compass for navigation, like any good inventor knows, is made with a
piece of magnetized and a simple metal pin, but the makings of a moral
compass are not as clear. Some believe that all are born with a moral
compass, like an appendix or the fear of worms. According to others, the
moral compass develops over time, as you discover the decisions of
others, observing the world and reading books. In any case, a moral
compass seems to be a delicate thing, and as people grow and venture into the
world, often it becomes increasingly difficult to understand in which
direction lies the needle tip, and increasingly difficult to decide which is
the best thing to do.
Lemony Snicket, 'The End' 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'
He was making his way slowly towards the Elder
during the ceremony. He wondered if the Elder would laugh at the cloth
he brought, it wasn’t the usual print cloth he offered. He held the
material tightly in hands and once again he examined it.
The cloth was carefully cut from a well-worn brown sweater. This
sweater contained so many memories. But the most recent, brought a
batch of fresh tears. He sat down on one of the plastic lawn chairs
that always adorned the sweat lodge grounds. It was here when she wore
the sweater last.
When he felt he could speak without crying,
he approached the Elder. He said, ‘there are no words that I could
possibly say of the gratitude I feel for the healing ceremony you did
for my partner. My sweet girl is at home resting comfortably right now
and I have to come to pray for her.’ The Elder accepted the sweater
cloth and the tobacco. She said, ‘oh yes, I remember her wearing this
sweater many times. This was her favorite. I am wondering my boy if I
can have a few words with you before we go into the lodge. The
Grandfathers and Grandmothers aren’t quite ready so we have time.’ The
man took a seat next to the Elder.
She looked at him with so
much compassion; he quickly looked down at his feet fearing that he
would be unable to control his tears. She reached out and put a hand on
his shoulder for a minute; then she reached down to the bag that lay at
her feet. She rooted through the contents and then found what she was
looking for; in her hand she held an Apache teardrop. She offered to
the man and he accepted. She said, ‘thank you for taking my offering; I
want to share a teaching with you. You know my boy; you are a good man.
I mean it. I have seen you with your partner. You are kind and
gentle. I have could see your worry and sometimes even your
frustration. I don’t think many see it, but I could, it appears ever so
briefly in your eyes, or in the smile that at the times seems to have
painted on. I imagine that never in your wildest dreams would you have
thought that your partner would become sick. I imagine you thought that
you two would be like other couples going about life with the usual
worries, but not worries like this.’ The man nodded and brought his
hand quickly up to his face, using his thumb and finger to wipe away the
tears that were threatening to spill over. He held the stone in his
other hand so tight, he felt like he was imprinting it into his palm.
The Elder continued, ‘you know as old as I am, I have witnessed many
good people, like yourself; go through things like this. I have heard
well-meaning people say different things like; we aren’t given what we
can’t handle, there is a reason for everything, I know how you feel, or
the worst in my opinion, be strong. I must be getting old because
sometimes I think, sad things just happen in our life and there is no
good reason in the world. I think about the time I lost my mother and
people said these things to me, I would just nod because I knew they
meant well and sometimes, they didn’t know what else to say. I think
for some, it is about trying to explain grief, or they just were just
trying to make me feel better. I know they have their reasons and like I
said, they really do mean well and want to express their caring and
that is beautiful and compassionate.
The thing is that they
didn’t know was my mom was sick for about a year before she went left to
the spirit world and I was a witness to her progression towards that
side, I guess that I don’t need to tell you, but it is very difficult to
see someone you love sick. I felt sad, tired, angry, depressed,
frustrated and hopeless. Worst of all every self-defeating thought I
ever had seemed to surface. Oh, don’t get me wrong; there were times of
great joy, happiness, inspiration, fulfillment, and so much love.
