“Satao” by Cathleen Klibanoff 

The elephant was my childhood pet of choice. My father would routinely declare that I was unreasonable and impractical, a hopeless dreamer. So I settled for a frog farm. But the elephant continued to tap my shoulder with its 400-pound trunk. It would cross my spiritual path as the Hindu god Ganesha who removes obstacles, to a defining moment riding an elephant in Thailand heady with adrenaline, screaming out in joyful terror, to witnessing bulls that are in musth trumpet in defiance while on safari in the Masai Mara. I read all the books – fiction and nonfiction, drew, painted elephants, memorialized in sculpture, a relentless pursuit to capture the ethereal quality that eluded others.

I looked for people, places and things that elicited a similar feeling to my majestic friends…. The truth of my discovery wasn’t fully realized until October of this year. The strong caring protective loving presence of the elephant was what I felt when I was with my mother. I know she watches over my shoulder as I write these words, trying to keep the tears from dropping on the keyboard. The wise ones put family first. Even when some evil shit like cancer takes a mother away, there is the herd. 

I am blessed with siblings that celebrate our differences. But there is a gaping hole which swallows me with missing. It’s no coincidence that months after her passing I’m visited by the elephant in my dreams, gently prodding me to cross the plains in search of more soul food. So, borrowing a page from the Mbuti people of central Africa that believe the souls of their dead ancestors reside in elephants: I will walk beside my beloved pachyderm as she whispers words of wisdom and encouragement into my ear, giving me the privilege of sharing them with you.

For the greater part, these are my translations, and the bible shows us how that can go awry. Really all Mother said was ‘be kind and fair’, but life isn’t always kind and fair. I’m sharing my two cents which you can put towards a subway token or a piece of gum that you can chew on and stick under the desk. Or maybe you’ve been wandering aimless for a really long time trying to find someone who speaks your language, to feel like you belong. If the latter, here’s an invitation to walk with me and my angel, I promise to be kind.

African Elephant Sculpture

“Daisy” by Cathleen Klibanoff 

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