A lifetime of sunsets. So many of them beautiful, some captured on film, others burned into my brain hard drive and still others unremarkable, but like the sun coming up each day, we know and expect that it will set as well. A never-ending cycle of life. The life of a day. Sunsets speak. Slow down. Rest. Be still. This day is finished.
One memorable shared sunset happened in Africa. My sister, daughter and oldest granddaughter and I had traveled into the bush to four different camps for the opportunity to view some of our planets most majestic mammals and birds in their native environment. An extraordinary trip, one which changed me forever.
Each morning we would rise before sunup, dress and wait for our guides to come fetch us from our tent. Camp rules stated that we could not leave our tents once we were deposited there the night before unless we were accompanied by staff. And believe me, in Africa when nighttime visitors may include elephants or great cats, one stays put and follows the rules. In Africa people are prey, not predators. We ate a light breakfast around a campfire and then climbed into our range rover to begin our morning of bouncing about in the bush in pursuit of native wildlife to capture with our eyes and cameras. I wasn’t “officially” a bird watcher then, but my camera captured many birds that I have since added to my Life List.
Mid-morning we stopped for “tea” and then went again until around Noon when we returned to our campsite for a huge brunch followed by about two or three hours of free time before we started out once more in our vehicle. Right before sundown, our guides would pull our jeep to a halt, pull down the back tailgate and begin preparing our evening cocktail of choice as they passed hors d’oeuvres. This happened each night while in the bush and each night we sat and watched the sun set on one of the most fascinating continents on our planet. No time in the jeep was ever wasted for even as we returned to our camp after sundown, our guide would be scanning the land on either side with a huge infrared light trying to give us a glimpse of those animals who are nocturnal and only move at night.
One of our days came to an end when we were in a small boat skimming over the waters of the Okavango Delta. Our guide simply stopped the boat, took out the necessary equipment to give us our nightly “cocktail hour” as we watched the sun sink below the horizon.
I fully intended this piece to be about different sunsets in my life….from my balcony overlooking Lady Bird Lake or from my car as I began my long drive home from Houston to Brenham after my 12 hour shift at the hospital. But my memories took me first to Africa sunsets and the many beautiful creatures that live in such peace in their vast homeland. So, another day, another post for those other memorable sunsets.
I’ll finish this piece with some thoughts that I wrote immediately after my return from Africa. My view of life, the sheer majesty of it all, was forever changed as I mentioned earlier.
Written in May 2008 – “Upon my return from Africa, many friends/family have asked me to “tell” them about the experience. I am frustrated by my inadequacies in describing this adventure and the incredible vastness and beauty of this continent. So, here is my first fragmented attempt to relate how my trip there has impacted my life.
The scents of sage, wild basil, wild lavender, pretty lady, elephant dung, earth. The vastness of the countryside that swallows a huge elephant as if it were no bigger than a fly. How well the animals blend in and disappear into the grasses/trees, so rounding a bend in the road, a giraffe can be 100 yards away and remain invisible until someone cries out “giraffe!” and a large bull elephant bellows, flaps his ears, stomps his feet making himself look larger, with no clue of his greatness, to express his indignation for being surprised by our appearance.
Fruit bats crying in the night and the “rahoo” of the baboons up in the trees during the day. Having morning tea with two lions 100 meters away. Close encounters with eye to eye contact with the big cats… lions, leopards, cheetahs. The infinite patience of observing our guide Teko tracking a leopard for 45 minutes driving over bushes/shrubs and around trees to suddenly be face to face with a male leopard.
The large wealth of medicinal trees and shrubs within Africa. The incredible patience, knowledge and teaching skills of our guides who demonstrated such pride in their homeland. The graciousness of the people who cared for us so diligently, providing for our every need even when we had no idea of what that “need” was and protecting us from ourselves as well as the danger that lurked around every corner within and without our camps.
I sit here now in my apartment listening to the “sounds” of urban life…cars, freeway noise, and view the many lights of the city…the sights and sounds of humanity. I have returned to civilization. But I am afraid I have left my heart in Africa. A land that can change one’s view of just what is important in life. The sights/sounds/experiences/ vastness/ graciousness, sheer beauty of Africa are burned into my brain and soul. I want to return, to revisit and explore more. And, hopefully I will be able to do so in the not so distant future.”
Happy bird searching wherever you might be!!!!