E is for Elephant

E is for Elephant

Two days ago, the new issue of National Geographic arrived at my home. On the cover? The title BLOOD IVORY, and a statistic: 25,000 elephants were killed illegally last year. In one instance, poachers attacked a herd of 300 and killed them all with AR-15’s and grenades — all to sell the ivory on the black market. And for what? To make religious icons. 

I don’t care which faith people profess or if they claim none — the mass murder of creatures for financial gain edifies no god at all. The black market ivory trade needs to stop, or these beautiful, intelligent animals will roam our earth no more.

This post is one from a while back, but I needed to share it again today.

When I was a child, we’d often play a game in school to help us learn to read. The teacher would tell us to find an animal with the first letter to match the first letter in our names. I ended up vexed for many reasons when we played that particular game. The first reason was that I could already read, and the second was because the letter E was quiet depressing for me.

Emu

Emu (Photo credit: Gabriel Kamener)

E is for Emu. Who ever heard of an emu anyway? What good are they, except that they’re not quite even as cool as an ostrich? Apparently emu oil is good for something, except terrible for the emu. That’s horrible and depressing. Why would I want to associate my name with the murder of a funny-looking bird? Ugh.

OMG, what IS it? Image via Wikipedia

E is for Echidna. Is it a hedgehog? Is it an anteater? It has spikes and a beak and what the hell is this thing supposed to be, anyway?! At least that’s what 7-year-old Emmie would have thought if she had known echidnas existed. As I write this, even the red squiggly line doesn’t know what an echidna is. See that, spiky beaky, anteatery thing? You don’t exist.

Three guesses whether I liked this or not. Image via Wikipedia

E is for Eel. Never mind that at this point in my existence, The Little Mermaid rained supreme and anything that resembled Flotsam and Jetsam would have been immediately blackballed from the realm of what I thought was cool. My rejection of eels for my animal happened at slimy and ew.

Why on earth couldn’t there be an animal I liked start with E? I convinced myself at the tender age of seven that my name sucked because I wasn’t like Jon Bailey who could be a jaguar, or Tiffany the tiger. I couldn’t be a dolphin or a lion or anything I remotely liked.

I eventually settled on elephant.

After probably a year of self pity. Elephants were gray. Wrinkly. Not aggressive. Whenever this game came up in class, I got progressively more mournful. I wanted to be a stalking jungle cat. Something dangerous and predatory and beautiful. And yet instead, little Emmie was forced to endure a litany of strange creatures. I’m not quite sure why I never thought about eagles — I think at the time they were as old and stuffy as the presidents with whom I usually saw them paired.

As I got older, something changed. I started learning more about the world and about the animals I shared it with. One day, I stumbled across a documentary or a National Geographic article about elephants.

Elephant Family

Just try and tell me this isn’t a family. Elephant Family (Photo credit: Curious Lizard)

Elephants have families they will defend to the death. They trek thousands of miles across Africa in search of water and bountiful food each year. They love their young, and they mourn their dead. Elephants remember the grave sites of their herd members, and they return to these places even when they’re out of their path. They have emotions.

Elephants are playful. Image via afw.org

Elephants play and frolic and like to swim. And as I grew older and began to visit zoos by myself, I discovered that elephants seem to like me. One at the Denver zoo used to reach out his trunk to me whenever I showed up. He’s point right at me in a crowd of people as if he wanted to shake my hand.

“Elephants like me,” I told my husband when we took his parents to the DC zoo. “You’ll see.” I could almost hear his thoughts. Mmm-hmmmmm….all right, Emmie.

When we arrived at the paddock, all the elephants were up at the feeding trough on the opposite side, about fifty meters away. The moment I reached the fence, one turned and walked right toward me. All fifty meters, directly toward me. I can’t find the picture right now, but I snapped a photo of this young bull walking in a bee-line to where I stood at the fence. Within moments, the rest of the elephants followed.

