April 2018

Monday, January 3, 2011

Year of the Giraffe

The Chinese say this is the year of the metal rabbit (whatever that is). On my blog, however, this is the year of the giraffe. If you are reading this blog in China, there's a conundrum you'll have to figure on your own.

Why the year of the giraffe? The giraffe is my partner Ann's favorite animal, and this is Ann's year. She loves the giraffe for its simultaneous awkwardness and grace, for its calm loping across the Serengeti, for its fierce gentleness and for its amusing curiosity, bending that long neck to see what's up. Besides, Ann's colleague Randy just told me that the giraffe has the biggest heart.

Ann and I went to East Africa, on a safari in Tanzania and then a four week tour of Ethiopia, two years before my first brain tumor was diagnosed. I feel lucky, as I feel about so many things, that we took this trip when we could.

On the Serengeti, we watched lionesses (the females do all the work) hunt zebras and we watched a river of thousands of wildebeasts change its current in midstream due to a waiting--and smiling--alligator. We witnessed giraffes lope in family groups across the prairie lands to chew on a nearby acacia tree. We watched two lionesses make their determined way across a large burn, guiding their eleven cubs as they plodded through the burn. We watched warthogs in family groups of three as they ran hidden through the tall grasses, only their tails visible above the stalks. Hippos yawned; violet splendors winged their way from tree to tree; zebras turned their elaborately tattooed butts our way.

In Ethiopia, we celebrated a coffee ceremony with our young guide and his mother; we calmed to the chants of Lalibella's monks echoing off the mountainsides; we rode our way southward on a public bus, complimented as "Habis" (something like that, meaning clever and brave) by the old woman in the school bus seated near us.

There are so many things I'm thankful to have done when I could: getting to know friends in a rural Salvadoran town, rafting down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, hiking Alaska's trailless tundra, playing on the beach with nieces and nephews, and teaching diverse classrooms of teenagers seeking a dream they didn't often even know they were seeking.

Throughout my new life with tumors, I have felt gratitude for my life. Even so, last year was a rough year, with a new tumor, new allergies to chocolate, cheddar and garlic, increasing difficulties with balance and vision, the piggy flu and pneumonia, and losses in my community.

This year, the year of the giraffe, will be a year of healing. It will be a year of gracefulness in the awkwardness, a year of loping across difficult terrain with friends and family, a year of tenderness and curiosity. It will be a year with a big heart.


  1. Best. Post. Ever.

    I am co-opting the last paragraph for my mantra this year. So glad you're in my life, eM.

  2. I'd like to borrow that last paragraph, too, please.


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