A couple of months before the world turned upside down, I had the rare privilege to observe an elephant herd honouring one of their dead.
All that remained of the fallen elephant was its massive sun bleached skull, lying exposed on the the parched African veldt. Each member of the herd slowly approached in turn, to reverently touch the skull. Some nudged it a bit, while others caressed it in remembrance for long minutes, before moving off to permit the next member of the herd to pay their respects. The matriarch lingered the longest, followed closely by the oldest adults, while at the end of the line came the youngsters, obviously too young to have known the fallen one, and acting much like human kids might at an aged aunt’s funeral, gave the skull a perfunctory pat, before scampering away.
A vivid recollection of that solemn encounter popped, unbidden, into my mind today, and prompted this blog. It seems to be happening to me a lot recently, memories gurgling to the surface, as one day day drifts into another in uninterrupted Covid topor.
Not just memories, but dreams- vivid ones, of people and places far in the past. Nights in self -isolation are filled with intense and action packed dreams. I’ve skied epic lines down slopes that far surpass my waking abilities-taking big air, and floating effortlessly back to earth. I’ve canoed at least a dozen wild rivers in my sleep during Covid, and hiked in deserts, rainforests and jungles, joined in my travels by an ever changing cast of companions, some contemporary, but some only dimly remembered from decades in the past.
Barred from the inside of any courtroom for over a year by the wretched virus, I’ve nonetheless crafted intricate legal arguments, and laid down withering cross examinations in a score of dream courts; amazing myself upon awakening to realize that the cases being litigated were completely new, not a re-hash of old battles or even a rehearsal for anything languishing in the filing cabinet now awaiting the opening of the courts, and often involved areas of the law of which I am innocent of any knowledge, while awake. One night last week found me, in my slumber, parsing fine points of constitutional and jurisdictional caselaw pertaining to a log-jam on a tributary of the Nechacho river, when suddenly the courtroom dissolved and we were all in the water, counsel, judge and court clerk all struggling in a maelstrom of white water.
I am sure that there are those far more learned and erudite than this blogger, who can theorize why, during Covid, our dreams have become so intense, and intricate, and have pried open so many forgotten corners of our subconscious. Some may even be brave enough to attempt an interpretation of their meaning.
For me, I am content to simply savour the experience. You see, amongst the most vivid of my dreams was a youthful walk along a leafy, sun dappled path to a lake where I fished, and talked to my father, just after the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Most recently, I delighted in an animated conversation with a much young version of my mother, a conversation impossible now in the light of day, as she fades away, barricaded, safe but unhuggable, in assisted living.
Nighttime, during Covid, has become a time to pause on the journey across the veldt, to caress old bones- to reflect, and to remember.