My aunt and uncle recently went on a three-week safari in southern Africa. It was the quintessential African experience; at least it fit all of my expectations of what one would see on an ideal trip through the Savannah. Herds of antelope springing through the brush, prides of lions, dazzles of zebras, troops of baboons, corps of giraffes, and spectromanias of hyenas.
Okay, I made that last one up.
As we watched their video, the one animal that struck my wife and me the most profoundly was the elephant. They saw multiple parades (that is a real collective term for pachyderms, even when they aren’t being abused by circuses) of elephant in the wild, even seeing a two-week-old calf that was jealously guarded by its mother. Some animal language crosses the divide of species: everyone watching the video saw mom flare her ears open at the jeeps, and a long-dormant bit at the base of our brain stems started screaming, “Run! Run! Imminent possibility of goring!”
A few days later, when an African elephant appeared on TV (we watch a lot of nature shows), my wife posed the question, “What will it be like if our children never see an elephant?” The thought almost made me cry. As modern society continues to creep up to the few raw edges of nature still left, are we losing the best bits of existence?
Emily Rose has never seen an elephant. There is no room for such an animal in the District. But she rediscovers a part of the wild past there, albeit a small part. Will this be our future?
The girl looked around her, making sure that there was no one else in the square. Then, carefully, she untied one of the pouches from her belt. She cradled it as if carrying an egg, one delicate hand holding the bottom while the other loosened the drawstrings. “Now,” she said, whisper quiet, as she opened the small sack, “they don’t all look like this one. I found her in an alleyway near the mines. She looks like one of the other ones that I found early on, so I’ll put them together when I get home.” She opened the sack, rolling the edges to down.
“My God,” Agnes breathed.
Gertrude, the bitterness now gone from her voice, rasped, “Agnes, is that—”
Agnes nodded. “It is. My great granny told me about these, the last of them, anyway, before she died. She saw a few as a child, before they all disappeared.”
The girl stared up at the women, watching their reverential voices and expressions, still cradling the sack in front of them.
Agnes looked deep into the girl’s wide blue eyes. “That, my dear,” she said quietly, “is no fairy.”
The tiny pink bloom quivered in the breeze of her words.
“No. That is a flower.”