Archive for July, 2006

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July 27, 2006

Elephants

I wrote this shortly after returning from Africa in 1999.

It was hot and dusty. The wave of heat blasted me as I stepped from the car. The air conditioning was deceptive. It made the African plains seems almost hospitable. But as I walked from the car to the edge of the small hill the sun beat down on me sapping my strength. I peered into the heat haze that blanketed the entire area. My uncle was positive we would see the elephants here. He was a man on a mission. He would find the bachelor group and I would see them. I felt the sweat break out on my forehead. As I raised my small pair of binoculars to my face my uncle grabbed my arm and turned me to the west. “There”, he said, “right by the water hole.”
The four elephants were indeed by the water hole, three good sized males and a huge male with a straight tusk. I was dumbfounded. We were miles away from them and they looked huge. As they wandered around the vicinity of the water stopping to drink or to blow dust on themselves I was struck by how graceful they were. These were massive six ton animals, the largest land animal. Yet with the grace that most ballerinas lack they eased their massive bodies around. They looked so serene I didn’t want to go closer to see them. I wanted to let them be. But my uncle piled us into the car and we drove with breakneck speed down the hill. We passed all kinds of wildlife on either side of us, monkeys, buck, and birds. But we wanted to see the elephants.
We came upon the watering hole and the bachelors eyed us with weary acceptance and then proceeded to ignore us. The largest male was just standing there, his trunk draped over his one long straight tusk. He eyed the other males. The other males moved about aimlessly. The smallest went for a drink. He eased himself onto his knees and extended his trunk to the water. I swear I could see the water level go down as he drank. He then removed his trunk for the water and placed it in his mouth. Most of it ended up on the ground at his feet in puddles that quickly seeped back into the parched soil. He small male then tried to get back on his feet again. A bit of the magic of the beast was destroyed then. He was so clumsy. He looked in our direction embarrassingly as if to say sorry for spoiling our image of elephants. As he hobbled up the other elephants came towards him. They sidled alongside and began to rub against him. The largest male stood in front of him and they began a pushing match. The match was over very quickly as the small male capitulated. The big males then stood in a circle in front of the watering hole as if guarding it.

It was then that the warthog family came by. My Uncle had turned the car off and was snapping pictures furiously. The grunting and snorting caught our attention. We turned our gaze and a mother with her three piglets passed ten feet in front of the car. They made their way to watering hole and passed right between the male elephants to gain access to the water. The males did their best to ignore them.

Then another car pulled up behind us, and the magic was broken. Before it was a private show, just the elephants and us, sharing an African afternoon. Now it was a zoo. People were staring and the fences that were a mile to the north revealed themselves for what they were, a really large cage. I loved seeing those elephants but a sharp tinge of guilt went through me when I realize that we nearly killed them off and to save them we have to put them in jail. Maybe their graceful movements were not borne out of peace but out of resignation over their life sentence for crimes they did not commit.

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July 18, 2006

Suffering in Self Imposed Exile

Wrote this one while camping in White Lake Ontario in September…

The one thing that has always annoyed me about the mornings is that it is light; lighter than dark I mean. At least the dark hides most of the things I don’t want to see. The other thing is that it is always colder than when I went to bed. Not quite sure what the deal is there. Mostly the thing about mornings that I hate is that I am not sleeping. Sleeping has become a commodity to be traded like gold and wheat. Maybe I should set up a sleep trading board. You know, take sleep from people who don’t need it, people who are unemployed or retired and sell it to people who need it, high powered CEO’s and people like myself who insist on going to be hours after the sun has gone down but insist on waking up with it. Now I say insist but really it is my body that is insisting. My brain would much rather be sleeping ‘til noon but the old bod says with a blink of the eyes, you’re up, might as well get going.

