Today is National Elephant Appreciation Day. The day was started in 1996 mainly because Wayne Hepburn—owner of Mission Media—was really, really, really fascinated by elephants. Makes sense to me! I have always loved elephants. One great day years ago, I was even able to take a walk with Nellie—a movie and television performer—out in the hills near Lancaster.
I’ve written about elephants several times in the past. They truly are magnificent. Large, of course, but also intelligent, curious, and creative. They live in a matriarchal society and are very communicative, demonstrating actions that show caring, supportive, nurturing behavior towards one another.
These two relatively short videos (about 20 and almost 10 minutes) share some fascinating details about elephants, showing them in action in the wild.
As a society, we would do well to take much better care of them than we do. I am in total agreement with Peter Matthiessen: “Of all the African animals, the elephant is the most difficult for man to live with, yet its passing—if this must come—seems the most tragic of all. I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, an ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.”
You can also read about them—as there are lots of books out there about elephants in all their glory. I always suggest reading some books about elephants to kids. Two great options are Rudyard Kipling’s The Elephants Child or Graeme Base’s Little Elephants.
A good recommendation for adults is Vicki Constantine Croke’s Elephant Company. It tells the story of how elephants helped save lives during World War II. As Sara Gruen, in the New York Times Book Review, explains: “I have to confess—my love of elephants made me apprehensive to review a book about their role in World War II. But as soon as I began to read Elephant Company, I realized that not only was my heart safe, but that this book is about far more than just the war, or even elephants. This is a story of friendship, loyalty and breathtaking bravery that transcends species.”
Me? Tonight I am going to watch the classic cartoon movie Dumbo. It is always a delight for young and old. Just have fun doing something fun to celebrate the grandeur, wonder and beauty of elephants.
“Mkhava’s herd is a good-sized group—sixteen in all, counting the calves—and even though they are the largest land mammals on earth, they are not always easy to find. Elephants, it turns out, are surprisingly stealthy.” Thomas French, Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives
“Elephants are quite enough.” Agatha Christie, Elephants Can Remember
“For the herds of wild elephants show no resentment when domesticated animals join them. They have none of the herd instinct directed against the stranger that one finds in cattle, in small boys and among many grown-up men. This tolerance is just one of the things about elephants which makes one realise they are big in more ways than one.” Lt. Col J. H. Williams, Elephant Bill
“Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing.” John Donne
“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except on a picture book?” David Attenborough
“Words are cheap. The biggest thing you can say is ‘elephant.’” Charlie Chaplin
“People are so difficult. Give me an elephant any day.” Mark Shand
“When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.” Abraham Lincoln
“No one in the world needs an elephant tusk but an elephant.” Thomas Schmidt
“If anyone wants to know what elephants are like, they are like people only more so.” Peter Corneille
“We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.” Graydon Carter
NOTE: I know zoos are not the ideal place for animals since they still hold animals in captivity even if the animals are (hopefully) treated humanely. But zoos exist and allow us to see these great animals in action and to help keep the world animal populations growing.
Today is World Elephant Day, so it only makes sense that I would applaud these gentle giants again. They are truly impressive: matriarchal, social, communicative and creative. When I visited the World Elephant Day website, one of its logos said it all: “BECAUSE WITHOUT ELEPHANTS WHAT KIND OF WORLD WOULD THIS BE?”
Of course, my encounters with elephants have not been extensive, mainly from visiting zoos. The first time was when I was little and decided then and there I wanted a baby elephant as a pet. It could live in the basement and backyard. That did not seem unreasonable to me when I was five! I also—many, many years later—was able to interact with an elephant who works in movies. It was an arranged group visit where I was able to give Nellie a bath and join her for a walk through the Lancaster Hills.
I would love to see them in the wild often, relishing in their gentle strength and impressive presence. Of course, living in Bakersfield, California, I do not have many opportunities to go on safari. But I do follow de Wets Wild Blog and savor all of the animal sightings shared there from South Africa. However, its World Elephant Day posting shows elephants in action in all their natural glory. Please go visit this site—and enjoy!