I guess that is the way of loss or when we grieve our old way of life;
we go through so many feelings. And, people don’t know what to say, but
like I said, they mean well. I suspect that it is similar for you. I
want you to know that whenever you need to talk, I am here. I want you
to know, you can tell me how you feel without feeling guilty or think
that I will judge you. I guess most of all, I would like you to
consider about praying for yourself once and awhile. I am going to
suggest something and it is totally up to you, I just want you think
about it; perhaps, you might consider not praying for strength. I say
this because you have plenty of strength. I can see that. What I want
to say is that I know that while your partner is sick and could use all
our prayers, I also know you are going through this as well and can use
It is ok to process your feelings, no matter what they
are. For example, if you are mad, get good and mad, talk about it;
shout it out, it is important, but where you feel safe to do so. I say
this because I kept saying to myself, once my mother goes to the other
side, I will process my feelings then. But by that time, whenever I
became angry, I felt good and guilty about feeling angry. It took me
years to come to a place where I could just feel comfortable thinking
about my mom or even cry about losing her in a healthy way. You see,
many of my tears were about guilt and not loss. I am not saying; your
partner is anywhere near going to the other side, I seen this when I did
her healing ceremony and the doctors say she far from it. However, I
believe the more you honor your feelings in a safe manner, where you
don’t feel guilty afterward, the more you can be there for both
yourself, and your partner. I am asking you just to give this some
thought, my boy. I just wanted to give you something to consider.’ He
stood up and reached down and gave her a huge hug. He asked, ‘can I
keep this Apache teardrop in my medicine pouch?’ She answered, ‘sure
for as long as you need to, but when you are ready, offer it up to the
river where it can be washed clean from the energy it had provided you.
Now, I think those Grandmothers and Grandfathers are ready for us.
Let’s enter into the lodge. We will pray for your partner and I am
going to pray for you, silently; mind you; because I want to honor your
feelings and when and if you are ready, I hope, one day soon that you
might pray for yourself. I just want to say one more thing, I love you
my son. I am proud of you. You are good and worthy man and I am
honored to know you.’ With that the Elder placed her hands on her
knees, facing forward, with her fingers spread far apart, and she rose,
she used her hands to support her. She turned to the man, winked and
said, ‘oh my bones, they feel older than I am.’
The man had a
great deal to think about and he was determined to give full weight to
the words the Elder was kind enough to share with him. He thought; ‘in
this lodge, I am going to follow through on what I came to do, and that
is to pray for my partner.’ Later, inside the lodge, as he prayed for
his partner, he couldn’t help but smile because he could feel the
prayers being said by the Elder for his well being. He felt embraced by
not only the lodge, but also nurtured by the love that surrounded him.
long time ago, Anansi the spider, had all the wisdom in the world
stored in a huge pot. Nyame, the sky god, had given it to him. Anansi
had been instructed to share it with everyone.
Every day, Anansi looked in the pot, and learned different things. The pot was full of wonderful ideas and skills.
Anansi greedily thought, "I will not share the treasure of knowledge with everyone. I will keep all the wisdom for myself."
So, Anansi decided to hide the wisdom on top of a tall tree. He took
some vines and made some strong string and tied it firmly around the
pot, leaving one end free. He then tied the loose end around his waist
so that the pot hung in front or him.
He then started to climb
the tree. He struggled as he climbed because the pot of wisdom kept
getting in his way, bumping against his tummy.
watched in fascination as his father struggled up the tree. Finally,
Anansi's son told him "If you tie the pot to your back, it will be
easier to cling to the tree and climb."
Anansi tied the pot to his back instead, and continued to climb the tree, with much more ease than before.
When Anansi got to the top of the tree, he became angry. "A young one
with some common sense knows more than I, and I have the pot of wisdom!"
In anger, Anansi threw down the pot of wisdom. The pot broke, and
pieces of wisdom flew in every direction. People found the bits
scattered everywhere, and if they wanted to, they could take some home
to their families and friends.
That is why to this day, no one
person has ALL the world's wisdom. People everywhere share small pieces
of it whenever they exchange ideas.
come into the present. Flash on what’s happening with you right now. Be
fully aware of your body, its energetic quality. Be aware of your
thoughts and emotions.
Next, feel your heart, literally placing
your hand on your chest if you find that helpful. This is a way of
accepting yourself just as you are in that moment, a way of saying,
“This is my experience right now, and it’s okay.”
Then go into the next moment without any agenda.
This practice can open us to others at times when we tend to close
down. It gives us a way to be awake rather than asleep, a way to look
outward rather than withdraw."
There are things that come to you in life that you don’t expect.
Sometimes the sudden surprises are difficult and demand the most of you
in order to navigate your way to peace with them. Other times all they
ask you is reflection. All they ask of you is a commitment to time in
order to flesh out your insides with the definitive impact of their
arrival. As I get older I’ve become better at both but much prefer the
There’s a picture that occupies a special place on my
desk. It’s within easy reach. I take it down now and then and look at
it. It’s an old black and white photo obviously taken with am early
1960s model Kodak camera. It’s grainy and faded. But there’s a quality
of light in it that makes it magical. It’s a picture of a small boy and
girl with their arms around each other.
