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


The Face

(After a trip to Africa in 1999):

I’m nearly asleep, lying across several seats at Heathrow, dreaming of elephants, my body suspended at its origin eight time zones away.  It’s neither night nor day in my dreams.  I see fluorescent lights through the lids of my eyes, hear polite announcements for flights, smell the faint barnyard dust of Africa, sense a great presence looming towards me.

Step by step she comes closer.  She is confident, unafraid.  She looks me directly in the eye.  Her eyelashes are long and straight, her deep brown eyes are dark, dark pools.

She stops less than five feet away, just beyond the reach of an outstretched arm, should I be foolish enough to do so.  She is wild, in charge.  I am on her terms and she knows it.  She knows that people sit motionless on smelly, noisy, moveable rocks.  She knows the small sneezing sounds of the devices they carry in their hands and point at her.

She stares into my eyes, then shakes her head sideways in a movement that would say “no” in my language.  Her ears flap once, twice, and great clouds of dust rise from them.  She raises her head, looks down the top of her long trunk.  It’s an imperious, don’t-mess-with-me look, but that again is my language, not hers.  A rumble like a promise for distant rain fills my ears.  Then she sidesteps, turns and vanishes without another sound into a thicket of brush, her great presence subtracted, a void of air where she stood.

I am on a pilgrimage to that place.  I am waiting for my flight, asleep at Heathrow.  I am nearly, virtually there, in my dreams.  


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.

10 thoughts on “Pilgrimage

    1. Sorry – I don’t know how I missed your comment. Thanks so much for the kind words. I AM writing a book about elephants, looking for an agent. I’ll definitely post any news about the book.

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