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June 9, 2011
It's a good thing that we don't have an organization which rescues abused elephants in Davis, or we'd have a small herd in our back yard. (Boy THAT would be something for Mr. McCoy, wouldn't it be!)
I don't know why I have always loved elephants so much. When I used to take the kids to the zoo, I would stand at the gorilla cages and try to apologize to the animals for staring. But it wasn't until we visited Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo that I did that to an elephant. I took pictures of this elephant which stood fairly near to me, across a deep moat and I looked deep into her eyes and, having by that time been made somewhat aware (though not as much as I am now) of the condition of elephants in zoos and circuses, I just stood there and tried to communicate to her how sad I was that she was locked up in her concrete prison.
(By 2005 the elephant enclosure at the Lincoln Park Zoo was empty, following the death of all three elephants over the previous two years.)
A few years back, I became aware of the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. I don't check the web site as much now as I once did, but I loved reading of the battle the people who run this sanctuary did to rescue elephants from untenable living conditions and move them into "retirement" in Tennessee, a place which is not open to the public, so they can live a life as close as possible to what they would find in the wild (probably better, since they don't have to travel miles searching for water!)
It was probably Peggy who introduced me to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which rescues orphaned elephants. The stories are triumphant and heartbreaking. Peggy has been there. Walt's sister will be there in two weeks. I've followed the stories of babies who watched their mothers killed by poachers and who are able to find a home at the Trust and go on to be old enough to be released back into the wild.
And I've cried at the stories of babies who were so traumatized by the circumstances of their mothers' deaths that they could not recover and literally died of grief.
I always watch specials on elephants when they show up on Animal Planet or PBS. I am amazed by elephant society and how they care for each other, help each other, grieve at friends' deaths.
Today I fell in love with an elephant. Well, not the real elephant, the elephant character. I fell in love with Rosie, the elephant in Water for Elephants. I knew I wanted to see the movie when I heard it was going to be made. I was hoping it would not, like so many books-to-movies, ruin a book that I loved.
It did not. In fact, it may have improved upon it. The book was told in two voices, that of an old man in a rest home and the voice of the young man he once was. The scenes go back and forth from the minor circus for which he once worked and how he feels about being warehoused in a home, when his son forgets to come and go with him to the circus that is coming to town. I loved it. It was the first audio book I listened to and I listened to it for the 11 hr train ride from Santa Barbara to Davis, after I had spent the weekend, in part, visiting with Walt's mother, so was acutely aware of old folks homes.
In the movie the old man wanders into the grounds of the circus, when they are tearing the tents down and is taken to the office of the manager, who is going to call "the home" and get someone to pick him up. He starts talking about his days with the circus and so it becomes a linear story that goes from point A to point Z in a wonderful fashion.
Reese Witherspoon is sparkly as the star of the show, Christopher Waltz is absolutely riveting as the ringmaster/owner of the circus, and Robert Pattinson will make you forget he was once a vampire in the Twilight series.
But it is Rosie, the elephant who is the real star. There is a soul there and she dominates whatever scene she is in, not only by her size, but by her ... humanity.
I'm officially a Rosie fan. And if you haven't seen the movie, by all means go and see it. There's enough sex and violence that it's probably not good for little kids, but the story is just wonderful and the movie definitely does it justice.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Robert Pattinson as Jacob with "Rosie" (the real elephant