The Giraffe: A Glimpse of the Grace of Beauty
Matthew Fox wrote: “Animals are here in part to grant glimpses of the grace of beauty.” The giraffe is certainly one animal that does that for me. Let’s take a few minutes today to reflect on this extraordinary creature in God’s vast array of animals.
Let’s begin with the basic design of the giraffe which is quite remarkable. For one thing, giraffes have high blood pressure, about double that of human beings. The reason is simple. An adult giraffe’s head is about six feet above its body. If giraffes had the same blood pressure found in most animals, their blood would rise only part way up their neck!
But such high blood pressure has consequences: the pressure that pushes the blood up to the brain is also pushing it down into the feet and legs potentially causing severe swelling. But giraffes don’t walk around with swollen legs or feet. Why not? Because, as researchers have discovered, giraffe’s have a “natural gravity suit.” Their skin and other tissue in their legs are much stiffer and tougher than that of most animals. This toughness prevents their feet and legs from swelling.
Another fascinating aspect of their design concerns their jugular vein in their long necks. When giraffes bend over to drink, why doesn’t the blood rush to their heads? Because their jugular veins have “flapper valves” that prevent the blood from flowing the wrong way. (The veins in our human legs operate in much the same way.)
Here are some other fascinating facts about giraffes:
* Giraffes are the tallest mammals on earth, averaging a height of 16 to 18 feet.
* The gestation period for giraffes is about 15 months! Female giraffes give birth standing up and drop their babies about 5 feet! (Giraffes learn early how jolting life can be at times!) But within 30 minutes after birth baby giraffes are standing and within 10 hours they are running beside their mothers.
* Giraffes require the least amount of sleep of any mammal—only about two hours a day. And sometimes they sleep standing up.
* The spots on a giraffe are unique to each individual. No two giraffes have the same pattern of spots.
* The darker the spots, the older the giraffe.
* Giraffes eat about 100 pounds of leaves and twigs each day. Their extra long tongues (over 21 inches!) help them to strip leaves from tall trees.
* Giraffes are most vulnerable when they have to bend down for a drink of water. Fortunately they need to drink water only every few days since they draw most of their water from leaves.
* Giraffes are essentially sociable and peaceable. Although males sometimes swing their long necks at each other in a menacing way, such sparring seldom results in injury.
* Giraffes can run 35 miles an hour for short periods and 10 miles per hour for long periods.
Let us close this reflection with a little prayer in gratitude for giraffes:
thank you for giraffes!
Thank you for giving them such long and amazing necks.
And thank you for figuring out a way to get their blood to flow all the way up to the top of their heads.
Thank you for their spotted fur coats, their long eyelashes, their graceful movement.
Thank you too for their gentleness and peacefulness.
We humans could learn from them.
When we gaze upon giraffes we are once again reminded of your ingenuity and playfulness.
But most of all, giraffes reveal to us your fondness for daring and delight.
And so, dear Creator God, we say thank you for giraffes.
In them you give us a glimpse of the grace of beauty . Amen.
What are your thoughts and feelings about giraffes?
What other animals are “glimpses of the grace of beauty” for you?
Oh Lord my God! WhenI in awesome wonder! ….then sings my soul….how great thou art, how great thou art! XO
Your oh so right Sister Melannie these are beautiful creatures thanks for bringing to my attention it gave me a chance to really look at this creature. I had a similar experience last week what you call a glimpse of the grace of beauty ( I love that statement ) with beans yes beans the scarlet runner beans I was soaking were so gorgeous I was mesmerized at their colors thinking Of the gift of beauty in this simple bean. It’s really hard to be sad when there is so much to behold.
Wonderfully and beautiful said (written)!
I loved your reflection. Living here in Africa, I take every opportunity I can to see giraffes and just watch them move so gracefully when they are unaware of humans in the area. It’s true, they fascinate us and I’ve hardly ever seen anyone who doesn’t stop and look. On the way to one of our convents in Maasai Land, we see them so often in twos, threes and fives. I can’t help but say, God you were so utterly creative with this creature of strength and height and yes, beauty. People say, stop and smell the flowers, I say, stop and watch the giraffes!
Dear Sr. Melannie,
I agree with you – giraffes are beautiful, extraordinary, fascinating creatures.
I have a wonderful video showing ‘what giraffes do when nobody is looking’ saved in an email folder. (That’s a translation from the French title.) If you send me your email address, I’ll forward it to you. It’s worth watching.
Thank you for this week’s posting. I enjoyed it.
If I get high blood pressure someday, I’ll just tell my doctor I’m part giraffe!! 🙂 Thank you for writing and researching such a beautiful topic!
Giraffes have long been my favorite animal, possibly because I’m 6 feet tall, the length of their necks! I’m very grateful for the information you shared about them, Melannie. My mother has always said that God had a sense of humor when creating all the various animals. They certainly do delight!
I like to watch them when they run. They are so graceful. I wonder if they ever get a sore throat.
Marshall Rosenberg chose the giraffe, the land animal with the largest heart and the furthest vision, as the symbol of Nonviolent Communication, a language of the heart that inspires compassion and joyful communication in all areas of life. Like NVC, the giraffe’s height affords a long view into the distance and provides a heightened awareness of future possibilities and the consequences of our thoughts, words, and actions. As a language that stresses the expression of feelings and needs, NVC invites vulnerability and transforms it into strength. The giraffe lives its life with gentility and strength; its long neck reminds us of the important quality of vulnerability. (from the Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook and other sources)
what fun to learn about those beautiful creatures. It was a nice surprise to find this in your website. Thanks for your research.