Posted in Africa, Elephants, Nature, Photography

Where Clouds Stampede as if Chased by Lions

photograph by Cheryl Merrill
photograph by Cheryl Merrill


an excerpt from my forthcoming book:

I look into a face like mine, a face with a mouth, a nose, two ears and two eyes, recognizable as a face.

Her eyes, like mine, are protected by bony sockets and eyelashes and eyelids and tears. Her eyes, like mine, sit high on her skull and light the darkness within.

The face that is like mine looks back at me.

Four-inch eyelashes cast shadows down her cheeks. She blinks and her lashes sweep against her skin like small brooms.

Each of the more than 200 lashes of my eye is shed every 3 to 5 months. Has anyone ever done research on the shed rate of elephant eyelashes?

I could.

I could stand here forever looking into the oak burls of her eyes.

Only one and a half inches in length, her eyes are just a little larger than mine are, but small in relation to her body size. A zebra’s eye is bigger. So are those of an impala or an ostrich.

I focus the lens of my camera on her oak-colored iris.

Peering through this window into the cavern of her mind, I remember she sees the world mostly in yellows and blues. Where the thin-skinned sky is a bare reminder that the earth is covered with air, where clouds stampede as if chased by lions, she treads through a harsh, dry landscape washed with the colors of waves.

I put a blue filter over the camera lens, then a yellow one. She turns aquamarine. Following in her wake, I begin to swim, serenely breasting an ocean of grass. She snaps a branch from a dark green shrub, chomps, munches, drifts closer. Her slow motions make perfect sense underwater.

As she floats by, undertones of blue and gray shimmer against her flanks, reflections of seaweed and kelp. I follow, sub-aquatic, at the bottom of air. Carried by the current of my imagination, I am about to tumble downstream.

Then the breeze kicks up again, feels as if it comes all the way up from the Kalahari, feels red, feels gritty, feels dry as a hundred-year-old skeleton left in the desert. It sucks every bit of moisture from under me and lands me, beached and gasping.

I lower my camera. Red invades green and the world yellows.



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 “Where Clouds Stampede as if Chased by Lions

  1. Love how you relate to your subject animals. You give them human feeling and emotions which make me appreciate their rightful place on this earth more. I cried when first thought my dogs only saw the world in b&w (happy now science has corrected that issue).

    1. Yes, but if cats and dogs saw the true color spectrum, then why don’t cats have tails like peacocks and why can’t dogs see those florescent green balls in grass? How are you doing? Are you still teaching?

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