baby elephant walk not

It was really cold, or rather, I felt cold.  The sensation of ice cubes moving through my veins concerned me.  Am I getting sick?  I thought.  And the depression, where did that come from?  Depression has not been my companion for years.  I feel fairly happy all the time, a by product I suppose, of years of yoga practice.  But the feeling of a giant brick on my chest was weighing me down.  It was 1:00 in the afternoon.  Excited as I had been about the afternoon I was about to have off, I took to my bed and uneasily, sorrowfully fell into a fitful sleep.


And then, the dream.


The event was magnificent, something befitting Cinderella.  The dress I wore….the most beautiful one I own, my hair?  Coiffed into the perfect shape.  I was on a very special date, or so it seemed, but the gentleman who was leading me by the arm (who I had never seen before) was not  kind to me, not at all, and none of the people around seemed to notice there was anything wrong, even  though they were looking right at me.  I was totally vulnerable.  I wanted to leave this man, and yet my feet felt like cement blocks.  Looking down I saw my slender feet in sexy black shoes with ankle straps. Mystified that my feet would not follow my bidding to move, I tried again, and lo and behold the sexy ankle straps transformed into ankle cuffs.  My feet were chained together so I could not escape


I woke with a start. “Whoa” I thought.  “I hope that was not a premonition”.   I head out into the chilly rain for an enjoyable afternoon.


As I returned, I parked the car and head home past Newark’s prized Prudential Center.  Children waving lighted wands had been filling the streets for the last day or so, doing I knew not what.  Up ahead, a slender person wearing a grey elephant costume was kindly engaging passerby and chatting.  Coming closer I saw that she was holding a picture of elephants on chains.  Ringling Brothers circus was in town.  They arrived the previous night.   For a moment, the child in me flashed on circus parades through the street and then the woman in the animal suit reminded me, these animals do not have happy lives.  I really didn’t want to hear this.  Not because I don’t believe it, or because I don’t care, but because I’m tired, like everyone else.  Wanting desperately to close my eyes and ears to evidence of a universe populated by cold hearted beings, I listened briefly and went to move on.  The elephant woman’s companion was having difficulty with the television needed to show the video of the mistreatment of the animals.  I was inspired by these two, their calm dedication, their lack of anger, their calm fortitude.  The television kept falling over.  I tried to help him.


“Can I help you?”  I said, offering to head home to get duct tape to hold up the TV. “ I live only a few blocks away.”


“I just need someone to stand here and hold the TV”.  I can do that I said, not really wanting to, but how could I leave them there in the cold?  I said I would take my things home, get mittens and come back, which I did.  The television in question was now completely kaput.  The duct tape was a moot point.


So the only other assignment possible was standing and holding a sign.  Once again, my reluctance surfaced, but, well, I knew better, you see.  I couldn’t leave, even though this was not how I wanted to spend my Friday night.  Not at all.


I looked through the selection of signs to hold , and there it was, the picture.  I don’t know how old she was, but for an elephant she was tiny and very cute, until you looked a little closer.  Someone was whipping her on the head and…yep…


Her, not as slender as mine, ankles were cuffed together.  Her head was bowed in submission.


And so I did.  I stood and held the sign.  It was intense and very uncomfortable.  Embarrassing even.  But the dividing line between her and me had been severed by that dream.


It was amazing to me, there in the frigid cold, watching the crowds arrive for the circus.  Families with clear ancestral lines to slavery walked by one after another, I wondered if they connected the image in my hands of whipping and chaining with the suffering their great great grandparents experienced.  And then there was the woman who smacked and shoved her child right in front of me. My goodness, I thought, we don’t treat each other all that well do we.  It was doubly sad.  I wished they could see.  You can choose kindness, it is possible.


