Saturday, November 5, 2011


When a five year old lets you join in 'drawing a picture', sharing a few minutes of their delightful artistic logic and the resulting magic that appears on a sheet of A2 paper, chances are it will happily challenge the well-worn pathways your brain uses for every-day thinking.

Me: I know what that is, it's an elephant!

5-year-old: Yes.

Me: Wow, that's great! Look at the big ears!

5-year-old: (Restraining herself from rolling her eyes at my comment. Of course an elephant has big ears. Duh!) Yes.

The drawing continues until the elephant is complete, with two smaller ones (baby elephants?) on the left hand side of the page, and a few small circles around the elephant's feet. Suddenly, all pens are down and she's leaving the table.

5-year-old: It's finished.

Me: But look…. there's still space on the page. Can I have a go?

5-year-old: Um. OK.

I picked up the green felt pen and drew the leaves in the top left hand corner. Apparently this was not the direction she had in mind and I was politely relieved of contribution duties. She was back in the driver's seat, and the beautiful rainbow took form - making the elephant's smile all the more radiant - and quite a few more circles were added.

Me: (Pointing at the circles) What are they?

5-year-old: (Very matter-of-factly) They're elephant eggs, of course!

Me: Elephant eggs?

5-year-old: Yes, look - two have them have hatched already.

They were, indeed, baby elephants. Newly hatched, with a bunch of siblings on the way.

5-year-old: (Waving her hand across the page and pausing to make an estimate…) There's about 60 of them.

Well, when you look at it like that it all makes perfect sense. Elephant eggs. I've since counted them and, including a few which look a bit squashed, there seem to be 49 of them not counting the babies, so 60 was a pretty good guess.

Yes, the imagination of a child is a wonderful thing.

In contrast to that, the elephant eggs reminded me of an item in a news broadcast a month or so before. It was on one of the major commercial networks, announced with the same news-girl smile and gusto regularly invoked for celebrity sightings and white goods sales.

The headline went like this: "And great news from the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, today - their 90-year-old tortoise has given birth!"

Given birth??? A tortoise???

I don't know about other parts of the world, but living in Australia, documentaries on turtles and turtle eggs are pretty common, and that would only be of some surprise to you if you managed to sleep through a few years of school. Primary school.

Does no-one in that news department remember? - The turtles lay their eggs in nests in the dunes of open beaches. The peril the little ones face once they hatch and scurry instinctively across the sand, towards the ocean. Predators abound! How we wish we could protect those cute little turtles that have just hatched so they make it to safety!!!! - Don't they watch David Attenborough???? Sadly, no.

Assuming that turtles have babies in much the same manner as cats have kittens, or that baby elephants come from eggs, really isn't that much of a stretch in the malleable and hungry mind of a 5-year-old child.

Let's just hope those children don't rely on the news to teach them about it.


And this is a YouTube clip I just found. You don't actually see them emerging from the eggs, but there are no daddy turtles handing out cigars either. Normally baby turtles hatch at night, but these ones were making their hazardous trek to the water (where more treachery awaits!) in the midday sun, which makes for very clear and uber-cute footage. Enjoy!