The boy in the picture wears a half smile. He’s standing in a fenced
backyard squinting at the camera as though it’s something alien and he’s
unsure of what to expect. He’s wearing pants rolled up four inches at
the hem, suspenders and a nondescript shirt. His runners are worn and
old looking. He’s small with a severe brush cut.
The girl beside him is the same height. She’s dressed in
saddle shoes with white socks, cowboy style jeans rolled up mid calf.
Her hair is cut in a tomboy style with long bangs and she’s smiling at
the camera like a thing she’s used to.
It’s 1963. The girl is my foster sister. I am the kid
with the rolled up jeans and suspenders. I am a foster kid and nearly
I’m seven years old. That means the photograph is nearly fifty years old
and it’s the first time I have ever seen it. The kid in the picture has
been a stranger until now. When I look at him there are pangs of
regret, of loss and of a time in my life that I never really fully
Oh, I know who he was. Years of therapy have allowed me
to see him in my mind’s eyes. I’ve held him, comforted him. I’ve told
him that everything would be all right, that he was safe and that he
wasn’t going anywhere alone anymore. I talked to him about dark and
lonely nights. I spoke to him about how light when it comes can chase
the darker things away. I spoke to him about permanence and home,
belonging and security. Through all of that, I know him and he knows me.
But I had never seen him. I had never seen the squint,
the rough home hair cut, the outsized jeans and the face unfamiliar with
smiles or the idea that something could be captured forever. He had
only ever been a sea of feelings I carried from all those years. They
were feelings of losses I couldn’t understand, of an emptiness at the
core of me I had carried all my life but had never found the words for.
He sits squarely in my palm like a treasured thing now. I
have the photograph. It’s mine to keep. I never knew that it was
possible for someone to give you years. I never knew it was possible for
someone to transport you through time and space. Yet they did and the
boy in the picture lives in every line and squint and half smile of the
man I am at fifty six.
See, I was a foster kid. I was a small Ojibway kid cut
off from everything that was supposed to be mine. I was lonely and
filled with pain. You can tell that by the eyes. No one knew that about
me then. I was just a kid. I existed in files; files that no one shared
with my foster family, me, school teachers or anyone who had anything to
do with me. No one, not even the kid in the picture himself, knew his
No one knew about my night terrors. No one knew about
pain I carried in my body. No one knew how damaged I had been by tings I
was defenseless against as a toddler and an infant. The terms,
Children’s Aid and care, didn’t seem to apply much to me or thousands of
other foster kids, then or now. As long as they exist only in files
that will never change.
The boy in the picture lives in me. He just doesn’t carry the pain
anymore. I comfort him very day. I heal him and he heals me. Together we
give ourselves a new past by creating a better day today. I belong
somewhere. I’m loved. I smile at cameras. The child is father to the man
and legendary conservationist Lawrence Anthony died March 2. His family
tells of a solemn procession of Elephants that defies human
12 hours, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their
way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late
author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives.The
formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago
as pests, were rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony, who had grown up in
the bush and was known as the “Elephant Whisperer.”
two days the herds loitered at Anthony’s rural compound on the vast
Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu – to say good-bye
to the man they loved. But how did they know he had died? Known for his
unique ability to calm traumatized elephants, Anthony had become a
legend. He is the author of three books, Babylon Ark, detailing his
efforts to rescue the animals at Baghdad Zoo during the Iraqi war, the
forthcoming The Last Rhinos, and his bestselling The Elephant Whisperer.
are two elephant herds at Thula Thula. According to his son Dylan, both
arrived at the Anthony family compound shortly after Anthony’s
death.“They had not visited the house for a year and a half and it must
have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey,” Dylan is quoted in
various local news accounts. “The first herd arrived on Sunday and the
second herd, a day later. They all hung around for about two days before
making their way back into the bush.”Elephants have long been known to
mourn their dead. In India, baby elephants often are raised with a boy
who will be their lifelong “mahout.” The pair develop legendary bonds –
and it is not uncommon for one to waste away without a will to live after the death of the other.
line of elephants approaching the Anthony house, but these are wild
elephants in the 21st century, not some Rudyard Kipling novel.The first
herd to arrive at Thula Thula several years ago were violent. They hated
humans. Anthony found himself fighting a desperate battle for their
survival and their trust, which he detailed in The Elephant
Whisperer:“It was 4:45 a.m. and I was standing in front of Nana, an
enraged wild elephant, pleading with her in desperation. Both our lives
depended on it. The only thing separating us was an 8,000-volt electric
fence that she was preparing to flatten and make her escape.“Nana, the
matriarch of her herd, tensed her enormous frame and flared her
ears.“’Don’t do it, Nana,’ I said, as calmly as I could. She stood
there, motionless but tense. The rest of the herd froze.“’This is your
home now,’ I continued. ‘Please don’t do it, girl.’I felt her eyes
boring into me.
