Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Black velvet nights

Our schedule became this:

First week:
An amazing breakfast. Classes in the morning. An amazing lunch. Time to rest, read, and write. Game drive: 4-8 pm, An amazing dinner. Game drive from 10-2 am. Sleep.

Second week: Game drive: 3 am-8 am. Breakfast. Sleep. Lunch. Sleep, or write, read, or walk. Dinner. Sleep.

Free time was an especially peaceful time for me. The upstairs of the Nduvo house was a loft full of couches and big pillows. The veranda opened up to the Tsavo woodland and the fiery earth. It was so beautiful to watch the skies change from here. Wind flowed into the loft, flapping strands of the thatched roof like keys of a straw piano. The buzzing insects zipped around outside. Go away birds squeaked. Red Billed Hornbills fed on acacia and commiphora berries. It was like an unobstructed window into Kenya. I spent many hours here writing and reflecting, and bonding with the others on my team--much of this blog was written in that very spot! Moments up here. Beautiful music from home in my ears. Everything seem to come together, like a camera coming into focus. The perfection of a time and place all my own.

My time up in the loft, or out by the raging bonfire happened during the magic hours when most people are sleeping. I especially enjoyed the thoughtful conversations with Nicola, Andy, Seth, and Bruce. The generator went out at 9:00 pm--leaving nothing but the dark. At times when I was alone, I felt as if the night came down upon me, like a living blanket of black velvet caressing every part of my body. Every part of me. The bat calls. The Milky Way spread out before me, so low and wide, that I felt as if I could almost climb onto each star and swing across the sky.

One my most favorite moments happened one night as we finally got word that a pair of lions had been seen near Kisima Dam--out near the old camp. We jetted across the bumpy roads--faster than our driver, Simon, had ever gone. It was exhilarating, even though most of us in the back didn't know what was happening! But where were the lions? They were no where to be found, so we drove upon a ridge near Pika Pika water hole. We turned off all the lights, and simply sat there, listening for lion roars. I had never experienced such quiet. Such peace. The blackness of the night was truly alive and it unavoidably dripped down into my soul where it will always remain. The connection I felt with the people on my team and to the land and quiet itself was unspeakable.

And now, as I do my best to put it into words, I fear that I'm not even close to the magic and mystery I felt that night. It is one that I will always eternally long for.

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