The sun rose burning my back, mocking my efforts to find shade as I walked along the banks of a perennial stream, today a trickle of its former self, burnt and almost exhausted by what had been an uncomfortably dry season.
The thundershowers usually so dependable to bring life to the parched bush had stayed hidden in the north this season, unmercifully dropping all their life force over the highlands of Zimbabwe, the great plains of Zambia and the unfortunate low lands of Mozambique to ensure that the sinners in the South once again understood that they were not the creators.Those northern tributaries had swollen and rushed down the valleys as far away as Malawi turning the lazy Zambezi into a raging torrent that had swept all living in its plain before it.
But here, two thousand kilometres south of that great spectacle even the air burnt hot as one inhaled it into ready leathery lungs, depleted by the exertion of this ramble.
A confused Water Monitor looked up at me almost to say, "What have you done with it, where is my water", and I thought of Al Gore and his recent documentary. I stopped and watched it as it half rolled in the small trickling pool of last seasons excess.
The "Sonbessies" started the spluttering of what would climax and settle into their high pitched song, their invitation to mate reverberating through the thick bush which over the years, in search of sustenance threatened to invade and colonise the dry river bed.
The smell of the drying bush herbs was overpowering, and as the sweat of the exertion of this walk trickled through the head band of my old salt stained leather hat and into my eyes, I stopped to survey the path I had walked.
As I once again quenched my seemingly undying thirst from already my second tepid water bottle, I noticed a movement around two hundred meters down stream. I brought the field glasses up to my saline overflowing eyes and there filling my now magnified vision was a leopard, walking along the exact same path that I had walked but five minutes before. There is something magical in this, to know that for a moment in time I truly walked the same path as this beautiful creature. Even more so as from the age of six when I first came to know this miracle of life, I have always felt that the leopard and I share a common destiny. Perhaps both now destined for extinction.
It didn't have any intention of slinking in the shadows; on the contrary it walked as if on parade for all to see its proud stature. It was a large male leopard, with a thick muscular neck, powerful muscle clad chest and forequarters. He had magnificent markings and a face that showed his history, his hard fought right of passage and the fact that he had not easily won the ground that he now proclaimed as his own. Suddenly without effort or any indication he seemed to fly, moving with a swiftness that blurred his black spots with his white coat into a now charcoal swooping figure.I heard the hiss of the Monitor and then watched it make ready to face off with this the prince of its known world. He immerged from the dust created by his attack, with no indication that he had just moved faster than the speed of sight, but the deadly stare of those impossibly green eyes spoke of his intention and the monitor facing him hissed and spat and swished its lethal tail in warning.
Comically almost like its city slicker relatives, the leopard started air pawing at the monitor, moving it's head at angles that only a cat can do then it rolled on its back still pawing at the monitor, making his strange cat like noises that seemed ridiculous and that clearly only his mother would understand. In my twenty five years of visiting his domain I had never seen behaviour like this, but the Monitor did not think it was funny and with one last hiss and swish of its tail made off into the thick undergrowth on the east side of the stream.
The Leopard sat up, with its childlike inquisitive expression almost to say, "Is no one in the mood for playing this morning". I almost shouted out to him that I would love a game of catch me if you can but thought better of it, as I realised that my fragile human ego would not survive his and his subjects ranting and laughter at such a ridiculous invitation.
I sat down just feeling elated, lit up a slightly sweat dampened Cheroot , and thought about this life, this strange irrational journey that we are all on and my thoughts drifted into that part of the mind that has no fear of consequence in its ability to questions ones own soul.
Drifting into this consciousness I began to wonder about my journey and whether I have truly helped my child create meaning in her life, and not just meaning through hers in mine.
Whether my love has time to enjoy what a magnificent being she has made of herself, as I do.
Whether those, who over the years had so admirably served me and my objectives, felt I had served theirs.
I thought about you, whose fear and pain of the past threatens your natural right to that special light that waits anxiously to guide you through your unique journey and meaningful destiny.
I wondered if those who now proclaim their destiny as light bearers for the righteous understand the responsibility and self sacrifice they have undertaken in offering to bring hope to the gullible and miserable.
I thought about how once a band of brothers fought for the freedom of this land and yet after losing the war and for some their entire families, secured the demise of a greedy empire and then insanely tried to create an exclusive promised land of their own.
I recalled how anyone who has ever proclaimed this land theirs, have in time met an untimely and often violent demise.
As if in a trance I found myself moving onto my knees and then out of no where I wept, wept like the child I once was and thanked all those who had come before me, all those who had ensured my survival, endured my dream making, for giving me a moment in Eden, and as the waves of emotion and sobs started to subside, I wondered what good I must have done in a past life that I came to be here, humbled and yet so fulfilled by this place, this Africa, as a guest of God.
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