“Elephants love reunions. They recognize one another after years and years of separation and greet each other with wild, boisterous joy. There’s bellowing and trumpeting, ear flapping and rubbing. Trunks entwine.” Jennifer Richard Jacobson
“Of all African animals, the elephant is the most difficult for man to live with, yet its passing – if this must come – seems the most tragic of all. I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange such as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.” Peter Matthiessen
“It seems safe to say that apes know about death, such as that is different from life and permanent. The same may apply to a few other animals, such as elephants, which pick up ivory or bones of a dead herd member, holding the pieces in their trunks and passing them around. Some pachyderms return for years to the spot where a relative died, only to touch and inspect the relics. Do they miss each other? Do they recall how he or she was during life?” Frans de Waal
“But perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that there are no walls between humans and the elephants except those that we put up ourselves, and that until we allow not only elephants, but all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves.” Lawrence Anthony
“Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing.” John Donne
“I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant is faithful one hundred percent.” Dr. Seuss
“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephants except in a picture book?” David Attenborough
“When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.” Abraham Lincoln
Some Opening Comments:I know that not everyone is enamored of zoos. In fact, the very existence and actual operation of zoos is frequently criticized. In many ways, I agree with the complaints. Ideally, wild animals would stay in the wild. But, unfortunately, many animals are now endangered. Habitats are routinely diminished by encroaching farm lands and road construction, and some animals are being plundered by hunters and smugglers. Some preservation efforts are underway, such as creating nature preserves to protect the animals in their native environments, but there are no guarantees about their success. I would love to be able to visit such places to see animals in the wild, but such travel is not likely for me (and many others)*.
Thus zoos have become a way to showcase wild animals while also learning about them in order to help preserve those at the zoo as well as in the wild. Unfortunately, over the years, not all zoos have been run as humanely as they should be. I remember once years and years ago visiting a zoo where the big cats were confined in small indoor cages, where all they could do was pace—it was a sad disheartening experience. Many complain that the lack of space and natural habitats available via zoos is unfair to the animals, so limiting in fact that reproduction is not even possible. This latter complaint is especially raised regarding elephants. Other complaints look to the mistreatment of the animals behind closed doors when they are not in front of the crowds, whether having to perform or not. These concerns are compounded when “zoos” are small or privately owned, where the animals are often seen as being exploited to simply make a buck.
Fortunately, more and more zoos are providing open spaces and natural habitats as the norm when animal exhibits are being constructed. And more and more organizations and individuals are committed to monitoring and improving the overall living conditions for the animals. These public zoological gardens and aquariums have been in existence since roughly 1870. In 2013, there were 223 North American zoos accredited through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. As Betty White explains in her book Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo (2011), “Increasingly, the good zoos find themselves taking on the role of ‘protectors’—or better yet ‘conservers’—rather than merely ‘collectors’ of wildlife.”
Given this broader context, even though I understand the problems associated with the confinement and treatment of animals, I share Betty White’s appreciation for “the positive changes that have taken place in the whole zoo community over the past few decades, and the critical role they play today in perpetuating endangered species.”
A DAY AT THE ZOO
Even though I understand the problems and controversy surrounding the operation of zoos, I love visiting them. A day at the zoo is always great, even in the rain. Over the years, I have spent many fun days with my dad wandering various zoos to capture pictures of the animals or visiting special exhibits with family and friends.
Some exhibits stand out: I visited the Panda Exhibit at the San Diego Zoo and saw Ruby, the painting elephant, at the Phoenix Zoo. Although it closed in 1987 (bought by Sea World), Marineland of the Pacific on Palos Verdes Peninsula, California, was a great place to get up close and personal with sea life. A visit to Wolf Haven International in Tenino, Washington, provided some glimpses of wolves but also included evening stories around a campfire culminating with some howling from the wolves on site. Terrific!
