as to witness a life being lived moment by moment…with beings that share this earth with us….that we, as humans, have abused (killing them for their ivory tusks.. …training them to do silly tricks for a circus (thank God, no longer)…riding them and training them to be ridden …most of the time the training is not kind). And yet….they go on. They go on and live their lives. They carry on. Majestically. Sacredly, Beautifully, I have come to love them deeply. How can you not fall in love with someone you observe for hours and hours?
I am humbled by them. Maybe I can learn to love myself ….saggy, wrinkled, and less than what our society deems as perfect. Maybe I can let go of some of my worries for a while and simply be. Maybe I can just breathe and live and claim my space on this earth. No more, no less. Maybe, just maybe, I can be myself. And that can be enough……Maybe…..