Of course during the duration from time to time I piped up with a vocalized “boycott the circus!!”  But at a certain point I had to fall silent, for a long time, watching all those people.  So easy for them to turn away and not understand.  And then, bubbling up from some deep cavernous space in my chest the song, the melody, the only way I know to really express how I feel.  So I started to sing, first in Sanskrit, then in English.  “May all beings everywhere be happy and free”.  And I started to cry.  And then this thing happened.  Oh, I’d heard about it.  You know, read about it in books.  But there is was.  My heart quivered.  Wow. After all these years.  Just like they say.  That elephants suffering was my own.  I feel her a few blocks away as I write this.  This isn’t a brag…I just want you to know she is hurting.  Of that I am certain.  And not just physically.


I looked over at the woman in the elephant suit and we were both crying.  And there it was…you know the remaining time passed quicker with the singing.  I wondered if they really thought I was mad and maybe I was.  Well, maybe I am.


I arrived at my comfortable home, new fluffy red quilt and Lakshmi the kitten curled up in her matching fluffy red kitten bed.  Sipping tea before bed.  So much for my plans for the night.


And then the chill arose again, like ice in my veins, and the fear and the feeling of heartache dwarfing the feeling of comfort.  I checked the thermostat, the room was warm enough.  There was nothing to do but climb under the covers and go to sleep.  And I wondered as I fell asleep, if my friend, the baby elephant, was cold.   Of course, they must keep them outside, and it was really cold out, and wet.  But then, perhaps I was feeling the cold of the ice in the veins of the man with the bullhook and the whip.

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It was still dark when we arrived, our bright rambunctious group awoke at 4 or so, and after gulping down the caffeinated beverages lovingly supplied by the hotel staff, extra early by request.  We tumbled into the van and head to a different patch of sea from the one where we were staying.  We head from Nosara to Ostional.


Upon arriving, we walked through the tiny town and out to the beach, silence hovering naturally over most of the group.  


Under moonlight, the beach is transformed from a sparkling backdrop upon which happy humans frolic in their various ways, into a landscape of ancient memory.  The watery depth of the ocean dominates the landscape, lit up by the light of a brilliant full moon.   When all humans are asleep mother nature pulls out her finery and starts to dance.  She reminds us where we all came from, animals arising from single cells floating in the ocean.  Something ancient begins to emerge from my memory.  We are part of this planet, of the life that emerges, exists and recedes, and has done so for eons more than I can ever imagine.  


They begin to emerge from the sea, first one, then another than another. Soon many,  flipper by flipper making their way up the beach on appendages designed to move them through water.  The effort is tangible, recalling every experience of love’s labor in life.  One has wonder how conscious they are of the contribution made by the trek up the sand to lay their precious eggs.  The sacrifice all mothers make to perpetuate the species of which they are members.  The pain, the struggle, the effort.


The love, immense and infinite, embodied in this task of birthing and mothering.


I am there with a group of mothers, one of the few in the group never to have participated in the ritual of giving birth.


After clambering way way up on the beach, the digging begins.  flippers moving quickly, spurts of effort punctuated by pauses for rest.  We are told by the guide that the mothers dig two holes, the first being a decoy for the one she buries the real eggs in.  The nests are surrounded by vultures, waiting to prey on the tender treasures.  But still these divine mothers plug on in their task.  The eggs are laid in the nests and covered over.


One by one, then they begin to recede to the ocean.  The exhaustion readily apparent as flipper by flipper they drag their heavy bodies back to the sea.  More than one of the clearly older turtles pauses numerous times to rest.  At this point the group turns to watch…captivated.  I know I begin to silently cheer them on.   Go!! Go!!!  A few are missing flippers, making the task all that much more arduous.  Relief ripples through the group as each one catches a wave and heads back to her watery home.  These women I am with and our resonance with the turtle mothers awakens this memory of the shared experience of women all over the planet, those thousands of labors of love that are just part of our lives, but keep the life of the planet going.  That keep life going.  

As one of our newly discovered sisters raises her head above the water as she catches a wave, Julia, one of the mothers in the group calls out…”Give us a little wave, will ya?”.  And yes she does, flipper emerging from the surface of the sea in a gesture of farewell.  


