I grew up loving a stuffed toy elephant and lion. Together, they were Ellie and Leo. Very original, I know. They were a set of stuffed small bean-bag style toys. The best of friends among themselves, propped up on my bed. They were adorable (if I don’t say so myself). They travelled the world with me and like for any child, they were a comforting, constant presence.
Leo’s mane had been whittled into a thin wisened, wizardly beard, almost dreadlock-like from overuse: too much stroking, not enough washing hehe. Don’t laugh. I had them well into my late teens (…if not into my early 20s!). I’m sure many people share this trait, they just don’t admit to it. As I grow older, I actually get more comfortable with admitting the desire to hold onto being a child at heart. These toys were a window into my childhood.
I was genuinely excited to go to Africa earlier this year, to discover Ellie and Leo’s ancestors. No joke. Lions and elephants were both spectacular in the flesh!! I think Leo had always been my secret favorite (even though I know we’re not supposed to have favorites)…but the surprise of the trip was most definitely having fallen in love with elephants. Elephants exhibit a depth of emotional intelligence and humanity to them that was almost palpable. Lions do still have some the most interesting behavior of all the cats, and of many of the animals in general. You can watch them for hours: they have interesting social behaviors and are often more active than many other animals. It can also take FOREVER to find them! We were lucky enough to find a few lionesses on the hunt in Kruger National Park and it was one of the most incredible experiences to watch them running between and around the cars on safari, using the road to track their kill and the cars like boulders, oblivious to us bystander!!
Sniffing something out
Too close for comfort?
Leo’s mother on the move
I can’t help myself – an occasional black and white monotone photo I think often adds great character and intensity to already beautiful animal portraits. The harsh sunlight and shadows from the trees in the South African landscape made for some beautiful, playful darkened lines and patches on these lionesses, deep in concentration.
Deep in contemplation (…maybe the next meal?)
Stealth beneath the bushes
The intensity of a lioness
A young male hiding beneath the thicket
Elephants tend to be a little easier to catch – size sometimes matters.
Ellie’s grandfather caught hiding behind the trees
Cousins in the reeds
I’m watching you!
Don’t be shy!
Ellie and Leo were eventually joined by another long-eared and flopsy mopsy rabbit (read Beatrix Potter if you don’t know this reference!), with a triangle-like body, that I named Isosceles: a great descriptive name! I left Ellie, Leo and Isosceles in Australia…New York winters were a little too harsh for them! More recently though, in the concrete jungle, the metropolis of New York – I was gifted a somewhat ironic addition. A small donkey! Ruben, or ‘Rubi’ for short. Watch this space 🙂 #anothertoystory
A warm and fuzzy story always helps start the week on the right note. Happy Sunday. Good luck for Monday!