It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise

Elephants arrived at the park one day

I took the title of this post from Gabriel García Márquez. That describes what I had been experiencing recently.

And that was even before the elephants arrived.

Here’s what happened. It had been raining for over a week, tropical rainy season kind of rain, a little more every day. The ground was wet, and it had already been raining almost every day, and then came consecutive days with 1 mm, then 7, 18, 31, 48, 66, and 83 mm totals. Bridges were out. Roads were flooded. Puddles were everywhere. Low clouds covered the town all day, and by mid-afternoon it was difficult to tell the time because darkness was coming early. I had been discussing dinosaurs, pterosaurs and stegosaurus to be exact. It was dark outside. But I couldn’t say what time. The usual sounds of passing motorcycles and chirping birds were overwhelmed by the pounding rain on the roof.

That’s when I heard a dinosaur, just behind the house. I couldn’t see very far off the second floor balcony. There were puddles in the park below, and the light from the balcony was reflecting off the puddles enough to show lots of rain drops. But dinosaurs are extinct, so what I heard couldn’t be a dinosaur.

I took a shower. The rain continued. I put on my pajamas. Then I heard the sound again. A five or six second roar. A roar that was exotic, primordial.

Clearly this couldn’t be coming from a dinosaur. And it wasn’t a dog. And it wasn’t a bird. I closed the doors, turned off the lights, and went to bed, having told myself that this sound must be coming from neighbor children who had a new dinosaur toy.

You can imagine my surprise, and how the pieces of this puzzle suddenly came together, as I set out on my run the next day. The rain was coming down gently now, and the radar didn’t show anything heavy for what looked like an hour or so. I went out the back door into the park and began my warm-up loop around the park before setting out onto the road. I hadn’t gone 100 meters when I spotted an elephant in the forest just in front of me.

That’s what the noise was last night, I realized. An elephant. As I got closer I saw there were two. Then a third. I have kept my distance, but have been back to check many times since, and I can confirm that there are four elephants now, in the woods by the park, right behind my house. And there might be a fifth. There are two big tuskers that stay back in the thick parts of the forest, and I’ve seen trees shaking and shadows moving that lead me to believe there could be a fifth. But I daren’t venture close enough to confirm.

I don’t know why they are here. I expect they were moved here by their owner after their usual lodging was flooded. My runs the past two days, usually broad loops through the southern Thai countryside, have both been met by flooded roads that required U-turns and alternate routes to get back home.

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