Jeremiah Hambana is the most rural person I’ve ever met.
We are friends courtesy of the fact that we share 8 hours a day in the African bush together. We take visitors that come from all corners of Mother Earth out into the wild on sunlit morning and evening excursions.
Jeremiah lives about 20 miles from Londolozi in a dusty and poverty racked area that had its fall from ecological grace rooted in Apartheid. In this village of cattle, goats and other rural commerce, Jeremiah’s 3 wives and eleven children live off of his industry. He is tipped well for finding the animals that we do.
As a child Jerry was a cattle herder with every other boy in his age group. He could recognize each individual footprint of his 50 cows and competition for grazing and water was tight. He was an excellent sheperd he proudly tells me over a beer, and then delves into several amusing stories of how he outwitted his colleagues in the race to keep cattle fat, happy and together.
Jerry has a hidden talent for meteorological forecasting. “The rain is coming. The Red-billed Queleas have almost finished nesting” he announces. I pause to consider this new piece of information that Jerry has casually thrown out there and then ask him for an explanation.
Queleas are tiny birds that wheel about our skies in flocks that are thousands strong. Jerry assures me that they communally pick a rainless window of about 3 weeks in which to nest. Given that there are an estimated 200 billion of these birds worldwide, it might be worth paying attention to what they have to say.
Jerry, as a cattle herder, would have feasted remorselessly on the little chicks, roasting them on an open fire, deep in the African bushveld. The rain, with the Queleas and their brood now all airborne and raiding the grasslands for their precious seeds, would then come and wash the discarded stomachs and entrails away.
I love this wisdom that Jerry has. Nature has imparted some of her best secrets on this friend of mine It is part of the reason that Jerry is such a warm and wonderful person, unflappably gentle with everything and with a permanent smile that eminates from deep within his being. His closeness with nature has enabled him to cope with changes in his life that would have the rest of us running for psychologists and pills.
But what is this elixir that Jerry distills from nature and more importantly how do we get it?
Nature is built on a platform of change and thrives on it. In the wild it is the secret mechanism for renewal. Seasons are all beginnings, birth and death waypoints on the greatest ever merry–go-round.
I am hopelessly in love with trees. In my garden is a towering Cape Ash tree and standing in front of it I try to find a sense for its challenges and the changes it has to cope with. Years of searing heat, frost and drought haven’t stunted it and even the occasional visit by an elephant or a congress of baboons hell bent on bough twisting are welcomed. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself, and even if you argue that a tree doesn’t have the conciousness to dwell on a set back, she wouldn’t even if she could. She, like everything else in nature understands that life is beautiful and gifted to us for enjoyment. Change is fundamental to her growth and that she towers over our house is an indication that she embraces it.
If you feel that you are a victim to change and aren’t adapting with it, go be with nature for a short while. The nearest tree will let you feel a rhythm that’s timeless and new all within the same nanosecond. A grazing herd of impala being stalked by the tawny coats of a pride of lion also holds the savage inevitability of change but endorses it for the greater good.
Visitors to Londolozi are not immune to this same buzz and synch with nature. They often leave with a contentment that they will try and fathom in the bright lights of a bustling metropolis. Quite possibly they’ll come back for another fix at a future date, but whilst we would love them to come back to our welcoming paradise, truthfully they needn’t travel so far. Take a trip to Central park if you have to – but when you are contemplating or affecting a change in your life – go spend time with the change specialist: nature – and let her strip away your layers of anxiety and uncertainty.
If you do borrow nature to help you out in times of crisis and change, remember to repay her many kindnesses by making some life choices that help preserve her.
Written by: Tom Imrie
Filmed by: Adam Bannister