“We went to Africa.” Is that my sentence or is that an echo of Meryl Streep reciting some variation of those words at the beginning of the movie “Out of Africa”. It was as beautiful as the movie, at least the parts and parks we went to. People said to us it was a life changing experience. That’s a little too hyped for me. But it was amazing; it was unique; it was unlike almost any other travel experiences I have had. I keep going back to the pictures and reliving the moments again and again.
We actually went to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Technically we were also in Zambia but that was only at the airport and the most compelling memory about that was the $50 per person fee to get a Visa and have the privilege of walking across its border. We were there at the end of their winter; they were waiting for the rains; so out in the game parks and national preserves, the predominant colors were different hues of brown. That is until dusk and the setting sun transformed the browns into shades of orange, yellow and gold. The beige was now cream and the dust kicked up by the tires of the range rover became warm specks of a fading day that was filled with awe.
That is awe like in splendor; not awe like in fear. But there were a few times, when we asked our ranger: Just how close to those lions do you think we should we be? “Keep your hands inside the vehicle; speak softly; don’t stand; don’t move quickly,” he answered, “You will be fine.” That is awe like in Jacob waking from his dream and realizing: “How filled with God is this place and I, I did not know it.”
Yea, it’s religious. These animals in their natural habitat, where they are the residents and we are the visitors, are inspiring. I mean that word as in take your breath away. Whether it is a lone bull elephant standing next to a water hole in an almost dry river bed throwing dust on his back to keep from getting sunburned or a giraffe’s head just peeking out of the trees, its spotted body fading in and out of the canopy, perfect camouflage. A leopard climbing down from its perch and sliding through the tall grass of the Delta, appearing and disappearing at will, with not a sound except the rustling blades.
They teach us humility. Not how small we are; but our place. We are not alone in this world. It does not begin and end with us. We are part of something bigger, greater, more complex and more splendid than we ever imagined. We have been given an amazing gift; how awesome our responsibility.