Nana and calf “’They’ll kill you all if you break out. This is your
home now. You have no need to run any more.’“Suddenly, the absurdity of
the situation struck me,” Anthony writes. “Here I was in pitch darkness,
talking to a wild female elephant with a baby, the most dangerous
possible combination, as if we were having a friendly chat. But I meant
every word. ‘You will all die if you go. Stay here. I will be here with
you and it’s a good place.’“She took another step forward. I could see
her tense up again, preparing to snap the electric wire and be out, the
rest of the herd smashing after her in a flash.“I was in their path, and
would only have seconds to scramble out of their way and climb the
nearest tree. I wondered if I would be fast enough to avoid being
trampled. Possibly not.“Then something happened between Nana and me,
some tiny spark of recognition, flaring for the briefest of moments.
Then it was gone. Nana turned and melted into the bush. The rest of the
herd followed. I couldn’t explain what had happened between us, but it
gave me the first glimmer of hope since the elephants had first thundered into my life.”
gathering at the Anthony home It had all started several weeks earlier
with a phone call from an elephant welfare organization. Would Anthony
be interested in adopting a problem herd of wild elephants? They lived
on a game reserve 600 miles away and were “troublesome,” recalled
Anthony.“They had a tendency to break out of reserves and the owners
wanted to get rid of them fast. If we didn’t take them, they would be
shot.“The woman explained, ‘The matriarch is an amazing escape artist
and has worked out how to break through electric fences. She just twists
the wire around her tusks until it snaps, or takes the pain and smashes
through.’“’Why me?’ I asked.“’I’ve heard you have a way with animals.
You’re right for them. Or maybe they’re right for you.’”What followed
was heart-breaking. One of the females and her baby were shot and killed
in the round-up, trying to evade capture.
French version of “The Elephant Whisperer”“When they arrived, they were
thumping the inside of the trailer like a gigantic drum. We sedated
them with a pole-sized syringe, and once they had calmed down, the door
slid open and the matriarch emerged, followed by her baby bull, three
females and an 11-year-old bull.”Last off was the 15-year-old son of the
dead mother. “He stared at us,” writes Anthony, “flared his ears and
with a trumpet of rage, charged, pulling up just short of the fence in
front of us.“His mother and baby sister had been shot before his eyes,
and here he was, just a teenager, defending his herd. David, my head
ranger, named him Mnumzane, which in Zulu means ‘Sir.’ We christened the
matriarch Nana, and the second female-in-command, the most feisty,
Frankie, after my wife.“We had erected a giant enclosure within the
reserve to keep them safe until they became calm enough to move out into
the reserve proper.“Nana gathered her clan, loped up to the fence and
stretched out her trunk, touching the electric wires. The 8,000-volt
charge sent a jolt shuddering through her bulk. She backed off. Then,
with her family in tow, she strode the entire perimeter of the
enclosure, pointing her trunk at the wire to check for vibrations from
the electric current.
I went to bed that night, I noticed the elephants lining up along the
fence, facing out towards their former home. It looked ominous. I was
woken several hours later by one of the reserve’s rangers, shouting,
‘The elephants have gone! They’ve broken out!’ The two adult elephants
had worked as a team to fell a tree, smashing it onto the electric fence
and then charging out of the enclosure. “I scrambled together a
search party and we raced to the border of the game reserve, but we were
too late. The fence was down and the animals had broken out. “They
had somehow found the generator that powered the electric fence around
the reserve. After trampling it like a tin can, they had pulled the
concrete-embedded fence posts out of the ground like matchsticks, and
headed north.” The reserve staff chased them – but had competition. “We
met a group of locals carrying large caliber rifles, who claimed the
elephants were ‘fair game’ now. On our radios we heard the wildlife
authorities were issuing elephant rifles to staff. It was now a simple
race against time.” Anthony managed to get the herd back onto Thula Thula property, but problems had just begun:
bid for freedom had, if anything, increased their resentment at being
kept in captivity. Nana watched my every move, hostility seeping from
every pore, her family behind her. There was no doubt that sooner or
later they were going to make another break for freedom. “Then, in a
flash, came the answer. I would live with the herd. To save their lives,
I would stay with them, feed them, talk to them. But, most importantly,
be with them day and night. We all had to get to know each other.” It worked, as the book describes in detail, notes the London Daily Mail newspaper. Anthony
was later offered another troubled elephant – one that was all alone
because the rest of her herd had been shot or sold, and which feared
humans. He had to start the process all over again. And as his reputation spread, more “troublesome” elephants were brought to Thula Thula.
