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How to stir the soul

June 30th, 2009 2 comments

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I thought that I would share some of my previous adventures in Africa, and include some excerpts from my travel journal. I try as much as possible to always journal when I travel to Africa. While photographs are indeed worth a thousand words, they only capture a discreet slice in time. It is often that the chronology of events and the situational insight are what truly bring all the elements together into a cohesive storyline. Such is the case for the relatively uninspiring image at the introduction to this blog entry. What may appear as just a lion at night is really so much more…

It’s common to return from evening game drives long after dark. The guide will often use a spotlight to help identify and spot nocturnal species. Unique animals not seen during the day spring into activity and use the cloak of darkness as reprieve form the intense heat and as opportunity to feed without the visual risk associated with daylight. In this case, we were driving back to camp in the Jao concession of Botswana when we happened upon a lion laying in the grass. Lions spend about 90% of their time sleeping and relaxing, so this sighting was in no way particularly unique. By looking a bit closer, a more compelling scene emerges…

We fist noticed the cuts on the Lions face. These cuts are a result of sparring with other male lions to assert territory and to maintain genetic dominance over the resident females. I recalled hearing intense fighting the evening before as I was falling asleep in my tent. I could tell the fighting was between some Lions and spotted Hyenas. I also remembered hearing much more Lion roaring than I was used to hearing. This information, coupled with the visible scars in the face of this lion indicated a time of struggle for territorial control. This Lion wasn’t relaxing… He was resting. He was plotting. He was thinking…

My journal entry from May 8, 2006:

Tonight I sat silent 10 feet from a male Lion as it roared out into the nighttime savanna. With each voice of the roar I could see the lions breath hanging in the cool nighttime air. I could feel the reverberations in my chest. How do you explain this to someone who has never witnessed it? After all it is really just a sound. But to see this lion laying in the grass calling out to his kind in a voice that man could never understand is a humbling experience. The two male lion brothers have been fighting. A third male is encroaching on their territory, and both show the signs of the struggle to maintain dominion over this land. While one limps on an injured right foot, the other nurses severe cuts to his nose and eye. My camera will never do justice to these amazing creatures, and the life they live will always rely in part upon the drifts of our imagination. But to know and to witness a lion’s roar firsthand will change a person. The raw emotion and vocal power of the moment cannot be ignored. I am reminded of our collective struggles, our desire for an effect on the outcome, and a quest to find our place and our role in the larger context of our environment. These are the raw ingredients of a life well lived. I am the luckiest man on the planet right now.

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