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Meditations on the Massive

In a world where (almost) everything is instant – instant news, instant noodles, Instagram – to watch and enjoy life at its own unhurried pace is almost novelty, but that’s really what safari and being in the bush is all about. However, when camp is busy, there’s always something to be doing, to be done and the slow time can be forgotten. Sometimes, though, a pause can be unexpectedly enforced when an elephant browses the trees close to the walkway in camp. Yes, there may be admin waiting in the office, emails to answer, guests to be met or photographs to edit, but when confronted with the sheer alien magnitude and majesty of the elephant, that frenetic internal running commentary of to do list, errant satellite thoughts, memories and mind static is suddenly muted.

You can’t go anywhere, can’t hurry past. You have to wait. Listen to the low grumbles and gurgles of the ever operational digestive system, the sigh of success as the stretched trunk delicately, elegantly, detaches leaves or a particular pod. Appreciate the Maybelline curl of eyelashes framing a knowing eye half shut. Feel through the soles of your shoes the rasp as leathern trunk caterpillars its way across the planking not 10 feet away.

Transfixed by that eye, swirled with ochre and gold, a witness to a world forgotten by humankind in its rush for progress and opportunity, it’s no longer waiting, it’s simply being. It’s a moment of meditation in this sublimely mind-opening animal, embodying a size impossible to reconcile with normal scales of measurement. Just as the human brain cannot fathom the enormity of the universe, so too does it struggle with the elephant. There’s just so much to consider. Mental contortions slow and the thrill of the bush settles among an orchestra of light and shade. The elephant, supreme in his unconcern, his unhurry and perfect syncopation, will eventually amble slightly further off, graciously allowing you to continue in your comings and goings, but perhaps somewhat calmer, slowed by the sense of an infinite in the elephant.

Words and Image by Tara Vivian-Neal