For years I was a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aviary there lets visitors see shore birds up close. But you can also interact with starfish and sting rays and catch some great views of sea otters, both in an indoor exhibit as well as outside in the bay. One year (1992) there was a great jellyfish exhibit too, and another year Dad and I enjoyed a catered outing to see local wildflowers. I love the Monterey Bay Aquarium!
Exhibit Program Cover
Over the years, I also have fond memories of the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in Texas. There, animals were viewed from the car as we drove through the park—and even fed some animals—llamas, zebras and ostriches—through the car windows. I especially liked seeing the Rhea and its baby following behind and the start of a Crested Crane’s courtship dance.
For about ten years, I worked at Moorpark College, a mid-sized two-year college within the California Community College System. It is the only community college in the country that offers an onsite teaching zoo**, where students learn to care for and train animals in preparation for jobs at zoos and preserves as well as in the entertainment and conservation industries. The Exotic Animal Training and Management Program (EATM)—affectionately dubbed America’s Teaching Zoo—operates an on-campus zoo that covers more than 9 acres. An elephant would occasionally visit the campus, but one never lived permanently as the zoo. There were plenty of other animals, however, from birds of prey to sea lions and from wolves to tigers.
A documentary was made, showing the hard work and dedication involved with participating in this impressive program. This unique EATM program offered many challenges and surprises for everyone on campus. For example, Moorpark College was undoubtedly the only campus where the President would be called by a community member and asked to keep the students from walking the Water Buffalo in the neighborhood park. Or where the sun rose to the bellowing whoo-whoo-whooping of some very vocal Gibbons. Also, once the aged lion—a long-time mascot for the zoo—died, a new lion cub was donated from a sanctioned breeding program. It was great getting to welcome this new little guy to campus!
LET’S TAKE A WALK & VISIT SOME OF THE ANIMALS AT THE ZOO
Special exhibits and specific memories are great. Technology even makes it possible to view some animal exhibits without ever leaving home. For example, some days I watch the Elephant Cam from the San Diego Zoo and see elephants in real time, including the two youngest–both under 4 years old. But the best days at the zoo are still ordinary typical days, when you can wander leisurely from exhibit to exhibit, seeing a wide range of animals.
Each day will be a bit different from the next depending on what zoo you are visiting, what special exhibits are open, and even the mood of you and the animals. But if you pause to really watch a minute, to try to communicate and understand, to appreciate what you see, any walk through the zoo is bound to be a glorious adventure. Of course, you better make sure you show care and respect to the animals!
If you have not visited a zoo in awhile, take Paul Simon’s advice and see “what’s happening at the zoo”! (Just don’t believe his assessment of elephants.)
What zoos have you visited?
Do you have favorite animals you always visit?
*It would not be the same as seeing animals in the wild, but you can visit a great blog–de Wets Wild–to see photographers of animals in the wilds of South Africa.
**The other college in the States that offers animal management training works with dolphins and such, so it brings the students to the ocean; that campus does not have a zoo on its own campus.
