The elephant. Such a beautiful creature. Watching him as he walks through the thick forest and out on to the path leading away from the village. Seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. And there in front of him sits a peacock. Perching elegantly on a stump of wood. Screeching at the approaching elephant. The elephant still oblivious, unfazed by the noisy bird. This is his world, there’s not a thing that can stop him in his path.
Sitting her in the evenings is my own time. My time to watch the elephants and the birds as they wander through the forest. It’s the time where I can sit and contemplate. There is nobody to bother me out here, the animals care little for the old man sitting in the long grass watching them. Or perhaps they are just used to me. At least they tolerate me in their garden.
I come to think back over my life. I think back over the sadness, the happiness, the people gone and the people who are still here. It’s not true that old people have no worries. Age does not take away humanity. I worry about my grandchildren as much as I worried about my own children. The forest and the animals give me my daily peace. The world would be a better place if we could all experience this for an hour each day.
It reminds me of the time as a boy when I was sitting in this exact same position. Thinking over trivial problems, wondering why I couldn’t smile back at the girl in my class. My shyness then was a burden. Staying just five minutes longer than I should have, just so I could relive the imaginary scenarios in my head where I smiled back. Where she held my hand as we did our homework together. Wishing I was as confident as the peacock.
As a young man I would come to release the pressure of the day. My first few years of being a schoolteacher taking its toll on me. Trying my best to give the children the best education I was capable of. Thinking of ways that I could improve. The quietness of the evening in the forest allowing me to think deeply. There was no longer the pressure of having to be home before dark. Sitting late into the evening.
After I got married, I would steal those moments to myself. I couldn’t sit here at liberty any longer. The burden of responsibility to my family allowing me only ten minutes. These were the most precious ten minutes. I had to cherish the short time alone. The glimpse of an elephant becoming a rare sight, I came to see him, not him to see me. No time to wait for him as I hurried back to my family.
When my children had grown up enough to to take care of themselves I would come and worry. Worry about their life choices, worry about where they were going to go. I would think about what I could do to help them, if I was doing enough to help them. And still I worried about my students. Even in the rain, the soft sounds of the water falling through the leaves soothing my fears.
And here I sit now. Still worried, but wiser. Now I can stay as long as I like. Sometimes sitting here until past midnight. My family aware of my secret hiding place. So I say thank you to the elephant and the peacock. Thank you for allowing me into your garden, and thank you for your company and thank you for listening to my lifetime of worries.