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

A Sea of Elephants

sea of elephants

Gray wave after gray wave surges out of the bush in small herds of twenty or less, first one group, now another, flooding the huge hollow that contains a waterhole.  Dust rises in the air, a potent blend of manure, dried grass and sand.  The backwash swells in our direction.  Soon a sea of elephants surrounds us.  We’re submerged in a roiling world of noise.  Snorts, grumbles, trumpets, growling bellies and gargantuan belches resound.  Some of the vibrations are too low to hear, but I feel them as they pass through my body, reverberate in my chest cavity, squeeze my heart.  Eye after eye inspects us as eddies of elephants swirl past.  An old world laps at the foot of our memories, extinguishes centuries of communal fires.  The ropes that tether us loosen.  We slip away from the familiar shore and set off towards unimaginable ways of being.  We look around with wild hearts.  We have become part of the herd.


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.

12 thoughts on “A Sea of Elephants

  1. Pure magic ! Your exquisite writings rekindled wonderful memories of the indescribable joy I once felt when I too found myself awash in “a sea of elephants.” Thank you dear friend. Love & blessings

      1. It happened on our first trip to Etosha Pan in 1986, at a waterhole called Kalkheuwel about 20km from Namutoni. Have a wonderful day too !

      1. Thank you for following me and reading my blog. Elephants are indeed magical creatures and I was saddened to read that most of the elephants your great-grandfather cared for were killed in World War II. Good luck with your photography.

  2. I can feel the sound that vibration that you felt in my chest too. I would loved to have been in your shoes at that point in time, but then realized I was, as your words moved me with the sensation and feeling of what it would be to find myself surrounded by the gray mass of large bodies. This is my favorite animal in the world, and I have some kind of connection with them that I feel deep in my soul…This connection allowed me to find you – a kindred spirit! May you have a Merry Christmas Cheryl! — B

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