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“The quizzical expression of the monkey at the zoo comes from his wondering whether he is his brother’s keeper or his keeper’s brother.” Evan Esar
“Zoo: An excellent place to study the habits of human beings.” Evan Esar
“I am personally not against keeping animals at zoos, as they serve a huge educational purpose, but treating them well and with respect seems the least we could do, and with ‘we’ I mean not just zoo staff, but most certainly also the public.” Frans de Waal
“Zoo animals are ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.” Jack Hanna
“Zoos are becoming facsimiles—or perhaps caricatures—of how animals once were in their natural habitat. If the right policies toward nature were pursued, we would need no zoos at all.” Michael J. Fox
“It could be said now that all animals live in zoos, whether it is a zoo in Regent’s Park, London or a Nigerian Game Reserve. Perhaps what’s left to argue is only the zoo’s quality.” Peter Greenaway
“All zoos, even the most enlightened, are built upon the idea both beguiling and repellent—the notion that we can seek out the wildness of the world and behold its beauty, but that we must first contain that wildness. Zoos argue that they are fighting for the conservation of the Earth, that they educate the public and provide refuge and support for vanishing species. And they are right. Animal-rights groups argue that zoos traffic in living creatures, exploiting them for financial gain and amusement. And they are right. Caught inside this contradiction are the animals themselves, and the humans charged with their well-being.” Thomas French, Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives
“In zoos, along with the animals, the humanity of man is also prisoned! No cage is humane!” Mehmet Murat ildan “The zoo kills the ‘wild’ in wild animal.” Mokokoma Mokhonoana
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi
If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected.” Chief Seattle, Suwamish Tribe
“Only animals were not expelled from Paradise.” Milan Kundera
“If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first art of abstinence is from injury to animals.” Leo Tolstoy
“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Immanuel Kant
“Man is the only animal who blushes—or needs to.” Mark Twain
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Anatole France
A LITTLE BACKGROUND: World Elephant Day was celebrated on 12 August, a fact I was alerted to by the blog A Frank Angle. I was not aware that such a day had been created last year to bring attention to the plight of elephants worldwide. I also did not realize until recently that back in 1996, Elephant Appreciation Day had been established. Elephant Appreciation Day was created to celebrate these gentle giants because they are Endearing, Loyal, Elegant, Powerful, Heavy, Amusing, Nobel, and Talented. (Yes, that spells ELEPHANT!)
Today, 22 September, is Elephant Appreciation Day. Here is my tribute to these impressive animals that have fascinated me as long as I can remember.
I like elephants.
I mean I really like elephants. That is actually no surprise, especially since I have written about them on my blog before. They are huge and possess such unique attributes as a trunk with what amounts to an opposable thumb and ivory tusks that are making them targets of poachers. They have impressive hearing and communicate in a range of vocalizations, many of which humans cannot even hear without instrumentation. They live in social groups. They are frequently trained to work whether it is moving logs, carrying tourists, or performing at circuses. Their young—who are carried in the womb for about 2 years—are just adorable. It was a baby elephant that I fell in love with when I was five!
But it is more than their physical features that make them so remarkable. Although I understand the scientists caution not to attribute human significance to animal behaviors, elephants do seem to exhibit activities that are endearing. They are smart and regularly problem solve, whether it is how to help a fallen elephant stand up or how to bring food to a baby elephant trapped by a raging river. They babysit for each other’s kids, seem to enjoy playing, and have been recorded crying over pain and loneliness. They make friends with not only other elephants but all sorts of animals including people, grieve over the absence of friends and family, and are excited when reunited after years. They seem to be kind, gentle, nurturing, caring. What’s not to like?
They have even been shown to be artistic. Ruby was an elephant at the Phoenix Zoo who liked to paint, choosing her own colors and often duplicating the color combinations she had witnessed in her world onto the canvas. Her work would be described as more modern or abstract. In Thailand, some elephants paint realistic pictures, marveling crowds and helping to earn an income from these shows to help support themselves. Apparently some complain that the talent exhibited by these elephants is not natural, that the mahouts are training the elephants and prompting them through the creation of the art. So what? I don’t care. The results are still pretty phenomenal as seen in each of the three videos below:
These amazing animals are definitely worthy of an Elephant Appreciation Day! So, what do you think? About elephants, or about other terrific animals who deserve their own days?
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Now, here are a few more videos about elephants that you might enjoy!
Two elephants meeting after being separated after more than 20 years. The part showing their reunion starts at about 3:50.
The other day when reading one of the blogs I am subscribed too, I noticed that the blog’s host was the recipient of three blog awards: The Stylish Blogger, The Versatile Blogger, and The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. The recipient was Deborah @ The Monster in Your Closet—and her wit and careful observation of the world around her, including her delightful little boy, are truly deserving of the awards. You should check out her blog!
