Meet an Elephant
All the plush toys and cartoons and ads and documentaries, all our lifetime of being second-handedly surrounded by Africa’s animals hasn’t prepared us for the real thing.
The first sight of elephants pacing with monarchical confidence across the morning savannah—as if they had an appointment at the end of the world, as Isak Dineson wrote.
Hearing a lion’s roar at twilight and the next day seeing that same superbeast lying on its back atop a big rock, fluffy belly to the warming sun.
A pack of warthogs scurrying across a forest glen, tails alertly up…hippos gaily galumphing in a jungly river…giraffes floating across golden plains, as Ms. Dinesen said, “like gigantic, long-stemmed flowers slowly advancing.”
There is something life-enhancingly joyous about getting close to these and all of Africa’s iconic animals, like an amazing but fuzzy dream, suddenly come to life in tight, mesmerizing, hypertechnicolor focus.
We’ll never look at those plush toys, those film clips, those ads and artistic but inescapably one-dimensional pictures the same way again.