Walking the Elephants
Woodland Park Zoo
601 North 59th Street
Seattle, WA 98103-5858
Dear Ms. Jensen:
I am writing this note on a blustery day on Green Lake where I am performing a year-long public poetry project to bridge the gap between poets and the public. During my days on the lake, I am often inspired with ideas, dreams or flights of fancy, some of which are in progress, others yet to begin. However there is one dream I have been holding onto since the beginning. I have been sharing this dream with adults and children at Green Lake. I'd like to share it with you now.
My dream is to bring the Woodland Park elephants to Green Lake. I'd like to invite the elephants to stretch their legs, breathe the air and see the sights. No need to tell you that elephants can smell water from 3 miles away. Mustn't their trunks perk up for the sweet smell of the lake? After considering the acreage drained for human use here (around 100 acres) and the immense difference in space set aside for elephants, it dawned on me: Might there be a way to share this spatial wealth? I have been reading about the great concern for the domesticated elephants of Thailand, who've taken up musical performance to attract support. The spectacle of elephants improvising their own music on traditional Thai instruments (elephant-sized, of course) has inspired new wonder and respect for these amazing animals. What about the elephants of Seattle? Might the elephants and humans have something to offer one another right here in Seattle?
I'd like to request your serious consideration of a weekly walk of the Woodland Park elephants to Green Lake. It's not so far down the hill after all. I am sure the runners and walkers at the lake would gladly step aside for the opportunity to observe elephants en plein air. It seems such a small gift to give our beautiful and well-loved elephants.
Thank you for your kind attention to my proposal. I am disheartened when people respond to the dream with these sentiments: "It's a beautiful thing, but it'll never happen." We build viaducts. We send shuttles into space. And yet the thought of walking a captive elephant ¼ mile from a public zoo to a public lake seems impossible? Have we lost our ability to dream? Please take a moment to imagine the impact that bringing the elephants to Green Lake might have on a generation of children growing up in Seattle. Why exclude the youth of Seattle from the experience, shared by the youths of rural Sri Lanka, of witnessing elephants bathe in public waters?
I express my full willingness to advocate, organize, solicit volunteers, fundraise, or whatever it takes, that this dream might flourish. I look forward to your reply.
A. K. Allin