It’s probably just a fancy, a leftover whim of a child who needed an animal to match her name. But the more I learned of these creatures, the more beautiful they became. The more I related to them. The more their strangeness became wondrous. Beyond the favourite animals I harboured through my youth, it’s become my dream to meet an elephant in person. To get close enough to touch. To say hello.

So now at 27, I can proudly say I have an animal. I have an answer to the game.

What animal starts with E?

E. E is for Elephant.

Elephants are artists. Give an elephant paint and a canvas, and they make beautiful pictures.

E is for Elephant

E is for Elephant

When I was a child, we’d often play a game in school to help us learn to read. The teacher would tell us to find an animal with the first letter to match the first letter in our names. I ended up vexed for many reasons when we played that particular game. The first reason was that I could read already, and the second was because the letter E was quiet depressing for me.

Whatchu talkin' about, Willis? Image via icis.com

E is for Emu. Who ever heard of an emu anyway? What good are they, except that they’re not quite even as cool as an ostrich? Apparently emu oil is good for something, except terrible for the emu. That’s horrible and depressing. Why would I want to associate my name with the murder of a funny-looking bird? Ugh.

OMG, what IS it? Image via Wikipedia

E is for Echidna. Is it a hedgehog? Is it an anteater? It has spikes and a beak and what the hell is this thing supposed to be, anyway?! At least that’s what 7-year-old Emmie would have thought if she had known echidnas existed. As I write this, even the red squiggly line doesn’t know what an echidna is. See that, spiky beaky, anteatery thing? You don’t exist.

Three guesses whether I liked this or not. Image via Wikipedia

E is for Eel. Never mind that at this point in my existence, The Little Mermaid rained supreme and anything that resembled Flotsam and Jetsam would have been immediately blackballed from the realm of what I thought was cool. My rejection of eels for my animal happened at slimy and ew.

Why on earth couldn’t there be an animal I liked start with E? I convinced myself at the tender age of seven that my name sucked because I wasn’t like Jon Bailey who could be a jaguar, or Tiffany the tiger. I couldn’t be a dolphin or a lion or anything I remotely liked.

I eventually settled on elephant.

After probably a year of self pity. Elephants were gray. Wrinkly. Not aggressive. Whenever this game came up in class, I got progressively more mournful. I wanted to be a stalking jungle cat. Something dangerous and predatory and beautiful. And yet instead, little Emmie was forced to endure a litany of strange creatures. I’m not quite sure why I never thought about eagles — I think at the time they were old and stuffy like the presidents I usually saw them paired with.

As I got older, something changed. I started learning more about the world and about the animals I shared it with. One day, I stumbled across a documentary or a National Geographic article about elephants.

Any doubt this is a family? Image via worldwildlife.org

Elephants have families they will defend to the death. They trek thousands of miles across Africa in search of water and bountiful food each year. They love their young, and they mourn their dead. Elephants remember the grave sites of their herd members, and they return to these places even when they’re out of their path. They have emotions.

Elephants are playful. Image via afw.org

Elephants play and frolic and like to swim. And as I grew older and began to visit zoos by myself, I discovered that elephants seem to like me. One at the Denver zoo used to reach out his trunk to me whenever I showed up. He’s point right at me in a crowd of people as if he wanted to shake my hand.

“Elephants like me,” I told my husband when we took his parents to the DC zoo. “You’ll see.” I could almost hear his thoughts. Mmm-hmmmmm….all right, Emmie.

When we arrived at the paddock, all the elephants were up at the feeding trough on the opposite side, about fifty meters away. The moment I reached the fence, one turned and walked right toward me. All fifty meters, directly toward me. I can’t find the picture right now, but I snapped a photo of this young bull walking in a bee-line to where I stood at the fence. Within moments, the rest of the elephants followed.

It’s probably just a fancy, a leftover whim of a child who needed an animal to match her name. But the more I learned of these creatures, the more beautiful they became. The more I related to them. The more their strangeness became wondrous. Beyond the favorite animals I harbored through my youth, it’s become my dream to meet an elephant in person. To get close enough to touch. To say hello.

