Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Elephant in the Room

I recall watching Born To Be Wild, a 3D IMAX film back in 2011, about the rescue efforts underway by brave and selfless humans who valiantly try to right the wrongs committed by poachers and habitat encroachment. The film focused on the plight of the orangutans and elephants, and as Morgan Freeman narrated the short film in his famous dulcet tones, I was at once dismayed by the depravity of human cruelty and then uplifted by the sheer capacity of human generosity. I suppose it is true that to be capable of one, the other must also be possible. My tears of sadness and joy within the 40 minute running time were testament to that.

Earlier this year, an opportunity to travel to Kenya for a friend's wedding came. Unfortunately I was not able to go, but thankfully my best friend went to represent us both, and in return I received a most wonderful gift. A small bunch of the wedding guests who had traveled around the world to be there for the nuptials were treated to an afternoon at the David Sheldrake Wildlife Trust, that was featured in the film. The foundation does amazing work in rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned elephants who are the victims of merciless poaching. I cannot do justice to the incredible work they do here - all I can ask is that you visit their website, or watch the film. I challenge you not to be moved after you do so.

To cut a long story short, as a souvenir, my best friend gifted me the most amazing present possible of sponsoring an elephant in my name. I was adamant that I did not want any knick-knacks that went on a shelf collecting dust, so I was thrilled when this little elephant came into my life. I am now proudly one of little Sonje's foster parents, and a beneficiary to the foundation, where the money goes to help all of the elephants in their care.

Little Sonje, a yearling, was found on her own on the eastern boundary of the Tsavo East National Park. She was a milk dependant orphan with a huge, hard swelling on the top joint of her right hind leg (possibly from a poorly healed fracture), and two small scars at the site of the injury indicating a possible arrow or spear wound, leaving the calf with a pronounced limp. The rescue team named her Sonje, the Mliangulu word for 'lame.' She was lucky to be found alive as a hungry lion, who was known to be in the vicinity, would have undoubtedly made a meal out of her.

So now I get monthly updates of my little girl's status, including photos, along with a watercolor by Angela Sheldrick. I also receive news about other rescues and in general am treated like one of the team, which is heartening to say the least.

As a proud Papa, I just wanted to share (and boast). Here's a little picture of her below. She's got my ears.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

One year later...

Any film watcher has seen the well-used storytelling trope of a particular scene ending, fading to black or white, with the words ‘one year later’ (or another arbitrary length of time) then appearing on screen.

Based on what came before – and the set-up of what comes immediately after, the viewer then makes their mind up and fills in the gaps of what they didn’t see and of what will never be divulged. It’s such a common narrative trick that the individual doesn’t feel like they’ve missed out on anything at all, so clever is the brain at pattern recognition and filling in the blanks.

Here I find myself using the same method, a year after my last blog entry – but I am calling attention to it, which is rare and a tad signpost-like. And the purpose of it is to fill in the gaps myself and to narrate my own journey. That is the wonderful prerogative of a writer: the ability to put my thoughts into reader’s minds. It’s such a beautiful thing, and it’s something that I am careful about and respect very much. After all, when you are invited by a stranger to tell them a story and they willingly imagine what you have painstakingly created, you have to treasure and honor that invitation. Any perceived injustice would result in a rejection of any future tales, no matter how great they might be.

I am also acutely aware that, as of this writing, that I am not yet a published author – I do not yet possess a public profile where there is sufficient interest to have to explain my hiatus. In fact, part of the draw of being a writer is the awesome anonymity, even if you’re a bestselling author. But no, I’m just a regular lad with a handful of followers and many more casual blog readers, well-wishing family, friends and acquaintances. I could just pick up where I left off and go forward.

So why don’t I?

If I’m ever going to become the type of writer I want to be, I have to nurture the human being that I already am. One should influence the other. So, in short, this last year has been rather momentous. A lot has happened, and one of the major changes was moving back to my parents’ place in part to take care of them – my father in particular. Becoming a parent to your own parents is quite heady stuff, especially when you throw the curve balls that are dementia and Parkinson’s. Add my career, and any number of regular and extraordinary stresses that we all experience as inhabitants of this planet, and there you have it.

But in the meantime, all this enabled me to turn inwards and craft my first YA manuscript into something that truly excites me, but to also write another manuscript: another standalone that is quirky and full of spirit, which belied the difficult and sometimes frustrating circumstances at home.

So here I am, one year later, smiling, happy and grateful to write, with all the love around me that I need and which I am utterly grateful for.

In the end, it was a year well spent.