Me: What is that? It looks like a boar. Runs to find someone who can accurately identify said boar. Told it’s a warthog.
Second time seeing boar-like creature:
Me: Oh look! It’s a warthog. Confidentlylists several features of the warthog; it’s preferred vegetation, which animals prey upon it, etc.
First day seeing a Bushback:
Me: oh look!!! It’s a bushback! This is SO exciting. Spends next 20 minutes filming bushback while exclaiming over ever single detail of their unusual markings.
Second time seeing a Bushback:
Me: Looks around for other animals, sees there are none, begrudgingly films bushback for a few seconds before turning the camera to a large bird which has landed on a tree branch nearby.
Third time seeing a bushback:
Me: doesn’t bother turning around, Oh look! A whole family of warthogs. Aren’t they funny?
Fourth time seeing a bushback:
Me: No reaction.
When on safari each new sighting is met with feverish anticipation and curiosity. Then, after a few more sightings, inevitably one is on to the next thing. For me it began with pretty much anything that moved, followed by awe at the enormity and beauty, and a desire to see whatever it was up close. Then, over the course of a few days, I noticed that I wasn’t even bothering to film the bushbacks and their beautiful markings. In an effort to combat “the jaded tourist”, I tried hard to pay attention to and marvel at the markings of the impala, antelope and others.
Still the thrill of seeing what are referred to as the big 5 couldn’t be shrugged off. The big five: Rhino, Elephant, African Buffalo, Lion and Leopard are the most sought after sightings, but in the beginning, anything was exciting, even the bushbacks (which I still love for their exquisite markings). But it’s easy to ignore yet another baboon or vervet monkey or Ibis or Spoon billed stork or the amazingly colorful Lilac Breasted Roller. In fairness, I never did tire of seeing those monkeys and birds, however I admit I did begin to view the impala and bushback, so plentiful and in such massive numbers, as the “deer” of Africa.
If you are interested in travel and specifically in traveling in Africa, I have been releasing a new video every day on my YouTube playlist: An African Adventure.
Today’s video covers a river safari we took in Zambia where we sighted countless hippos. I was not frightened by any of the animals we saw except for those hippos. They are enormous, fast and fierce and when you’re in a smallish boat, they can be terrifying!
There are moments that feel impossible and others that fly by unnoticed. Mostly I’m exhausted almost constantly, as though a perpetual scrim has enveloped me, making everything feel heavier, cloudier, more difficult to sort through. It’s not terrible, just different. This is grief, I’m told.
This morning is one of those heavier moments. Maybe it’s because it’s Tuesday, and Tuesday and Thursday mornings are when I post something on this blog. Often I would refer to a video or story my mother had sent me that made me smile and I’d post it here for all of you to enjoy. But there will not be any more videos or stories from my mother and as much as I accept that, I still feel a tightness in my throat, a constriction in my chest, an overwhelming sadness. I remind myself that she lived a long, often beautiful sometimes difficult, complicated life. A life with long tendrils that reached so many. This is grief, I’m told.
When my mother died I was in Africa. At Stanley’s camp in the bush in Botswana, to be exact.
We had spotty wi-fi, but it was enough to be able to communicate with my siblings. It was enough to make me feel connected in our grief.
But then we flew to another camp, deeper in the bush, which had no wi-fi at all. I wasn’t able to reach anyone, and so other than my husband, I was alone with my grief. It was a tough few days, and yet those days were also filled with the excitement that can only come from seeing a leopard bounding up a tree, crouching in front of a bush and then leaping so fast the naked eye can barely keep up, to kill a squirrel. Or the joy and amazement of coming upon a pride of lion: two males, several females and half a dozen cubs, before hurrying off to make one of a half dozen flights before eventually arriving back home in New York City.
Upon our arrival home (it took us almost 40 hours) I had to deal with an array of technological problems, one of which was my computer that had crashed on me the third day of our trip. I am just now beginning to post videos of our African Adventure, with a new video coming out every day for the foreseeable future. Making these videos, in many ways, has been a life saver. It’s somewhat methodical work that is also wonderful as I am seeing all the footage I took of our amazing trip. Traveling is always a joyful experience for me. I love to travel, just as both my parents did. My mother’s death has only made me more intent on traveling as much as I can, while I still can.
As my mother lay dying I called every evening and my sister held the phone to my mother’s ear so that I could tell her about seeing a blackback gorilla charging, and the baboons that were intent on sneaking a treat from the expansive breakfast buffet, and the hippo that came close to our boat in Zambia and how the guide told us his open mouth was the first warning sign and when asked what the second warning sign was, he said a hippo with open mouth running towards us, which was exactly what he was doing!
My days were filled with excitement, even elation as well as overwhelming sadness. It was a lesson in holding two seemingly opposing things in either hand and having both be true.
This is grief, I’m told.
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