Friday, April 9, 2010


not to sound dentist obsessed, but...i most likely have one nerve left in my head. ok. say, three.

i saw one of the last being pulled....a long delicate pink nerve, nicely curved around a hair thin needle. i. saw. it.

everyone always says ask for gas ask for gas. she doesn't have any, people. only lovely injections.

i will not lie on the chair without being assured that i will be injected up to the hilt. even for dead teeth. i told her, "it's not for my teeth. it's for my head."

my gums must surely look like a pin cushion.

as the root canal process starts, i close my eyes and concentrate on not frowning. i dream of the soft, velvety bits behind my horse's ears, the part i love to kiss. it works swimmingly well until the little macedonian says, " can you feel this? this? this?" and i go, " ah ah" sort of shaking my head...and then she says, "oh it's really deep now."

WHY? do i need to know this? no indeed i don't. straight away i remember the x ray image of that needle sitting deep and long right through the middle of a tooth. dentists should all take the vow of silence unless asked. unless anyone really actually wants to know what is going on. she insists i look with a mirror as i sort of cower, blanche and baulk at the idea. macedonians are an insistent people, i've come to discover.

i've decided this flourish of dentist visits is all about overcoming deep rooted phobia and fears. about mind practice. like elephant. i've grown up in africa, amongst the herds, bobbing on little chinese boats on the zambezi river amongst hippo and crocodiles, watching herds swim across that great river, their trunks above the water, like teapots; lucid memories of being chased by elephant along windy tracks through forests. i've come to learn that elephant don't need to stick to the road. they cut corners, taking trees out as they tear along behind, their blood curdling screams chilling to the core and full of serious intention. i've watched them under the moon, hoovering up muchenja fruits (their favourite sweeties), and being charged INSIDE my little hut, left cowering naked in a corner, half in half out my house, her great wise forehead resting against a roof beam, the little thatched roof wobbling under the moon; waiting with the stillness of a statue for the mouse to run. i didn't. i was frozen.

make no mistake, i LOVE elephant, the great symbol of this continent's soul. over the years i've developed a deep respect for them, not dissimilar to the respect i feel about dentists and pilots, but am naturally terrified. distance is everything. this has been born from experience: chinese, czech dental encounters in socialist states (where they use tools from the garage next door), years of elephant encounters, where revenge is fiercely waged for years of indiscriminate poaching.

so it was with a strange sense of trepidation and fascination that i visited nkhasis and raziki over easter - two domesticated elephant who live west of kilimanjaro, with their trainers dirk and ricarda. dirk walks amongst the wild herds, he reads their signs, he feels completely at ease amongst them. he is the only person i know who has bolted on an elephant. more than once. he postulates wisdoms like " never fall off. just never fall off."

i watched dirk ask nkhasis to lie down - with only his voice.

she heaved herself onto her side and lay as still as a mountain as he walked up to her. her eyes were closed, at peace, as if dreaming. i watched trust in action.

i watched him holding "hands" with her.

i watched a strange and beautiful communication which quite suddenly i yearned to know.

and finally when nkhasis strolled up to me, my heart in my throat, i had to swallow the fear, breathe deeply. i stood stock still. open eyed and smiling. (breathe janelle, breathe. oh shit i'm wearing my mother's ivory bangle. oh shit my father used to shoot elephant. ) i extended my hand out to her stretched out trunk. i blew into her trunk. she wrapped it around me and kissed me five times, loud heart bursting schmacking definite kisses, which left heart shaped mud marks all over made my heart swell and roar. i felt the emotion rise, like a marble blue wave. i gently placed my hand on her forehead. she closed her eyes and sighed. i haven't ever felt such peace. such forgiveness. such union. such understanding. such trust. i walked some place i haven't ever been before.

my soul was stirred and a myriad of butterflies, stars and wings rose, fluttering around me into the still golden twilight.

toodely oh bestests. bisous X.X.X. great, schmacky elephantine ones. x j


Dumdad said...

Wow. And elephants never forget, they say, so this one will remember you (hopefully) if it ever charges you.

Val said...

i am not sure which made my eyes water more - the dental tale of pure horror - or the elephant kisses!

ewix said...