The people come, bags in hand, scooping up the eggs before many of the vultures have had a chance to have their snack.  We have mixed feelings, watching this happen.  Apparently this quick collection of the eggs, which are part of a group that are unlikely to survive, is part of a larger conservation effort.   An effort made by humans to preserve the precious species that keep us anchored in the sea of life that all species come from, including ourselves.


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hello, ocean

I’d felt it coming for days, some rip tide, some shifting of current in the ocean of existence that is the world we live in, some much ignorable sense that something big was about to happen.


There I was in the shower, in a bathroom painted with swimming dolphins,  contemplating the events of a few days before.  I had been treating a client and as the energy around her form expanded…  the air was filled with the image of swimming dolphins, the joy, the sense of play….when we emerged from the treatment room, I knew that was it…no more treatments today.  We had to go to the beach.   My colleague went to work, I went to the beach. Two days later, three days later…there they were, thousands of them.  Swimming off the surf of San Diego.  In truth, I’d been seeing dolphins for a long time in my meditations, and did not know what they wanted.


It was not the first time that I’d heard the call of nature, as I left the office and traveled down to the seaside, I remembered, each time that feeling, that somehow, I was being asked to for them.  To call our attention to the organic whole to which we belong, as part of this great ecosystem that is the earth, that we might improve our performance as team players in the eco system.  That we might stop our assumption that we were separate, and our harmful actions were irrelevant.


But always before, there was a message, a call for help so to speak, that I could clearly communicate to my friends and family and anyone else listening.  What was the message?  They came to tell us something.  Something big apparently.


Then I heard the thunk, and then another.


Now, I don’t really believe this myself, but I will tell you anyway.  You see for some reason I had set about cleaning the shower before I took one. It’s just easier that way…then your body is not covered with shower dirt.  So I KNEW there was no dirt on the floor.


I reached down, and picked up the piece of metal.  Where did it come from? I couldn’t tell.  Covered as it was with with some mysterious white substance, soap scum?  The shower head was intact, and there appeared no place in the shower or on the ceiling that such an object could come from.


It was difficult to see as my contact lens had slipped in my eye shortly before stepping in the shower, no sight of it now, pun well intended.  For some time I had considered that this was perhaps the least ecological act of vanity that I participated in, knowing as I did that the silicon from the contact lenses polluted the ocean, lasting forever, even though the lenses were only good for a short period of time.  The contact lens companies made the longer lasting versions obsolete.  Profits I suppose.


No, there was no discernible source for the metal object that now rested in my hand.  I’d read about this, peoples lives totally disrupted by mystical objects appearing with messages.  Wasn’t really in my life plans. to have this experience.


But then as I held the object I saw it, boats and and other metallic objects rotting, or not rotting as the case may be, on the base of the ocean.  Oh, we gotta stop throwing stuff in the ocean.  They are letting us know it’s getting worse than we think it is.  We are destroying their homes, and as a consequence, our own.  Are we in this together yet?  Or do we still think we are above it all?  Well, I never threw a boat on the bottom of the ocean.  I mean accidents happen.  That didn’t seem a strong message (Stop sinking the Titanic!!).  Oh wait…maybe it was….


I stepped out of the shower and stopped to make sure I left it clean, shared bathroom that it is.   As I swiped my hand across the bottom of the stall I snagged it, a tiny piece of plastic, a corner torn from some snack, or perhaps the bag that I purchased my organic lentils in just the day before.  That doesn’t dissolve either, and I guess they were trying to tell me, that each little piece matters.  We all do what we do to minimize our footprint, but each little piece matters, and there is always more we can do.


As to the question of where they were going, my guess is that they were specifically here to visit, to send a strong message, same as we might do..”Occupy the Ocean” and such.


Yes, Occupy the Ocean indeed.

Written February 19, 2013