I have decided to share a story with you, but it isn’t a new project or even a part of an old one. It is my own story, me, my life. See, unlike a good novel my memory has what you could call plot holes. I can’t promise hard facts, only share what I remember. But almost dying tends to burn those memories into your mind forever.
I guess I have always seen the world a little differently compared to my fellow friends, family, or classmates. For as long as I can remember I have had visions of a woman with raven black hair in a plain white dress. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I figured out who she actually was or why I keep seeing her before my mind’s eye, but by the time I was six I knew that she was an embodiment of death, but also life. She is death herself, as well as Gaia. Suffice it to say that I haven’t exactly had what you could call a normal life.
But that’s not really the story I wanted to share, but it is connected. When I was six my family and I visited Africa, and during a safari I was attacked by an elephant who made an honest effort of demolishing the car I was sitting in. Over the course of my life this hasn’t been my only close encounter with death but it is one of those I recall with complete clarity. As you can tell I survived, or I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.
It is peculiar what your mind latches on to when it goes into shock. It seeks an anchor, or at least mine did. We stopped to observe a mother elephant with her calf after visiting a gas station swarming with monkies. I remember looking at the elephant for a moment and then turning my attention elsewhere. I was leaning forward for some reason. When I looked up again the elephant stood in fronting the cat and flapped her ears, shaking her head and kicking grovel at the hood of the car. I don’t remember the movement as clearly as the sound of tiny stones hitting the car.
At this point it becomes a bit of a blur, a moment passes and then there’s confusion. I remember leaning forward as if by instinct, perhaps it was my aunt’s guiding hand where she was sitting on my right. At this point I my eyes shut down and I can’t see anything. But I can still hear the sound of breaking glass and the rocking movement of the car as the elephant charged into it, one of her tusks crashing through the window just above my head. If I hadn’t leaned forward I might not have been writing this today, some nineteen years later.
I remember indistinct shouting, panicked voices. I didn’t speak English at the time but I got the just of it, fear is a universal language. The person who was driving managed to get the engine started again (we had turned it off when we stopped to watch the elephant), and the four wheel drive enabled just as the elephant came back for a second attack. The back window this time, more shards of glass raining down on us. One of the elephants tusks even went trough the roof of the car. With the 4×4 enabled we managed to get away from the elephant before she flipped the car over.
Throughout all of this, my mind latched onto one particular detail. My aunt had had a bag of raw eggs we had bought at the gas station(I think) I mentioned earlier. Not a single egg was broken, and to my six-year-old mind that became my anchor. I obsessed over those eggs. Oddly enough, I don’t recall if we ate them or not.
Going to Africa was a life changing experience, I have many memories from that time. The vast majority of them good. That elephant has followed me, though, through my entire life. It was only recently when I went back to Africa and confronted my fear that carrying the elephant with me no longer felt like a burden. If I had a choice to change any if this, I would not. No heart is without its scars, they’re the marks of life engraved on our souls – and I feel like I can finally truly share one of mine.
We never know what the transforming moments of our lives are going to be, or when they will happen. We can’t know what form they’ll take or how we carry them with us. Sometimes the most insignificant detail is what gives you the courage to go on. Sometimes courage is a fragile bag of unbroken eggs in the lap of someone you love, and sometimes… It’s going back to where it began.
Here is a photo I took last time I visited Africa. I was sitting on the roof of our car, taking a picture of some the more curious elephants of the Masai mara. I’m amazed my camera didn’t shake as much as I thought it would.