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Promised Story

This has been a hard week. Saturday night was particularly hard. In putting together things for the tournament this coming Saturday, I had to go through some boxes. Item after item with our names, side by side. Dragons, and green and gold, or green and gold woven with black and red. Over and over. Pairs of items, carefully made, selected, bestowed. Or that we'd sat with and he said, "I want to keep this," instead of, "Let's give this to...."

And so I sat on the floor of the room, surrounded by objects, deciding what to part with, and with each movement of item here to there it was as though I was breaking some little part of him out of my life. They are just things. I know that. Parting with them does not diminish what was, what remains, but it feels that way. So to move out of that place of resharpened loss and pain, I offer up a small story of hope.

Last Sunday we had a "Friendship Tea" at our Eastern Star Chapter rooms. While we were sitting around drinking coffee and eating decadent cookies, some of the ladies told me about "The Elephant."

It seems that just down the road, a woman had built an elephant by wrapping grape vines around a metal frame, and put it up beside the road on a field she owned. It's become something of a legend, and people have brought flowers, and pinwheels, and bedecked the elephant with its own wreath of wildflowers. When it rained, the woman went out and gave the pachyderm its own umbrella. They assured me it wasn't far, and worth the trip, and gave me directions. And just when I thought they'd finished, someone's eyes would light up, and they would tell me about seeing it, and how wonderful it was.

And without seeing it, I knew it must be. Here we are in the middle of conservative agricultural middle America. Here, the practical trumps everything else, and people complain about the bright purple houses, and registering Republican is expected, and being a Democrat is often something one must...explain. And yet this piece of whimsey was making these women glow in the telling. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it all.

When we left the tea, the Duchezz was in quite a bit of pain, and so, since the heated seat in the Forester gives her a great deal of comfort, thinking some time in the car would do her good, I took the Duchezz off down the road. She was a bit puzzled, since the direction I took was away from home. I simply said, "We're going to see the elephant." Yes, I can't resist the odd allusion here and there, even if not entirely appropriate to the circumstances, and since she hadn't been in the room for the conversation....

So I followed the directions, and we ended up on a very narrow country road, very sparsely settled, not in terribly good condition. And then, up ahead, at the top of a rise, I saw a brief flash of the red umbrella. "It's just up ahead," I said. "At the top of that rise, on your side."

"Wha...Oh my. Oh. My."

I pulled over as far as I could (which meant there was just over 1 lane of open highway) and she looked out the window. And then she scrambled out of the car, quickly bending back inside the cab and got out her cell phone to take a picture.

I suddenly realized--Hey! I've got a phone that takes pictures, too. And so it was that the pictures were taken that so pleased some of you. The elephant.

Where, in there, is the hope, you ask.

Here is where, in the rest of the story the ladies told me.

Last year, the same woman created a similar sculpture. A nearly life size giraffe, of grape vines, on a metal frame. She placed it in a nearly identical place in the same field.

And someone destroyed it. First they tore it down. Then they torched it.

She could have said, "I'll never do something like that again." Instead, this year, she made an elephant. Of heavier metal. With better, deeper stakes to hold it in the ground. And a neighbor (not the suspected vandal) said, when he saw her building it, "I have a flat bed--would that help to get it to the installation?" And he helped her move it. And others helped her install it. And the community has embraced it, and brought it flowers, and pinwheels, and told their friends....

So, in the middle of farm country, in rural Otsego County, if you travel down Rte 51 from West Winfield, about a mile past Skaneatles Turnpike, turn left on to South Street, and go down the road for a piece, and at the top of the rise you will see an elephant.

Tell her Meirwen sent you. Feel free to bring flowers.