Stunning, amazing post , Janelle.
What a juxtoposition
teeth and elephants
and astoundingness.
Your blog is the bestest of the bestest.
I would send you some lovely gas if I could!!

bellananda said...

beautiful, janelle.

*mops tears out of breakfast plate*

Spiny Marshmallow said...

Really REALLY great post - very lovely with the heart shaped kisses. Clever you - X

Angela said...

Did you learn to speak to them, too? How does he do it, Dirk? Is he German? Maybe he speaks German to them and I can do it? Like Rudyard Kipling spoke in Hindi and soothed the Indian elephant? This is a great story (I don`t like to hear about dentists, have been too often there myself, lately). Is Pam still there? Is your baby better? Thanks for this post again.

Janelle said...

hey DD! yeah let's hope eh? i tell you. i'll run for the hills...XXX j

love you val...when shall we see you here or me there? xxx j

oh elizabeth...thank you darlin'/ thank you...big kiss X j

thanks bellananda! it was embarrassingly emotional, this encounter. x j

hey pamu...honestly. they are. heart shaped. elephant kisses. so glad your car is still broken but not that it's going to cost you mingi

geli sadly no...i didn;t speak to them and yes dirk and ricarda ARE german...but they speak to the elephants in english...(?) oh and yes pam is still here and its lovely! x j

Lori ann said...

Now I feel emotional, how incredibly beautiful. You are so gifted sweet Janelli. Why are you writing a blog and not a book?

But leave out the dentist part okay? ;) hope visits are done.

LOVE your writing, your photos, YOU.

xxx lori

Sondra said...

You are one Lucky Girl. Lovely vignette...

Mud in the City said...

Lovely delicious elephants. What priviledge to enjoy their kisses and sighs and gigantic presense.

As for the Balkan dentist - my toes are curling in sympathy! And what a coincidence that I was having a conversation all about dentists with your sister last night!

Linda Sue said...

I must read and re-read this post a million times- amazing it is! The trainer has a big stick- a big stick with a pointy hook on the end...Of course I am suspicious...I want the elephant to run back to it's own and be a wild chasing thing.Frightening - owning all of Africa- not trusting people because basically people suck...

Verification word- kingone- which could be king one or kin -so smart.

Janelle said...

lori ann darlin', thank you. more dentist visits on the programme for next week. blah. and ditto to you re the book/blog thingy. books take too long...(?) xxx j

indeed i am sondra, indeed i am! xxx j

heh he mud! yeah i remember when L was little and had to go all by herself when we were at boarding school in rhodesia...shame man. xxx j

linda sue, indeed Dirk does carry a stick...he didn't use it once in training...basically these elephants were orphaned. before dirk arrived nkhasis was wondering around and becoming a hastle, (like stealing people's bags out tents and raiding huts for yummy things like sugar..she never had any bad intentions...but naturally people were afraid and villagers reported her to government) her life was endangered hence the trainers were called in. raziki was found almost dead during the last drought. they will never be trained to ride...but might be used to educate local school children about elephant so they are not seen as Enemy Number One....which indeed elephants are these days. sometimes they do wander off with the wild herds from amboseli...but they always come back....but yes. in a perfect world everyone should be wild and free, of course! thanks for valid comment. xxx j

connie said...

Your writing amazes...stirs...inspires. thankyou for this beautiful post.

Reya Mellicker said...

This is so powerful, Janelle, everything, every word. Wow.

I'm afraid of horses. If I came to visit you, I bet you could teach me not to be so scared.

Can't even imagine coming into contact with an elephant. Or having a root canal.

Damn you are mighty.

karen said...

Elephants and root canal.. wow! I LOVE the photos and words about Nkhasis and Dirk, and your elephant bonding. Wonderful!

Amanda said...

oh janelle i love the pictures of nkhasis lying down and holding 'hands' witness such communication between humans and animals is a wondrous thing. i am new to your site and love the chance to travel vicariously to africa. please keep writing so i can continue to see it through your eyes. loads of love.


Karen said...

This is me, reading this entry: *cringe* "ow" *cringe* "oh no" *cringe* *cringe* *cringe*


my heart leaping forward, standing there with you, breathing with that great big animal... and feeling forgiven.

WOW. Just beautiful.

Karen said...

This just in: if you're on FB, check out this video about elephants:


What Possessed Me said...

This is my dream. xoxoxox