Offering our hours the time of their life


A breeding herd comes towards us as we watch from the wild dog den

I read from the wonderful Annie Dillard that ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.’ This resonated deeply with a little, emboldened piece of my core that nodded, fervently. The piece inside me that prodded and encouraged when I quit my stable, fun job last year to move across the world. Spurred me to learn to teach yoga, reassured me when I felt sick with longing for home. Buoyed me to travel to Botswana, to say yes, to open my arms to opportunity. Right now, I’m filling my days my stepping across my comfort lines; to incite my timid parts to live fearlessly, to applaud my rigid parts who are learning to let go. I’ve been asking myself, what is possible? And the universe keeps opening doors.

The rare wild dog has set up camp nearby with the next generation

Last night, Barney, PJ and I took the jeep to go see if the wild dog puppies had emerged from their den. The last hour of the day was being sucked into the horizon, fingers of lilac and vermilion trailing along behind. It has been hot, incalescent, grazing 40 degrees, throwing a blanket of haze over everything. The kind of weather that swells and crashes like a red wave, suffocating and heavy. But now, with the day drawing its curtain, a cool breeze was offered up, skimming off the fevered dirt. Made me close my eyes to better feel it whispering over my face. To our luck, the puppies were out when we arrived at the den; the pack quiet, not even an alarm bark shouted. The pups adorable, with their splotchy white legs, at least nine puppies tumbling around on bandy legs, scooting and wobbling and tripping around their parents and cousins who lay panting, bellies distended from a recent kill. We watched them in their jolly explorations of a world washed anew by baby eyes, sniffing and tripping and fighting over regurgitated meat; play fights that set them up for a life as a successful predator. Then, a low Jurassic rumbling, like the seam of the earth ripped open. Behind the jeep, a breeding herd of elephant, the matriarch striding towards us with her head flung high and her trunk waving like a periscope.

A dog watches the incoming herd

Elephants have poor eyesight but a remarkable sense of smell, their trunks writhing like a malleable arm to sniff us out. The big cow was alert, ears flapping in warning; to our surprise she trumpeted a call and lurched forward, chasing one of the dogs as it pelted back to its den. Taking no chances, her young charges skipping along behind her, waving their tiny trunks and twitching their miniature tails like a downsized pantomime. The painted wolf safely beneath the ground in its den, the cow waved her head around looking at us, a beat, a held breath, before moving away, her family in a line behind her. She stopped, dead still, and I had to blink as the whole herd stood in sharp relief, paused mid-stride as if cut out of granite and they were in fact stone sculptures. I felt like I was in a dream I once had, where the world had stopped and I moved among frozen people, the only alert thing on a planet devoid of movement. Like God had hit pause. Then the matriarch shook her head and they snapped free, moving off in a stately parade into the bush.

My lovely little Egyptian Arab pony 'Malachite' next to the den

This morning we mounted up and wound our way back to the den, large termite mounds studding its perimeter. The pups were animated in the morning sunshine, burbling about floppy limbed, plunging at shadows in disarray. We watched them affectionately; so rare and yet for us, a nearly daily viewing. We left them to their happy play and trotted down a sandy path through a thick swathe of sword grass, striped plum and olive and waving as the wind swept her hands through it. In the distance, the neighbouring safari’s jeep at a standstill. We made our way towards them to say hello and saw they were gesturing, pointing and making motions of ears. “Lion!” the driver called. “Lion and twos cubs!” Pulling to a halt we swivelled in our saddles; under 100 metres away, the powerful outline of a lioness skulked through the grass. She stopped to watch, tail flicking, low to the ground, then padded onwards in the direction of the wild dogs’ den. If she came across those puppies they’d be mincemeat. But that is the way of it. The top kills below and so forth; the dice thrown and numbers allotted. A reality removed (thankfully) from our sanitised, regulated days in the West. Just moments before we had watched the puppies’ theatrics, their fate suspended, caught in the cross hares. Our next trip to the den will reveal how, if, they will be filling their days.

PJ, Kennedy, Rainbow and I watch on

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