Lessons on being in the moment from my elephant friend
We talk about the elephant in the room. Things that are there that no one is talking about.
That may be for another post.
This post is about the elephant in my heart.
I observe the elephants at our local zoo as part of the Behavior Observation Team. I have been doing this for at least 9 years. I spend two hour shifts simply watching them, recording their behaviors, being with them.
I have had much on my mind and in my heart lately, as have we all. Today is the anniversary of 9–11. A day that we can never forget. And Queen Elizabeth died this week. The end of an era, the end of this constant presence for my entire life. A presence of quiet calm and grace. Another piece of the world that I grew up in gone. Gone.
The news full of stories of war, crime, shootings, sadness, climate change, and more things than my heart feels like it can possibly hold at once. I find that I need to stop listening to it all after a period of time. It’s too much. Too much.
I remember all my own losses as the anniversaries of them come up. Family, friends, pets, my own youth. Also more pain at times than I feel that my heart can possibly hold. Each new loss brings up memories of all the others.
Yesterday, my usual day at the zoo, I got to watch our male elephant. A young male who I absolutely love. I watch him as he goes about his life. And for those several hours, I am simply being with him. Right then and there. In that precious moment of time that we share together.
It’s been really hot lately. The elephants have a pool, and this young male decided to make full use of that yesterday. He walked in and began to splash and play and frolic. I got to observe pure joy in the moment. The guests that were lucky enough to be there in that moment were as mesmerized and delighted as I. To watch him simply take pure delight in the water, playing, submerging himself, splashing, carrying a small tire (a toy of sorts ) and playing with that in the water. Smiles and awe and delight were all around as we watched and played along with him in our hearts.
The zookeepers came out and had some treats. It’s not hard to see who has trained whom, as he knows how to request those treats in the most endearing way. If you’ve ever had a pet look at you with that look of “please?” and found that you could not resist, you can imagine what having a 13,500 pound elephant looking at you with that same look can do to your heart. There were treats galore.
Then back into the pool he went for more splashing and play. Play and delight simply for its own purpose. Pure simple beautiful joy in living life at that moment.
This is one of my lessons from him. To be here, now, in the pool of life. Splashing and submerging and playing when I can. Remembering the joy of pure pleasure. Letting my heart hold that for a moment and set aside the pain and sadness and grief that is also part of life. Grief that is also necessary, I believe, to fully appreciate the moments of joy.
And I realize, that though my heart feels so very heavy at times with things that feel hard to contain and hold there, I now have an elephant in there. And, I have found, that if my heart is big enough to hold an elephant inside of it, it can hold it all. This heart can hold it all. This heart can feel it all.