Night feeds have become a special time at the sanctuary. Even when the girls are being silly, there is a relaxed and peaceful feeling to them that can’t be recreated during the day. Even Scott, who is traditionally a morning person, loves these moments.
We go down every night to make sure Mara gets her extra meals, and she is a slow eater, so it takes about an hour for her to finish. She was eating well that night, so we decided to reserve a bit of hay for her and allow her to have her fill without the other girls trying to “share” her dinner. As Mara ate, she would pick up a big trunkful, with some resting on her trunk while she chewed. She was letting everyone else know that she wasn’t up for sharing that night and the other girls didn’t push her; they let her have her fill.
On our nighttime visits, we need to wear headlamps because things are completely dark. There was a very light rain – the kind that is so light, you can barely feel it – and, because we were not close to the pond, we could just barely hear the frogs. Mostly what we heard was the methodical and cyclical chewing of the elephants.
When you place your headlamp on the front of the 4-wheeler to have a more diffuse illumination, the light beams straight up and you are reminded of the vastness of the sanctuary. The further up the light goes, the lighter it gets until it just disappears into the sky somewhere; there are no city lights or big buildings – just this single beam. The little drops of rain were falling down, and, in the lamplight, they looked like soft snowflakes.
Of course, bugs are drawn to light and bats follow behind. We watched for about 15 minutes as bats of all sizes would sweep across the beam of light, diving for their bug dinners. We turned back to Mara every few minutes to check on her and eventually we saw that she only had a couple more bites in her trunk. We put some more hay on the ground for her and put some directly into her nose so she could keep it, and then we rode home and let them be.
In moments like these, we are reminded of how lucky we are. What we do here is a lot of work, but these simple moments reinforce to us how special all of this is. We say often that elephants force you to slow down. When you are working on “human” time, you can often rush and get distracted and forget to be present and in the moment. Elephants don’t abide by human time. They remind us to just be. We built this sanctuary for them, but we thank them for reminding us that we are really the lucky ones.