So now at 27, I can proudly say I have an animal. I have an answer to the game.

What animal starts with E?

E. E is for Elephant.

Elephants are artists. Give an elephant paint and a canvas, and they make beautiful pictures.

Birthing the Baby Elephant

Birthing the Baby Elephant

Baby Elephant, Take One.

(That reference will come clear a bit later.)

(I just erased about 150 words.)

I has a lot of thoughts, but the words escape me. This picture from Cheezburger.com helps!

I woke up this morning knowing that I wanted to write about a certain quote, which I will share in a bit. And when I sat down to do it, my brain very helpfully turned into a humming blank.

I started writing a little about how people don’t necessarily accept the creative fields as legitimate unless we make millions doing it. Then I decided that came off as more ranty than I meant to be. Then my husband brought me a video from Conan of two people getting married who had never kissed before — and we both had a laugh at the extreme awkward. (You can see that rather sad moment here and have a laugh and a shudder for yourself. I am personally very glad my husband and I knew how to kiss on our wedding day.)

So here I am, almost two hundred words in, and I haven’t said anything at all. Shame on me.

I’m here though, writing. Why on earth am I here writing when I don’t know what to write about? (Woohoo! I found my nugget!) I’ll tell you.

It’s because that’s what I do. Even though I have very little time to do much of anything outside of work, I realized yesterday that if I were to stop updating this blog every day, I would be quite sad.

Me. If I abandoned all of you gentle viewers. Image via pavley.com

Something happens to me when I don’t write. It’s like the thriving, glowy bit that exists somewhere in my core begins to shrivel up like when you put an aluminum can in a fire. At first you can’t see the difference, but after a bit, the outside starts crumpling inward. The bright colors fade into ashen grays, and the metal begins to collapse in on itself until it’s nothing but an empty, thin shell of rubbish.

This is not to say that my writing all comes from a shiny soda can in my heart, but I believe you get the point.

The part that holds the words reacts in a sort of inverse relationship to that crinkling can. If I don’t write, all those words pour into an inner page. They get jammed on top of one another. They jostle each other. They press down too hard and pebble the backside of the page. Over and over it happens while my can is wrinkling and I’m going about “normal” life. Those word pile up until they cannot be contained anymore. It’s like the more of them that fill that page, the more they transmogrify it into a pulsing, breathing being that flexes its muscles as the millions of built up words in varying degrees of pen and pencil scroll across its skin — until it erupts out of me.

I’m supposed to write every day, you see. I could show you a shelf of journals I kept over the years. It was long ago I realized that I had to write. I needed to write. Those words needed to come out before I collapsed in on myself or exploded or did both at once.

That’s where Mr. David Eddings comes in. Because he said it so well, I’m not going to paraphrase his perfect words. I’m going to offer them to you with a scarlet ribbon trailing down the side of a white package, a package that holds a slight shimmer when you turn it this way or that. It’s for you to tug on that ribbon and peel back that gold-kissed paper and see what he has to say. So here it is. Go ahead. Take it.

This is what I was talking about earlier when I suggested most aspiring fantasists will lose heart fairly early on. I was in my mid-teens when I discovered that I was a writer. Notice that I didn’t say “wanted to be a writer.” “Want” has almost nothing to do with it. It’s either there or it isn’t. If you happen to be one, you’re stuck with it. You’ll write whether you get paid for it or not. You won’t be able to help yourself. When it’s going well, it’s like reaching up into heaven and pulling down fire. It’s better than any dope you can buy. When it’s not going well, it’s much like giving birth to a baby elephant.

That’s why it doesn’t matter if people think we have zero chances of success in these fields. It doesn’t matter if today was me spending an hour in labor to birth this baby elephant instead of pulling down fire from the sky. The fire will come back another time.

Until then, gentle viewers, be writers.

English: baby elephant, 33.5KB version

I of course couldn't end this without a picture of a baby elephant. See how adorable! Image via Wikipedia

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