I was in the bush with one of my closest friends two weeks ago and the red-chested cuckoos were calling. These are migratory birds that arrived back in South Africa at the start of summer and their monotonous “piet-my-vrou…” call signals the beginning of such a beautiful time of year here.
I was describing to her how this one sound has the capacity to evoke in me years’ worth of happy memories and feelings. The red-chested cuckoo is just one of these though. There are so many other sounds, smells, shapes, qualities of air and animals that tie me to this land. For those of you that have been to Africa, I know you understand what I’m saying. Somehow this immeasurable mix of natural ingredients invokes an awakeness in you, something ancient and remembered. It’s a place that brings you to life.
I’ve written a poem about this African Effect and some of the qualities that make Africa what she is for me.
I look forward to experiencing her with you once again.
Are you ready to be Wild Again?
Africa is many things to me.
She is the intensity of a lowveld thunder storm on approach and the subtlety of jasmine scent on the wind.
I hear her in the drawn-out “trip, trip treeep, treep…” of the lesser-striped swallows building a new mud home on my stoep, meaning Christmas is on approach.
She’s the universal humour of a warthog running with short, hurried legs for a midday mud bath,
and the joyful stotting of impala lambs when rains have cooled the air.
I feel her in the happiness of the first, peeking shoots of green grass and in the grumpiness of wearing a wet poncho.
She’s in the emergence of alates, the princes and princesses of the termite underworld,
and in the comedy and foolhardiness of a dung beetle’s efforts.
She reminds me of her resilience in the sudden emergence of the shongololo, tortoise and chameleon after a long dry winter,
and her creativity in the taste of amarula in a morning coffee enjoyed under the canopy of a Marula tree itself.
She gently touches us through the warmth and colour of the Indian Ocean’s corals and shocks us awake with the biting, cold beauty of the Atlantic’s kelp forests.
She’s felt in the enormity of the coastline and the songs of whales that inhabit it.
I feel her humour in the rolling of eyes as a Cape Town local reminds you, again, of the beauty of the mountain.
She reminds you of her imagination in the striking intensity of a carmine bee-eater, lilac-breasted roller and woodland kingfisher’s plumage.
She’s there in the bobbing dance of a ‘blue-headed’ lizard,
and in the laugh of barking geckos in the Kalahari dusk preceding the emergence of the unusual ones – aardwolves, brown hyenas, aardvarks and pangolins.
I feel her sacredness in the light filtering through Leadwood trees and in the curving fullness of an apple leaf.
She shows the extremes of her character in the Kalahari Desert and the verdant, life-giving Delta it envelopes.
Her penchant for the fabulous is heard in the pop of the champagne bird and the applause at the boldness of the red-crested korhaan’s suicidal mating display.
She celebrates with the squeak of bats in the evening sky that signal it’s time for a cold G&T, back dropped with the drama of the Drakensberg mountains.
She rallies us through a potjie, a braai and the joy of a rugby game even if you don’t care who wins.
And she travels in a good pair of veldskoens.
She awakens through the roar of a lion that reverberates through every cell of your being and the unmistakeable shrieks of hyenas being hassled by wild dogs.
She comforts through the rumbling of an elephant and the call of the fish eagle that makes every African gasp and then smile without fail.
She teaches of ancient art forms through the spirit of a tracker.
She creates art in the beautiful absurdity of a giraffe’s design.
She calls you deeper into yourself through the shape of a leopard that whispers of mystery.
There is a feeling of aliveness this land embodies because, it is true, she is indeed alive…
She is alive with animals, with adventure, with connection and with you.
In each of her many names and faces she is calling to you, asking…
“Are you ready to be Wild Again?”