i can’t stop thinking about that elephant. in the story pieced together thru video and rumor and spirit, the elephant’s babies were poached, and there was a woman who threw stones at the elephant mother to keep her from saving her children. so the elephant waited and found this woman at a watering hole, trampled her to death, rolled with a crew to her funeral and swung her corpse out of the casket to trample her again, and then they went and destroyed her house.
i went researching because the story is so tender to me. those who check facts say that so far it could be true, though no one is clear on how to verify that it was the same elephant, that it was specific targeting.
elephants and humans have a tension in india, rooted in competing needs over the land that has been the elephants’ territory.
the story is working like a prism in my mind, i tilt it gently and see so much humanity in it, so many parents broken hearted at losing their babies to violence, so many people enraged at their ongoing displacement, so many people ready to say ‘no more.’
but then i spin this prism and see the whole earth trying to communicate to us, the humans, that we are not the only ones who feel and think and deserve to live and love our babies and strategize for survival.
if the story is true, it connects to the parts of us that protect those we love and flood with vengeance when they are harmed – we can touch an anthropomorphic empathy.
if its not true that this woman and this elephant had history, what remains true is that humans are encroaching on a shared world as if our needs are always the priority. it makes every kind of sense to me that, if we don’t swiftly adapt to be co-occupants of this generous planet, we will not only face the challenges of increasing climate catastrophe, already dire…we will also invite the wrath of everything else that can feel.
any sentient heart, broken repeatedly, can become a sharp edge.
i also keep thinking of this story as an epic tale of spiritual battle. the elephant is a goddess of the entire nonhuman earth, protecting its future. the woman is a complicit player in acts of egregious and selfish violence, not the leader, just someone who throws rocks because thats what humans do. she represents the majority of humans, going along with human-centric behavior that has devastating effects. the elephant is her death and our warning.
is the elephant/spirit wise enough to understand that it has to be dramatic and documented, to be viral, to be heard?
are we able to receive the warning at the level of spirit – that there is nothing funny here, only grief and rage and power and message?
or am i projecting all my own climate grief and rage onto this wild creature, whose motives are actually mysterious to me? am i again trying to spread human life into every space, even that of empathy and imagination and the motivations of elephants?
i don’t know.
but i know that the elephant story in this moment, in the wake of uvalde, in the emotional waters preceding juneteenth, during pride, in the hot and cold flash climate catastrophe season we are still calling summer, it feels important. it feels like we should all think about it.
are we the woman? the elephant? the earth beneath, receiving her blood and her force? the funeral guests running away in panic? could we be the force trying to stop the constant harm in every direction? or is there no us here, simply an obsessed observer, projecting her heart out, 8,500 miles away?