So, how after Anthony’s death, did the reserve’s elephants — grazing miles away in distant parts of the park — know? “A
good man died suddenly,” says Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, Ph.D., “and from
miles and miles away, two herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost
a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost ‘funereal’ procession
to make a call on the bereaved family at the deceased man’s home.”
there ever were a time, when we can truly sense the wondrous
‘interconnectedness of all beings,’ it is when we reflect on the
elephants of Thula Thula. A man’s heart’s stops, and hundreds of
elephants’ hearts are grieving. This man’s oh-so-abundantly loving heart
offered healing to these elephants, and now, they came to pay loving
homage to their friend.”
sons say that their father was a remarkable man who lived his life to
the fullest and never looked back on any choices he made.
He leaves behind his wife Francoise, his two sons, Dylan and Jason, and two grandsons, Ethan and Brogan.
And me happiest when I compose poems. Love, power, the huzza of battle are something, are much; yet a poem includes them like a pool water and reflection. In me, nature’s divided things— tree, mould on a tree— have their fruition; I am their core. Let them swap, bandy, like a flame swerve I am their mouth; as a mouth I serve.
And I observe how the sensual moths big with odour and sunshine dart in the perilous shrubbery; or drop their visiting shadows upon the garden I one year made of flowering stone to be a footstool for the perfect gods who, friends to the ascending orders, will sustain this passionate meditation and call down pardons for the insurgent blood.
A quiet madman, never far from tears, I lie like a slain thing under the green air the trees inhabit, or rest upon a chair towards which the inflammable air tumbles on many robins’ wings; noting how seasonably leaf and blossom uncurl and living things arrange their death, while someone from afar off blows birthday candles for the world.
The most amazing miracle is the coming and going of this Breath. Out of nowhere it comes and to nowhere it goes. From this breath comes the Gift of Life and Life makes all the other miracles possible. You can Be.
As they sat, each with her own mug, the old
woman settled on the bed and the girl on the chair, the grandmother began
"You will find two kinds of people in the world. Some say
that there are the bad and the good. But it isn't like that. Since what is good for one may be bad for another. No, that doesn't work. You have to depend on your own intuition."
"There are those who make you feel inside as if you are drinking a
good, warm soup - even if you are hungry and the two of you have nothing
to eat. In spite of that they nourish you. And then there are
those who cause you to freeze inside, even if you are sitting before a
roaring fire and have eaten your fill. Those you should keep away from.
They are not good for you, even though others might say they are good
people. Remember that my chick."
The girl nodded.
second rule says that the door to a person's heart can only be opened
from within. If there is someone who will not let you in, it's no use
hammering and kicking and lamenting and complaining. For what if the
door is ajar, and you push it shut? With some people it can never be
"What else?" the girl asked.
there is the third and most important rule. It's about a person's need
to continue wishing and hoping, for then, at last, you will get what was
wished and hoped for - even if it is in a completely different way from
what you had imagined."
Why do people shout in anger at each other? Why do we shout when the other person is just next to us?
When two people are angry at each other, their hearts become distant.
To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other.
The angrier they are, the louder they shout to hear each
other, to cover that great distance.
What happens when two
people are in love? They talk softly with each other. Even in silence, communication is full and complete. The distance between their hearts is very small or
So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant. There may come a day when the
distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.
One of life's challenges is to discern whether
the inner voice that prompts us in a particular direction is sourced by
the sacred that lives within us or is from a
smaller, less aware aspect of self that is sometimes caught
The Beloved may urge moving in a direction that is challenging,
but it never holds the edge of harshness that arises from old wounds or
fresh fears. Wisdom speaks in a tone of tenderness even when urging us
to find the courage to be who we are.