Late afternoon. April. South Africa. The African sun starts to set and this particular part of the world is bathed in a godly light. Cecile B. de Mille comes to mind. The clouds move, slowly changing shape, as if an invisible choreographer is directing them across the sky. The same ingredients: sun, clouds, sky and yet no two afternoon skies are the same. As we travel back to camp, we meet our neighbours. Tired from a day foraging for food, they laze around in the evening sun.
We pass a baboon, engrossed in picking fleas from his mate’s tail. Focused on the task at hand and paying no attention to our kombi. We may as well be invisible. The African sun catches him just so and adds a reddish tinge to his coat and dresses him for an evening at home with the family.
We turn a corner and see a lioness, stretched out on the side of the road, enjoying what’s left of the heat of the day. She radiates pure gold and seems so placid, so tame. On guard, protecting the cubs I know are nearby, she appears so approachable. And yet I know that if I reach towards her, that will change. In a flash. All the godly light in the world won’t change the fact that she is wild – not wild in her world, wild in mine.
A zebra, black and white in the noon-day light, turns biscuit brown as he grazes beneath the lowering African sun. Yet another trick of nature as all its forces work together to change the shape of things as we see them. To show us that nothing stays the same, not even for a little while. Things are constantly changing, however minutely. How we see things depends a lot on when we look. Nothing is certain.
The silhouettes of dead trees stand still against the sky, blacked out by the sun. As the French artist George Rouault so insightfully said: A tree against the sky possesses the same interest, the same character, the same expression as the figure of a human. It’s like being at a private screening of evolving art; a gallery open to the world but empty now, save for the four of us and nature.
It is at dawn and at dusk when the true magnificence of the bush comes to be. It is during these quiet transitions between time that I am most a peace, suspended in world where nothing matters but the now. And a tiny piece of me wishes I could stay.