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Thunderstorms in Africa

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

Another bloody gorgeous day in Africa

“Favour your unboundedness,” Vedic Meditation guru Thom Knoles suggests, when gripped with existential fear. “Invincibility is not about defending the wave with barbed wire. Invincibility is showing the wave that it is the ocean.” A friend of mine sent me the podcast Life Without Fear: Cultivating Personal Invincibility by Thom Knoles, in response to my last blog post about my anxiety around not achieving quickly enough. As Thom expounds, fear is based on the idea that your time is running out; that you won’t get things done before you die. But when examining what, instead of who, you are, this anxiety should melt away. You are not your body, he explains, but consciousness, part of the totality. You are interwoven with the fabric of everything, the same consciousness that flows in heart waves through trees and birds and slugs and the radiating soil. And if the death of your body is an unreal concept; that you continue on no matter the end of your earthly form, then you have boundless, limitless, infinite time. “True nature of self is the knowledge that eliminates fear,” he continues. This prompting to remember what you have forgotten – that fulfilment is your baseline, and that it is already within you (not acquired outside) is a tantalising concept that has melted my small fretting. This is just a tip of the experiential iceberg but I’m looking forward to wading in these cool waters deeper.

The view out the front of camp

They don’t seem to grieve the small things as catastrophically here in Africa. Things die too readily, too soon, give up the ghost, become talked-about memories, or clammed up sparks of remembrance here and there. Pets, those sacred members of the family, are all too easily killed with a venomous bite or a kick to the head or a chomp by a crocodile. If your heart too happily opens to the searing wound of grief, you would spend your life cocooned in it, your ears full of spent silver tears. There seems, especially among the whites here with their weathered faces and swags of near-misses and death-averted stories, a thicker skin than their cousins in the West, more impervious to the scrape and sharp sting of Another Thing Dead.

Golden hour creeps along the blonde savanna of the Delta

This morning was hot and soupy, the sun blistering from the sky like a molten button so that sweat drew her clammy hands down between my shoulder blades before 8 am. Riding out, the fine dust was sweet on my lips and had the consistency of talcum powder, clouds of dry sage rising to settle on our clothes, the bushes crushed under our horses’ hooves. The savanna spread out around us was blonde and beaten beneath the bowel of the sky. The day felt expectant, swelling thickly like an invisible wave. The ants and insects buoyant with anticipation, swarming in my bathroom sink and busying themselves among the leaf littered floor. Noon carried its melted stillness tenderly, so that our siesta was heat drugged, our limbs leaden with lethargy. Finally, in the early afternoon, the wind whipped up and stone coloured clouds tumbled across the sky’s brow, moisture clinging to the air. Suddenly I felt awake, my atoms fizzing under my skin, emblazoned with an energy whipped up by the clean, rain wrapped wind. Thunder rippled above our heads with booming alacrity, surprising and infectious, urging feral grace from the horses sprinting in to the stables from the grazing. Rain started to fall, fat heavy drops that landed with a sting on my cheek; crashing to earth with such speed they looked like shining silver ropes, lasers flung to earth, futuristic spears. The storm thundered in heavenly dance and the smells, the smells! Hot dust lapping up the first rains of the season, the smell of earth cooling and curdling and trees flowering before our eyes. As the storm passed on like a festival festooned with swirling breezes and hail, Rainbow, Kennedy, Chief, Adam and I saddled up and rode from the grazing, joyous in the cool afternoon air, so resplendent compared to the usual turgid heat. The sky was enormous, marbled with violet and grey. The sword grass gleamed olive from the shower, the wind surging to meet us with yips and grumbles like a playful pet. The setting sun smudged the castles in the clouds a pale peony colour.

That evening, I watched the thunderstorm happily, wrapped up in blankets, my feet up on the balcony growing wet from the spitting wind. In front of me, the molapos, black as the inside of a barrel, were occasionally lit up by white lightning forking across the horizon. In these flashing moments, it was if the world was paralysed in electric shock; the silhouettes of the mopane trees spindled in cartoonish splendour, the river in front of me a tongue of silver. Like a stroke of absolute intelligence, a marvel of immediacy that hung like a curtain, a perfect world frozen in a yellow temper.

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