Sunday 9 March 2014

Life Lessons from the African Bush

We're fast approaching the end of the first quarter of 2014 (already!) and the storms we've experienced the past three years continue to buffet us.  

As we must be able to face whatever the rest of the year has in store for us with equanimity, hubby and I decided to take time out from our day-to-day life to find our spiritual centre, which has been spiralling into a breathless void as one crisis after another comes to test us.  

Where better to find the calm acceptance that all is as it must be than in the bush? 

So, after the latest blow, we packed up and headed off to the Pilansberg Nature Reserve, a place where the spirit voices whisper wisdom as old as time to soothe our troubled souls:

No matter how old you are, 
Moms are always there for you

At a moment's notice, without hesitation, despite her personal plans and her allergy to cats, my Mom packed up her life and moved into our house to kitty-sit her grandkit Shadow, and to keep the home fires burning so that we could escape into the bush. Now that's Mother love in its purest form.

Look beyond the obvious 

We almost missed this frog, and the lion cub and her mother. But, like what happens in life, the bush is never what it seems at first glance. When we look beyond the obvious, we can find a greater truth in between the rocks and reeds that colour our lives. Once seen, that truth gives us the strength to go forward with calm minds and wonder in our hearts.

No matter how big the obstacle, face it fearlessly

As we turned a corner, we unexpectedly came across a nursery herd of elephants.  This little fellow ignored the fact that our car was three times his size. He mock charged us several times, letting us know he wasn't afraid of us. I got such a fright, I forgot to take photos until he'd finished his charging and was leaving the battlefield an exhausted victor. Only after he'd scared us off, did he scamper away to hide behind his Mom, quietly grazing along the roadside as she ignored us puny humans with magnificent disdain! When life throws another curve ball at us,  sometimes the only way to deal with it is to spit fear and discouragement in the eye and stand your ground. Let it not matter if your opponent is bigger and more dangerous than you: be a warrior as mighty and courageous as this little elephant! 

Nothing is ever wasted

In the centre of the game reserve, nearby a waterhole, is a small cafe, a curio shop and some much needed restrooms. I fell in love with these two root sculptures decorating the Zebra Crossing cafe. Whether decaying back into the soil or being turned into beautiful art, nothing in the bush is wasted: it's all part of the eternal cycle of life. So too, is every experience - good or bad, happy or sad - that we must endure in our lifetimes. If we can take the best out of what happens, even if it's only the tiniest glimmer of hope, then all that happens has its purpose and its place in our personal life cycles.

Patience is a well rewarded virtue

We were very lucky on this trip. We managed to have long periods of solitude  - just us and the busy silence of the bush - in the various bird hides scattered around the reserve. I had the time to wait ... and wait ... and wait ... have you ever watched how fast a dragonfly darts around? Eventually this dragonfly hovered in one place long enough for me to snap it, reminding me that sometimes we just have to hang in there and not give up! It doesn't matter if the objective is a minute or a mile away, if you keep steady and focus on the moment in hand, you really will get where you want to go.

You can have too much of a good thing 

Rain, in water scarce South Africa, is always a blessing.  But, after days of heavy rain that damaged the park's infrastructure and left the animals wet and bedraggled, we realised that sometimes one can have too much of a good thing. When we take the abundance in our lives for granted; when we forget that  keeping to our soul's path is more important than any amount of material blessings, then it's time to go back to basics and reassess what's really important in life.

As always, the bush brought back our inner serenity. We came home reminded that in these tumultuous times we live in, life itself, like the African bush, is full of ever-present danger. When living through times that rock the foundations of our inner and outer worlds, we can learn the lessons of elemental nature and find an inner peace that, like the mountains of the Pilansberg, like the place of the rock, reminds us that we will endure. And, at the end of the journey, all will be well.


Bish Denham said...

Oh Judy... such a lovely post. I'm glad you found a back to the center, to the heart of what really matters. I can easily see how the bush can be a source of inspiration and renewal. The ocean has that same affect on me.

(I didn't see the frog until you named it!)

Ann Summerville said...

I enjoyed your post this morning. What a lovely experience. Visiting Africa is on my list of places to visit.

Judith Mercado said...

I am sorry you are experiencing more life storms, but am glad you found your safety valve.

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

BISH: I was going to be really mean and not mention the frog - and I was going to put in a photo of the lion & cub where they were both lying down. But nature's disguises are so good I thought my blog readers could use some help!! My late Dad taught me to look for movement & colours that don't belong, not shapes of animals and that's how I spotted both the frog & he lions! :) (and with a bit of luck too!)

ANN: when you land at OR Tambo International airport I'll be there with some biltong and naartjies to welcome you!!

JUDITH: Ja, it's been a tough time, but thank goodness for the marvellous generosity of the bush .., it always soothes and calms and gives us the energy to go on!

Anne Gallagher said...

What a beautiful post, Judy. I would love to just get back to basics one day soon. Life is hectic and I think it's time for me to unwind. Alas, not until July when I hit the beach. Yay.

Baby elephant is so cute! Dangerous but cute. And how on earth did you manage to capture that dragonfly. They do fly fast!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Judy - makes me want to spend some time again in Africa - but then I always do!! The Pilansberg was only just getting going before I left .. but it's great to have the Park that's somewhat nearer than the others ...

I spotted the frog - clever photo .. and lions ... oh the Bush. We were chased by an Matriarch elephant in the Okavango and that was quite unpleasant ... she split our party of cars .. and wouldn't let us through .. we had to reverse quite often. We had somebody else's kids with us .. so it was a little daunting ..

But wildlife is just brilliant - all forms ... the tiny dragonflies - excellent photo to the giraffe ...

Lovely and am so glad you felt refreshed .. welcome back .. cheers Hilary

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

ANNE: July is not too many sleepies away! And a beach holiday will do you the world of good -the sea has its own magic!

HILARY - Yikes! Those elephant matriarchs are scary, we've had our own reversing in a hurry incidents especially up round Sirheni in the KNP! Ended up with two flat tires and no garage in sight - but that's a bush adventure for another time! :)

CA Heaven said...

Hiking the bush, or even better, the mountains is great. Sometimes its good to get away from internet and cell phone coverage >:)

Cold As Heaven

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

CA: Oh, the mountains are just as soothing as the bush. There's something so enduring and solid about a mountain, that I can just feel the peace seeping into my bones. :) And, lately, I'm finding it more necessary than ever before to unplug from technology on a regular basis.