The great bull elephant stands majestically in the hot African sun. Crackling, buzzing bush surrounds it as a ragged mountain range fills the backdrop beyond the dry vegetation and the rolling savanna.
Slowly the gigantic beast lifts its head and its thick trunk snakes out to delicately curl around the leaves of a nearby Acacia tree, plucking the leaves and politely slipping the bundle into its mouth.
The beast’s great grey hide is cracked and aged from the harsh African sun, some mud splatters on one side from its last trip to a nearby river. Coarse hair juts out from all over it’s hide and two large, white tusks curve elegantly from either side of its mouth.
Its large ears lazily move back and forth, perhaps to cool it down, to chase away the insistent, endless insects or perhaps both. It is a slow, steady action, almost cathartic in nature.
The bull elephant appears deep in thought as it slowly chews the leaves in its mouth and reaches out with its trunk to the tree for more.
Somewhere a lion roars and something else shrieks. A vulture drifts over far above this world, barely a black dot in the sky. The buzzing of the countless bush insects seems to collectively shift up in pitch and intensity, almost like the whole of the Savanna was singing some song that only they knew.
I peer through the lens at this scene. The zoom shows almost every detail of the elephant. The three nicks in its left ear from playing as a calf around thorn trees. The scar down its front leg where a lioness caught it unaware as a young adult, and the cracks and weathering on its great, valuable tusks from decades of living in this unforgiving Eden on a dusty continent.
And then the elephant looks at me.
It looks at me with those immense, eyelashed eyes with a warmth emanating outwards from a vast, hidden depth there. I can suddenly feel its soul, and feel the line of elephants that came before this one, trailing back to the very beginnings of this great savanna. We will never understand what wonders this ancient being and its kind have seen and whisper to each other across the ages on this old, sacred grassland.
It looks at me, and it looks through me and sees me.
The elephant knows I am there. It always did. It is not running away, nor is it fighting.
It accepts and forgives. It loves. But, mostly, it just feels sad. It feels sorry for me.
I cannot do this anymore.
I take my eye off the sights and hand the gun back to the ranger.
“Let’s go home,” I mumble, “let’s just go home.”