Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Deep Drinking


I sat with my family in our stationwagon at a watering hole in the Etosha Pans. No one was around, we were alone in this great bush of elephant grass and umbrella Acacia trees. A clanking windmill turned slowly, sucking sparse breath from the sky and moisture from deep in the African heart. Around the watering hole were some other green bushes, because of the moisture, but within yards of it, the vegetation turned to grey dust, the dust of the Namib desert. In the tallest Acacia a communal birds' nest encased several branches and birds flipped in and out of a multitude of openings. I watched wearily, snakes made their homes in those nests too, dining on chicks and eggs.

“Look!”

We all noticed at the same time as a great Bull Elephant broke through a hedge of foliage. He ignored us, where we watched in awe. He had eyelashes and tears, because the dust on his journey had bothered his eyes. His ears were large and notched, his tusks heavy and cream, stained with the juices of his last meal. His trunk swayed gently ahead of him, the pink opening reaching finger-like for the air ahead and then at the edge of the muddy water he knelt.

We held our breaths, what would he do? Roll in the mud at the edge of the hole to cool his heated hulk? On his knees he began to reach into the pool, the tip of that great trunk disappeared below the surface and then the searching seemed to stop, awareness on his great wise face. His trunk disappeared deeper into the water, in the same spot. He had discovered, on some previous occasion, the source of water for the watering hole. He had slipped the tip of his trunk into that pipe and siphoned up the pure unmuddied water.

 We stayed and watched reverently, till the Bull had drunk his fill and wandered off into the desert. I felt honored, blessed with the glimpse into the fulfilling of one of his most basic needs.

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