Monday, September 18, 2006

Self Portait With Elephant

"Ask for what you want, and be prepared to get it." - Maya Angelou

I had a childhood dream to do a self portrait with an elephant (I just adore elephants) and after a previous encounter with an elephant named Siri at the local zoo, I decided to "ask for what I want". I'm not religious, I don't pray to God. I "communicate with life", as the character Maude, in one of my favorite films (Harold & Maude) said. I emailed the director of the zoo, and after our phone conversation he agreed to grant me my wish. I knew I would need an assistant because once I set up the camera and framed the shot, I wouldn't be able to push the button. I asked my friend Julie if she would be my "button pusher" and she agreed to do it. (Then my husband took Satch and me to a little mexican joint for a celebratory dinner...cheese enchiladas...Satch loves 'em!)

And THIS is what I plan to teach my son: If you have a dream, a vision, a wish, and idea...try to make it happen. Never be afraid to ask for what you want.

Saturday morning we drove up the service entrance of the zoo and walked to the elephant barn. It was quiet and we could smell the scent of animals as we approached the barn. Once inside, we saw Siri and I was amazed by how much larger she appeared indoors than outdoors. Walls and a ceiling give a different perspective. Mick and John, her handlers, greeted us and took us to the yard. It was overcast, but I took a quick look at the sky to make sure that the sun would be behind the camera and set up the equipment while John went to get Siri. A few moments later, they appeared. She was magnificent with wise, amber eyes. With Siri in the view finder, I adjusted the tripod, set the camera, and framed out the shot. I let her sniff me before I approached her. Then I wrapped my arm around her leg and stroked her, leaning my body against hers. She leaned back...an elephant hug. It reminded me very much of how a dog leans into you when you're petting it. Her skin was both rough and soft like velveteen tree bark. I could smell her breath, hot and sour like wet hay on a summer day....her skin, earthy, musky, mammalian. She was gracious and patient while the photos were taken and we thanked her for both the photos and the wondrous experience. We thanked the handlers too and after John brought Siri back to the barn, I asked him a few questions about her. I learned that we have a few things in common:

Siri: 39 years old (but believed to be in her early 40's based on her characteristics);9,600 lbs; vegetarian; likes jelly beans; She is an artist. (Is it any wonder that I was drawn to her?)

Wendy: 42 years old (but believed to be an old soul); 110 lbs; vegetarian; likes Jelly Bellies; Also an artist.

We walked back to the car still absorbing our magical experience with the scent of the wild on our skin and our clothes.

Namaste, Siri...from one who loves elephants.

"They are incorrigible tons of strength and harmony. Their hide is ancient, their eyes sweet, they roll in dust to cool off, they make their own showers. They know how to frolic out under the sun. They're learners. They do not forget, and they don't hold grudges." -Bradford Morrow (A Bestiary)

To see the entire photo set, click here!

Dream BIG, my son!

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posted by Wendy at 5:27 AM

11 Comments:

Blogger Cheryn said...

awe-inspiring. what an experience!
and, great photos.
AND...what a great lesson for satchel, and us ALL...

12:31 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Love it, Love it,

Love it!!!

I'm so glad these pictures came out and I'm even more gla that you asked me to come along to help!!!

1:02 PM  
Blogger Veronica TM said...

Those photos are amazing! And your words...just beautiful! Satch is blessed with you.

1:53 PM  
Blogger The Whole Self said...

this is such a gorgeous post- and the pictures are absolutely breathtaking. thank you for sharing them...and for teaching us to chase our dreams.

11:32 AM  
Blogger christina said...

This is AWESOME. Gorgeous pics. And I needed that reminder: to go after my dreams!

7:22 PM  
Blogger Love Squalor said...

What an incredible and inspiring story. I am reminded of the carl jung quote:

"Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent."

This is a beautiful lesson for your son as well as for anyone with an unlived dream - thank you for sharing! The photos are beautiful!

8:23 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Wendy,
I am so happy that you want Satch to follow his dreams. That is just so important!
What was it like being next to such a large being?
Margaret

11:41 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Being next such a large being was "so magic"...and yet hard to describe...I felt very grounded and relaxed. I felt as if I had done it a thousand times before, like it was only natural that I should have my cheek against her skin. I felt a sense of wonder and awe at life itself...like a reminder that we're all in it together, the big and the small. I felt peaceful.

(I hope that helps)

I also want to state for the record, that Ms. Siri is as big in spirit as she is in body! One word that comes to mind is MAGNIFICENT!

6:25 AM  
Blogger Lotta said...

That is amazing, good for you!

7:39 AM  
Blogger tracey said...

Pure magic. How spectacular.

1:55 AM  
Anonymous nancy bea said...

Wow, the photos are quite something but the truly awe-inspiring aspect of this tale is how you had a wish and made it happen! I am filled with respect, and some slowly-mustering resolve to go and do likewise. Thank you!

9:57 AM  

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