One of the greatest things about our jobs is that we don’t go to work. Well not exactly. Our lives are not separate from our work and we live, play and learn in the wilderness that draws us all here. This means we live not detached from the animals but immersed amongst them. And for me, being a part of this broader definition of community is what makes me happy.
Sometimes this is treacherous. It means that you can’t leave your shoes outside your room because the hyena with a right foot fetish, that makes its rounds through camp at night is bound to leave you hopping to work the next day, and your forgotten flashlight is a real concern because the Mashaba female leopard is scouring through camp once again looking for the next dozy bushbuck to feast on.
Recently, I had a rather fantastic encounter with a beast of another kind. It was a normal summer’s evening and I was pottering in my room when there was a knock at my door. We live with doors unlocked and everyone is a friend so I shouted for my visitor to come in. I was met with silence. I shouted again, a little louder but still no response. Perplexed I walked to my door and opened it expecting to see a neighbour’s face. What I was met with though was a giant, wrinkly, grey knee.
Quite literally, an elephant had popped over to say hi. There was a tree outside my room that had obviously caught his fancy and whilst feeding on it he must have either shifted his weight and kicked my door or gently tapped the door as his trunk swung past to scratch his belly.
Whatever the case, I thought it was fabulous. I gently closed my door so as to not disturb his dinner ceremony and slowly opened my curtain so I could be just centimeters from him in safety. Elephants have a certain magic even at a distance but up close they are something else. They are crazy looking creatures that taken piece-by-piece are almost alien and yet feel completely familiar. Having him right on top of me meant I could see the detail in the curve of his eyelashes as he blinked lazily, exactly what particular morsels he chose to pull from the tree, what the short, hard bristles on his extended nose looked like as his trunk rippled back and forth and I fell in line with the heavy rhythm of his breath as he slowly inhaled and exhaled. My rather unique meditation practise for the day.
We can all have these little moments of bliss if we grasp the opportunities we’re given to connect with nature in our daily lives. Appreciating the fresh air in a park, dirtying your hands as you turn the soil in your vegetable garden or allowing yourself to become fully absorbed by the call of a bird outside your office window are some small examples of this. The nature around you is the doorway to the vast presence that is always within you. If we can awaken to this, what she has to offer is endless.