Today I think I’ll start by shivering uncontrollably. Even though it is the same temperature as it was five minutes ago when I was sleeping comfortably, I am now freezing. Haven’t quite figured that one out either. I think it must be that my brain is occupied with dreams and not actually processing my temperature sensors. My new thought is to occupy my brain so I won’t feel the cold. I figure making breakfast is a good way to occupy my mind but I am distracted by the fact that I CAN’T MOVE MY HANDS

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July 13, 2006

Mornings like this make you want to fill your lungs with air. Back when I was “Lupus Solitarum” (Lone Wolf for all you non-Latin types) I would crave days like these. It rained all day yesterday; hard rain, big rain, cold rain. It washed the earth clean. The roads are clean, the trees are green even the road signs are glowing.

When I was riding the rain never really bugged me. It did make me tired though. I had to be careful with a fully (read over) laden motorcycle. I had been caught out a few times when the heavy back end wanted to swap places with the front. So you really have to look ahead, plan the route, watch for cars, deer, potholes.
But I always knew that when the rain stopped and the sun came out it would be a great day.

I would get up early, five am and be out of the campsite an hour later. The next few hours, until the sun made the earth a sauna, were golden. I loved the mist that hung in the forests and the dripping of the rain from the leaves. I especially loved it when the wind stirred the leaves and a little rain shower would descend to the earth. Like my own private rain storm.

The trees and grass would be washed clean and stretching their limbs and blades to the sky. They would be so green it would hurt your eyes. The road was still damp with two dry lines running in each lane. The birds would be out singing their hearts out. These were the mornings to live for.

I would not even hear the bike or the tires on the asphalt. It would be like floating four feet from the ground the world rushing by in a mad green blur. There was always so much oxygen in the air you felt drugged by it. Every flower was infusing the air with it’s sent, a wild cacophony of perfume.

Today was like that, driving into work in my little, old car. But it was not the same. It was like belong reminded of a really great dream that you woke up from. I could remember every detail so clearly but knowing that it was not here, was not now. Boxed in my vehicle, bound by the clock, I knew the moment would not last the morning, just the 12.3 kilometers to the parking lot.

Am I glad I took those journeys, had those adventures? Yes. Am I resentful of my life and what it has become? No. But I do miss the morning when you want to fill your lungs with air and float along a ribbon of asphalt till the sun turned the Earth into a sauna, that’s all.

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July 12, 2006

I wrote this in 1998 while stranded in New Mexico…..

Cigarette Paper

As it moves across the horizon it spews a beige cloud behind it. Unlike a passing storm, this cloud hangs in the air, lying still on the separation of earth and sky. It’s like a wedge trying to force them apart. In the heat haze it shimmers, trying to wriggle them apart. It’s a mile away but I can taste the fine silt on my tongue. It sticks, clings and makes mud in my mouth. The truck continues on the road creating and spewing out its wedge of dirt. The road travels on for miles, if it goes on long enough will it split the heavens from the earth? I hope so. Any relief from this place would make me a happy man.

The cloud on the horizon is the only cloud in sight. No rain, water or even mist can penetrate this ceaselessly arid place. It hangs, that cloud, the dirt, so pounded smashed, tilled, shoveled, graded so small it’s lighter than the air, it floats. No puff of breeze to wash that cloud away. Even the horizon is a victim of this place.

If you separate the foil from the paper backing from a pack of cigarettes and fold it just so, then light it, it flies away burning itself as it goes. It rises ever higher eating, consuming its own body to do so until there is just black flakes rising, separating, disintegrating. I wish this place would rise, separate and disintegrate. Heaven knows it’s thin enough. There is all kinds of heat to make it rise. I just need to separate the paper from the foil. Wishing for that cloud of dust to separate the earth from the sky so I can fold it up, light it up, and burn it into oblivion, just so I don’t have to be here anymore.

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July 11, 2006

Y’know, of all the things I have done in my life (supid and otherwise). I would rather be a dad than anything else.
I find this strange as its very hard work and at times disgusting and menial. But it is also the most rewarding. I’d rather have a hug from my daughter than race a car.
That’s it. I’ll post more later.