These awards are given by bloggers to other bloggers. There are some basic rules. First, each recipient needs to identify the one who bestowed the award on him or her–and share extensive thanks. Second, the blogger receiving the award needs to share seven details not readily known about him or herself. Third, the recipient passes the award along to 15 other bloggers. Fourth, be sure to alert the new award recipients they are winners! Receiving one of the awards is a great honor as well as a chance to champion the bloggers each recipient reads and enjoys on a regular basis. Everyone gets a chance to broaden their interactions.
I am telling you all this, because Deborah named me as one of her recipients of all three awards. I had to reread to be sure I saw correctly. I have not been blogging very long, so this does indeed feel like a great honor. My first thought was thanks and appreciation to Deborah for awarding these honors on my blog. My second thought was really a worry: How can I identify 15 bloggers to pass these awards on to? I do subscribe to a handful of blogs—and I add more every week mostly from reading freshly pressed blogs—but naming 15 quality these-are-great-to-highlight-and-share blogs? I felt overwhelmed. But then I started reviewing all of my subscriptions, noting which ones I especially like to see pop into my email, which ones routinely make me laugh or think or nod in agreement. All of a sudden, finding only 15 did not seem so easy. So I made myself a new criteria—I would nominate from those I had been following for more than three weeks or so.
Rather than giving all three awards to all on my truly-read-and-appreciate list, I have identified at least one person for each award, but most are getting “The Versatile Blogger” Award. The list is given below. Keep in mind that my short synopsis of each site does not do the site justice. You need to see them for yourself, so please follow the links . . . and enjoy. I am not sure if this is following or breaking the rules, but I have named two website/blogs that are not housed at WordPress. The following list is not presented in any special order.
Malinda @ Dendrochronology: Her subtitle is “The rings of life, thought, and action.” Her postings are always honest, perceptive, and provocative as she shares life’s insights about many things, such as blogging, summer schedules or her daughter’s foray into the world of volunteerism. She is also starting to share photos that capture the world around her. Enjoy!
Tricia @ Tricia Booker Photography: Her home page is headed with this great Emerson quote: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” She presents photographs each day—often just one—that captures that quote’s appreciation of life. The first image of hers I saw was a flower, but she also shares views of birds and kids and dogs and horses and many other things. Her work captures the wonder of life. Enjoy!
Lisa @ The Big Sheep Blog: Her subtitle is “Where imagination, business and life collide.” She sees (and shares) humor in life’s irritations and looks for balance, sharing entries on a range of topics from the evolution of bathing suits to shopping mall horrors, from eating fast food to insights on today’s media. She’s a freelance writer who also shares her insights about life in her world. Enjoy!
Phil @ Strange Bird: His subtitle is “Paying attention to every moment . . . right now.” His postings offer a consistent format: a provocative juxtaposition of vivid image, poetry and video that helps his readers see things from a new perspective. His versatility comes from the range of topics he explores from birth to dance to liminality. He always surprises me. . . and makes me think. Enjoy!
Dusty @ Around Dusty Roads: She is “a woman of a certain age” who narrates her travels—near home and afar—with attention to all the details: vistas and tour logistics as well as local flora and fauna. She gives you a chance to be there too. I first started traveling with her when she was visiting Sedona, but now that she is back home she has also explored local area forts and museums. Enjoy!
Susan @ Creative Procrastination:She is a wife and mother who lives in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, VA. She is a great storyteller who writes about writing, nature, country life, and the antics of her Jack Russell Terrier; her posts often culminate in lessons from the homestead. As an added bonus, she is an expert on Dr. Suess and shares some of his quotes periodically. Enjoy!
Lee @ Lee Rentz Photography: As a professional photographer, his postings include terrific photos that document his life and travels. Whether he is on a birding trip, out camping or hiking, visiting a flower show, or capturing the wonders of city life, his artistic eye captures the wonder of his subjects through a focus on color, form, and texture. Enjoy!
