Posted in Africa, Elephants, Photography, Travel

Body Language

A shoulder lifts, a leg straightens and accepts weight as the foot splays out. The back leg opposite moves forward, toenails nearly scraping sand, straightens, accepts weight, and the foot splays out. As his body shifts side to side, the bull elephant walks ponderously and gracefully towards me.   Even from twelve feet away he fills my entire range of vision.

He trails his trunk, knuckling the ground, leaving smooth marks like a giant side-winding snake. A creature bigger than most monuments is on the move, yet his movements are loose and his pace casual.   He reaches out and rubs the bottom of his trunk across a cow elephant’s backbone.

Shyly she turns her head away, her expressive ears folded neatly against her shoulders, a diamond on her forehead.

photograph by Cheryl Merrill
photograph by Cheryl Merrill


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.

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