It pains me, sometimes, that Republicans have taken such a complex and fascinating animal as the elephant as their symbol, as they certainly don’t live up it. (It also pains me that Democrats quite often live up to their symbol, but I guess that’s part of being in the reality based community ;). But this diary is not politics and symbols, or even animals… or not really, anyway.

I read an article somewhere, a long time ago, the poignancy of which stuck with me for a long time. It was explaining how elephants are migratory creatures, wandering over hundreds and hundreds of miles a year, through fairly well established feeding and resting areas, the same routes time after time. Well, until their areas are taken up by ‘civilization’, but that’s another story. Of course, some of their group dies from time to time, from old age, or disease or an attack. The remaining herd will stay around for a brief period, holding what could be termed a sort of mourning/goodbye ceremony, before moving on. But that’s not the end of it.
The elephants continue on their journeys, foraging for food, mating, breeding, birthing new baby elephants along the way, until eventually the circle comes closed again and they return to the areas where they left their dead… and pause. By this time, a year or so after the death, there is nothing left of the dead elephant but bones and maybe tusks, but the older elephants, during the pause, reach out their trunks and gently pat and stroke the remains, with others coming forward to do the same… before they again move on to the next destination.

No one knows what they are doing or thinking during that pause… are they just identifying a dead body through smell? Are they remembering the one they lost, and doing the equivalent of placing flowers on a grave? Are they seeking solace, strength, comfort from the proximity of their former friend, cousin, aunt, uncle? Do they think about us, humans, and shake their heads? Or, are they just curious as to what this is that seems so familiar but so foreign…

I don’t know, and of course at this point in time, it’s impossible to tell. And, realistically, we’ll never be able to tell unless we learn to speak and understand their language. Maybe when we evolve a bit more. But, it doesn’t actually matter in relation to this piece, because this is not about elephants. Or, not really… it’s about the need, from time to time, for an Elephant Pause.

Between Schiavo, grandstanding Republicans, bankruptcy bills, social security/medicare insolvency, IraqIranSyriaLebanoIsrael schoolshootingsjudgekillingsgenocidewardeathreligiousrightandtheocracy sometimes I feel like I’m in a whirlwind of bad news, and that it wouldn’t bother me at all if a meteor hit the earth or something and just got rid of everyone. That’s when I know it’s time to just stop and reflect and remember.

Just about anything can be an elephant pause.. kid o’s diaries come to mind. You’ll be rushing along, busy, busy, busy with everything and he’ll quietly appear, hold up a finger and with a smile and soft touch, bid you stop for a moment and see what he sees… and remember what matters most.  Or meeting people in the oddest places and situations, the little moments that affirm your belief in humanity and in the goodness of many people that you might miss because your vision is filled to the brim with other things.

Like the spiky, multicolored haired kid, weighted from head to toe with odd pieces of metal stuck through his skin, who graciously, unasked, and with a smile, offered me the use of his cell phone when it became clear that the people on the pay phones were going to be there a while. Or, hearing them before I could see them the other day, the young former gang member, covered with tattoos, and his 3 year old son… walking along the street shouting at each other. They are having a contest, he explains when he reaches me, each shouting “I LOVE YOU!” at the top of their lungs… to see who loves who the most.

Little things, most of them, unimportant in themselves, but that bring a smile when they come to mind, and a good feeling… all is not lost, all will never be lost, as long as someone is around to smile, and pause, and remember.

What are your pause memories?

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