Darice @ Grown Up for Real! Her postings share her realizations about career, family, and relationships as she tries to balance the grown-up stuff in her life. She shares wit, wisdom, and keen observations as she provides book referrals, thoughtful quotes, and insights about life. Her postings are often direct and to the point, especially on Wordless Wednesdays and Post-It Note Tuesdays. Enjoy!
Jesse @ Succincity: His subtitle is “Business, Marketing, and How People Work.” Succinct is a great adjective for his ability to clarify and simplify the elements of marketing and business—but his insights are most often applicable to all of life, especially since his main focus is on people. Whether he is talking about culture and honesty or personal breweries and 7-11, he makes me think and appreciate in new ways. Enjoy!
Tim @ Slouching towards Thatcham: His subtitle is “Tales from the front-line of life, fatherhood and the living room sofa.” He offers thoughtful often imaginative comments on varying aspects of fatherhood and society, questioning—for example—who is really disabled and whether little boys should wear pink. He also offers reviews on film, video and TV shows such as “The Apprentice,” “Dr. Who,” and “American Idol.” Enjoy!
Cheryl & Ismail @ Honest Course: The subtitle of this website/blog is “Celebrating honesty and integrity in society, government, and individuals.” This is a relatively new site that is not hosted by WordPress. Much like Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent, this site can seem unassuming, but it is dedicated to truth, justice, and perhaps even the American Way. It’s worth a look. Enjoy!
Emily @ The Heart of the Artist: This is another non-WordPress website/blog that is worth some attention. This site is dedicated to celebrating the creative process and giving glimpses into the artists as well as their work. Some of the artists named on the above list might want to sign up as one of the artists to be showcased. Enjoy!
Jean @ Jean of All Trades: She first caught my eye when she shared photos of the art and fashion she encountered in Santa Fe, NM. Since then, she has been intriguing, sharing fashion shots with flair and passion. But her postings also offer insightful comments on such topics as feminism in the media. Enjoy!
Nana @ Inside NanaBread’s Head:Her subtitle explains that her blog is a lot like her junk drawers, full of “tidbits, trash, and treasures.” Her friendly, cheerful postings comment on many aspects of life, including family, crafts, and travel, but she also willingly shares recipes and photos that make you think you can create these dishes as well. Her recipes range from oatmeal cookies and tart cherry dark chocolate bark to smoky baby back ribs. Enjoy!
Natalie @ While I Breathe, I Hope: Her open, honest, witty postings share insights about her life and family in Pittsburgh—and that family includes a great Great Dane. On top of that, she makes cooking look easy as she shares recipes and photos that literally make you hungry. Enjoy!
Now comes the really hard part: Sharing seven details about myself that most people probably don’t know. As you can see, I have added my own qualifiers so I can stop worrying if I mentioned some aspect of these details already somewhere on my blog. I suppose one of my items could be that I do not always remember everything I write, but I do tend to remember what I read!
Here are the details:
When I was little, maybe 4 or 5, I flew with an older cousin in a small two-seater plane. He had gotten his pilot license and was showing off. My memory is not real clear, but my general sense if that I had a great time just barely being able to really see out the windows. He is now a retired engineering professor living in Canada who will be in CA for a meeting and for visits with family this weekend. I plan to get more details from him to help my memory. But I think it is this experience that has me hoping to eventually go up in a hot air balloon and maybe even skydive!
I really like elephants. I imagine I have said that before in a blog entry or two. But when I was a kid, again maybe about 5, I was taken to the zoo and there was a baby elephant there. I fell in love. We lived in Chicago at the time, and I was determined to have a baby elephant as a birthday present. I did not get what I wanted, but I did have a plan: she would live in the basement, eat cheerios, and play in the back yard. Made sense to me—and started my fascination with these gentle giants.
