A “BRIEF ENCOUNTER”, WITH “WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE”
The English poet William Wordsworth wrote “the world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; little we see in Nature that is ours.”
Having just returned from an excursion to Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa where Wordsworth’s powerful poetry written in 1807 plummeted me with its contemporary viability; Africa robbed this urban dweller of all preconceived concepts of what was expected in the African wild. Africa laid waste to any illusions harbored before this miraculous epiphany, baptism in nature and the animal kingdom.
The single engine airplane, flew low over the dense jungle; the airstrip vivisects, slashes, like a Lucia Fontana canvas the untamed wilderness. Only constant landings and takeoffs prohibit the vegetation from consuming what is rightfully theirs, violated, raped by invaders from a technological world.
In Botswana my friend and I were taken by Land Rover, through the bush to a lush camp where we were isolated from a world perpetually peppered with communication. The isolation sang poignantly and shockingly as Mozart, Puccini, Presley, Montana, stripping one’s psyche of petty illusions, desires, energy depriving quests; each laceration gave birth to the purist insight, crystallizing, prioritizing the importance of one’s life and loves. It was so refreshingly beautiful and simple; complete happiness was mine.
African day and nighttime skies defy description; a poet is yet to be born who can portray the frightening, intoxicating, luminous beauty, the magnitude they shower on the universe. One cannot doubt the breath of a supreme being, a celestial alchemist, a Merlin, who with a shake of a wand produces a kaleidoscope of colors, never again to be replicated.
I am abashed and chagrined to admit my ignorance of the animal planet; my limited exposure confined to the Zoo. It was shocking and stunning to be exposed to the unexpected sightings of a myriad of beasts, some I had never heard of, surfacing at will. The animal hierarchy, so eminently sensible and pragmatic, they kill to thrive and survive. Watching the feeding frenzy of lions, hyenas and vultures as they devoured a kudu rendered me slacked jawed and speechless, an unknown phenomena that my friend as a reliable witness can testify to.
I loved the exotic and plentiful Impalas, the ballerinas of the plain. The monumental size of the elephants and hippopotamuses; the swiftness of the leopards and cheetahs; the aggressiveness and meanness of the hyenas and jackals; the delicious taste of the wildebeest and springbok; the wretched ugliness of the warthog, which I declined to ingest: the illusive white rhinoceros (which is black). But my heart embraced the enchanting black and white zebras and the long necked giraffes, there was a kindness, grace and elegance in their every gesture.
Africa, still in its gestation phase opened a window whose existence I was unaware of and shook me with such ferocity that it will remain unhinged and open for eternity. Genesis says “in the beginning was the word”, that word, has to be Africa!
As I left the Dark Continent, which brought illumination to my spirit and with a torn heart, again William Wordsworth’s poetry provided clarity and solace to my psyche:
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find,
Strength in what remains behind.
Africa, like India years ago, gleaned the detritus and superfluous from my life and paved the way for a deeper strength and profound love of life and mankind.
Next Review…….City Island