The floppy-eared, gray-skinned and white-bellied baby elephant with enviably long eyelashes was stationed at the edge of the village by a stake in the ground and rope around its right-front leg. The villagers treated this elephant with reasonable respect, loosening its bonds in the early morning, teaching it to work in the service of the villagers, and refastening it to its prescribed locale in the evening. It was fed regularly and, sometimes, even bathed with buckets of water eagerly fetched from the lakeside in a few hops, skips, and jumps by skinny, giggling children.
Although the baby elephant was part of the village--a working member of an extended family--it wasn't altogether an elephant. The infant pachyderm was missing one important something.
As the little elephant grew in size, both the stake in the ground and the rope around its ankle also grew in thickness; it's workload--and value to the village--increased, too.
The people, the vibrant colors wrapping their bodies, the daily effervescence of the children, the scorched and cracked earth, the work, the unimaginative diet, and the rope: these are what the elephant's eyes knew as its world. The elephant's heart, though, countered each blink, insisting differently with every beat.
One day, the ubiquitous ivory puffs of distant cumulus clouds began taking on an irascible hue. As midday turned to mid-afternoon, the cloud tops finally lost their patience with the oppressively searing rays of the white-hot sun and billowed skyward as if to challenge their mastery. As their disgruntled temperament burst into anger, the clouds sounded a war cry, exhaling thunder claps and lighting flashes and a gale that propelled the echo of battle in every direction--over the hills, valleys, and plains, and toward every creature who called them home.
Those villagers who had weathered many harvests and one too many storms noticed early on the wrathfulness of the sky and began to shepherd a warning to both the preoccupied and the playing. The by now full-grown elephant felt the impending heavenly face-off too, even before the wisest of its keepers.
Eyeing its rope, it raised its trunk and trumpeted hoping that some familiar face would come and release it from the stake in the same way that the villagers had done every morning since it could remember. But no one came. The elephant was met only with his extended family's worry and rush.
What wasn't life-as-usual in the village, however, was on the horizon.
Like the previous assaults of their ancestors, these thunderheads were beginning to lose foothold in their mutiny. Bleeding water, the clouds ferociously fired bolts of lighting in a last-ditch effort to usurp their rival but the sun was out of reach. The cumulus army was again forced to retreat over the plains and the earth braced for collateral damage.
The villagers scurried for higher ground as the elephant stood and watched the approaching fallout and retreat. Fastened by its rope. Transfixed by the day in and day out of all it ever knew (even if its heart knew differently).