When I first went to graduate school, I was an English major—in fact, I specialized in American Literature. Of course, I have read the classics. Except Moby Dick. I started that tome several times, wrote papers on it, took tests on it, refer to it when teaching, enjoy the references to it in Star Trek, but I have not read it from cover-to-cover. Ssh. Don’t tell anyone.
I have read pretty much all the works of Robert Frost and Walt Whitman. They, in fact, are my two favorite poets. In so many ways they are not alike, but they have a core appreciation of nature, life, and its cycles that comes through in their work. They are both apt to write about fences and roads and wandering the fields—and I think in part my love of nature comes from their vivid presentations that so capture the mind and imagination.
If asked, I am quick to point out that I am NOT a watcher of Reality TV. How can anyone enjoy (or waste their time) on such shows as The Jersey Shore or The Real Housewives of Whereever? I can get fairly snooty about this fact. So it is rather embarrassing to admit that I do watch shows such as Judge Judy, People’s Court, and Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. I swear, I managed to keep myself from realizing they too are Reality TV. See, you can get people to believe anything!
Did I mention that I really, really like elephants? Over 10 years ago now, I had a great experience through a weekend class. I was part of a group that toured a wild animal ranch housing animals who were all movie stars. The best part of the day was being able to give Nellie, a 7.5 year old African elephant, a bath. She loved it! We all got drenched. Rather than sponges, we used brushes and hoses—but it was great fun! I would do it again in an instant.
I am a cancer survivor. In February 2012 it will be five years since I had the full complete hysterectomy that got all the cancer. I did not even need radiation or chemo-therapy. I felt very blessed, especially given what suffering so many cancer patients have to contend with. I do not talk about this much, but the awareness of being that close to death and surviving changed my perspective. That experience urged me to be more vigilant in appreciating life, going out to play, and telling people how much they mean to me.
That’s it! That’s my seven things most people probably did not know about me! Please take a minute to visit the blogs I listed above as blog award recipients—they are cherishing and reporting on life in great ways. We all should go out and play!
I was about 4 years old when I went to the zoo and saw elephants for the first time. I loved them immediately. I liked their size, their gentle manner, their ability to squirt water from their trunks. Back then, I did not know they were known for wisdom, memory and intelligence or that their uplifted trunks represented good luck. I did not know that they were social creatures who exhibited such cooperative group behaviors as babysitting and grieving. I do know those things now—which is probably why I am still fascinated by these gentle giants. Plus the fact that I met Nellie a few years ago; she’s a movie star elephant who lives in the Lancaster Hills.
In explaining my wonder of elephants to a friend, I was surprised by all the facts I have actually learned about these impressive animals:
• The elephant is the largest land animal, with the typical male standing 10-13 feet high and weighing close to 7,000 pounds.
• There are two basic types of elephants—African and Asian/Indian—but there are sub-types within each group depending on where they live (forest, savanna, etc.).
• The average elephant lives to between 50 and 70 years.
• Elephants are born after a 22-month gestation period, standing at birth at about 2.5 feet tall and weighing in at roughly 250 pounds.
• Elephants eat between 300 and 600 pounds of food a day, over a 16-hour period.
• Elephants travel at two speeds walk and fast-almost-a-run walk; typical speed has been estimated at about 5 mph, but the highest recorded speed was 25 mph.
• Elephants communicate verbally through loud trumpeting as well as low deep rumbles that can be measured at the sub-sonic level. The low rumbles can carry for miles and when recorded register at 117 dB.*
• An elephant named Ruby lives at the Phoenix Zoo and loves to paint—deliberately selecting the colors and textures she wishes to use on the canvas.
See? They really are impressive beasts. Too bad their only known predator—besides an occasional lion culling out the young or very old—is Man. The wild population is dwindling everyday through human encroachment such as loss of habitat and direct poaching. We really need to care for these gentle giants. The world would be a sadder place without them.
*For comparison, a library whisper registers at 30 dBs, a roaring motorcycle at 100 dBs, sand blasting or a loud concert at 115 dBs, and a jet engine at 140 dBs.