Posted in Africa, Elephants, Nature, Nonfiction, Photography, Travel, Writing

How Much of the World Are We Missing?

Listening, really listening.
Listening, really listening.


Just at the edge of darkness, where the light of our fire does not penetrate, an elephant thunders by, trumpeting the whole way, like a locomotive off track in a dry forest, a classic illustration of the Doppler Effect, sound that condenses, rises in pitch, crescendos, blows by, drops pitch, recedes. 

We lift our heads in surprise.  Waves of sound undulate away from us, kin to ripples on a pond.  We use pulsed sound waves, Doppler Radar, to see rain, to know when we should run for cover.  There is no such radar for an incoming elephant.

Eventually his outrage is extinguished in our ears, but elephants a mile away are just beginning to hear it.  Resonance fills the night air around us, yet we are deaf to it, to the sounds just below our range of hearing.

How much of the world are we missing, circle upon circle?  Perhaps instead of placing ourselves at the center we should move to the edges where our skills are low and our learning curve high.  We should extinguish our fire and sit in the darkness listening, really listening.


Cheryl Merrill’s essays have been published in Fourth Genre, Pilgrimage, Brevity, Seems, South Loop Review, Ghoti, Alaska Quarterly Review, Adventum and Isotope. “Singing Like Yma Sumac” was selected for the Best of Brevity 2005 and Creative Nonfiction #27. It was also included in the anthology Short Takes: Model Essays for Composition, 10th Edition. Another essay, “Trunk,” was chosen for Special Mention in Pushcart 2008. She is currently working on a book about elephants: Larger than Life: Living in the Shadows of Elephants.

14 thoughts on “How Much of the World Are We Missing?

  1. Again you paint pictures, and I hear the sound too! We miss most of the world around us as most of us never take time to stop and smell the roses. I try to bring that world to life in my blog! Good work and enjoyable blog Cheryl!

  2. A truly lovely piece, Cheryl. A wonderful reminder of how important it is to enter the stillness of silence, and listen. Thank you X

  3. Your writing had me feeling the experience of the elephant passing while trumpeting his song. Your “message” is also powerful!

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