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With a little help from our friends

Some stages of writing enforce a kind reclusiveness, a withdrawal from real events outside story-making. I am presently in that place. When not working, I have been occupying myself with mundane chores, anything that isn’t mental or creative. Today I cleaned out a bunch of photos, coming across some pictures from a trip along the Chobe river in Botswana about eight years ago. We were living in South Africa then, and had gone on holiday to Victoria Falls, which is on the border with Zambia and Zimbabwe. At the end of that trip, we went up to Botswana and spent a day on a very small flat-bottom boat on the Chobe River. One group of these pictures had me thinking about friendship, wondering if elephants are better at it than humans? Another photo brought to mind the extraordinary, probably instinctual protectiveness of a parent toward a child. Here is that picture. We end returning to the world as it really is.

Mother hippo protecting her baby

A baby hippo does not leave the water where it is born for weeks. During that time, the mother remains in the water to guard her baby. Not visible in the picture, but off to the right side, there is a crocodile. While we watched, and presumably for as long as the danger lasts, the mother hippo moved to keep her body between the croc and her baby. The croc would enter the water to the right, and she would move between; then to the left, and she would move between. Our guide said this could go on all day, until the croc went off in search of an easier meal.

The Croc goes off looking for a happy and easier meal. It is, by the way, about 18 feet long

The following group of pictures illustrate the helping hand idea, or a helping trunk, in this case. This also occurred on the Chobe, but further downstream.  There is an island not far from the shore, and the river here isn’t especially deep. For reasons I don’t understand, elephants cross the river at this spot to get to the island, where they more or less stand around. It is a bare  island, nothing there for them to eat. Maybe they just like a little holiday on an island. All but one elephant handily climbed out of the river and onto the island, but the last one, no matter how hard she tried, could not get out of the river.

The first group of elephants reach the island

The straggler arrives. This is not telephoto. We were sitting on a small boat less than a dozen feet from the shore.

This is the fourth or fifth time we watched this elephant trying to climb out of the river.

Here she moves down the shoreline, looking for a better spot.

Almost, but not quite.

Finally a pal comes over with a helping trunk

Thanks to a little help from her friends -- success!

Finally, back to the real world … an Iguana snacking on a Chobe River catfish. For perspective on the size of the fish, the Iguana is about 7 feet long, and all you see here left is its head.

Iguana sushi ... welcome back to the real world

I suppose we all have friends of both kinds.

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4 replies »

  1. Wow, those elephant pictures in particular are pretty amazing. I wonder if there’s any chance that one elephant with the helping trunk might take a job in publishing someday?

    • I used the elephant helping the other onto the bank somewhere before, maybe the previous defunct blog. That was my point then, that much of what we call luck in publishing is actually friends helping friends. Same is true for most writerly awards: They are passed around among friends or colleagues in the teaching world. If you happen not to be a particularly social or gregarious writer type, if you don’t have a classroom bully pulpit, then you might as well forget stuff like that and hope that the lightning bolt out of the blue finds you purely through the quality of what you do.

      Cast your eyes to the blue skies, Brad.

  2. You posted those elephant pictures on your Facebook.

    Lovely pictures. I was wondering where you’d been, ah.

    • Ah, so that’s where it was? My one month failed FB experience was a while back, and I have totally forgotten what might have been there.

      Where I’ve been is happily working, and not able to come up with anything interesting to say about it.

      Photos fill some of the space.