For Indigenous people, of course, there is no conception of “wildness” or indeed of “Nature.” There is only the world, of which human beings are an integral part.
These last few days I was in Botswana and Namibia. Not without its challenges, and its incredible magic. Finding the words to explore what occurred and it’s impact on me is a surprising task. But I got something again, something surprising, curious and yes magical.
I was sitting in the middle of the bush with a friend, three bushmen women and a bushman, and an interpreter. My friend was curiuos about one of the women who appeared in a dream he had. He asked her what it meant,
“well maybe it was just that I was wondering how you were” she replied in her beautiful ancient click language.
I was sure there was more and yet no more came, well not from her mouth. Earlier that day I had found a large sign face down, written in the old Bushmen language telling people about the sacred place where we were now sitting, where the old healing trance dance takes place. I resurrected the sign and it now stood up against a tree.
It is a warm evening with cloudless skies, the balmy air was completely devoid of a breath of wind. But of course we couldn’t talk to bushmen without the customary fire, even though it was still very warm.
Suddenly small brown leaves started to fall very lightly from the trees, then light drops of rain joined the leaves. Soon the leaves came faster, hundreds of leaves covered us and the ground, we continued to talk, our words sucked into the airless evening, then it began to rain, lightly at first then hard, the women got up from where they were sitting the man too, my friend and I took that as our sign to stand up. I went to my tent, he to the truck. It poured with heavy rain, which lasted around 2 minutes and as quickly as it came, it left.
The water had already been sucked into the dry red earth and everything seemed exactly as it was a few minutes ago, or was it? The sky was still cloudless, there was still no wind, the women slowly came back to take their seats around the fire which was still burning, and my friend and I came out from under our shelter. The whole “happening” took no more than 5 minutes. We were laughing, amazed, what was that?
The Bushmen resumed talking as though nothing had happened, we had just witnessed magic, in the midst of the bush with the old people, puffs of smoke drifting up to the sky from their hand made cigarettes, a message had been delivered, and we were yet to understand it, or maybe it was the old old ancestors reminding us they were still there, sending leaves to dance in place of their physical bodies. It was the kind of rain that often comes after a dance, as a blessing for the sacred place.
A few days later, we were driving from Namibia into Botswana. I began thinking about a soul mate of mine who had passed in 2014, but I just discovered about his death before I left for my trip. That day I remembered it was his birthday and I went into a silent conversation with him remembering days we spent together, something I had not thought about in 20 years. He was the love of my life, and I was surprised how the memories still had a twinge of romance. I asked for a sign that he was hearing me, hearing my requests. My friend broke the reverie with a question which made me look out of the window, and I burst out laughing. There was a sign on a post by the side of the road that said, Swamp-STOP. Not exactly a common sign. My last name is Marais, french for marsh/ swamp and it was his affectionate secret name for me……say no more.
We were heading back to Botswana, deciding to stop off at a couple of farms, where we had been invited to stay. At the last minute these plans fell through and my friend promised me, a last day to remember, before flying back to Cape Town. A couple of calls were made and after a good nights sleep we headed deep into the bush. It was a long, hot 5 hour drive on a dusty dirt road. I remember thinking that everything looked the same, until slowly the landscape started to open up to what is known as the plains or Savannna and the Savanna opened me. Just grasses and pools of water and yet I immediately dropped into a deep peace. I knew there were wild animls sleeping close by although I could not see them, but it was still exhilirating. After setting up camp and we were now deep in the bush with nothing around, we took an early sunset drive, Within minutes we came across, 4 wild dogs, one who was pregnant.
We sat with them. The question kept looming. The African wild dog plays a prominent role in the mythology of Southern Africa’s San people. In one story, the wild dog is indirectly linked to the origin of death, as the hare is cursed by the moon to be forever hunted by African wild dogs after the hare rebuffs the moon’s promise to allow all living things to be reborn after death. In the wild, the species’ consumption rate is of 1.2–5.9 kg per African wild dog a day, it likes antelopes and wilderbeast. Medium size prey( my size) is consumed in up to 15 mins. (Wikepedia)
And yet, there they were a few feet from us playing like any other family, not viewing us as a threat or food. That night we sat around the fire eating a meal, with lions roaring a few feet away and hyenas, incredibly strong, powerful animal, prowling around looking for scraps of food, they were very close to our tents.
Even though I was a little apprehensive after that night’s stories of lions sitting on my friend’s tent, I went to bed and felt completely safe. The next morning, the sunrise drive, brought us a sighting of a pack of 15 or so wild dogs and two Hyenas. Breathtaking.
In the Savanna I felt home, wild connections deep inside of me were stirred, I was vulnerable yet safe and unguarded, and very alive. I thought I was pretty close to all of that at home in Muizenberg, a step away from the ocean, and mountatins and yet I returned with a sense of being lost. I know I am forever changed. I am more afraid of cars that can kill than the wild dogs and hyenas that were roaming close to me.
We can live side by side again with nature and its wild beings, of this I am convinced. If we break our rules as we know them, trying to live in modernity and follow the rules of nature. If we follow the signs given us daily and see the magic in falling leaves without a breath of wind and a 1 minute rainfall as a blessing can we not then live unbridled by chains of modernity that seems to create barriers to our wildness. The animals contunue, to show me that there’s hope again to live as the indigenous people did alongside one another. When I returned home, I felt hopeful, wild and hopeless, listless and deathly all at the same time. It has taken me a few days to slowly recover, re enter re adapt, returning to the ocean and empty beaches has helped tremendously. Maybe I was being reborn! I can only imagine a wild animal living in a cage, without its pack, its herd, the smell of a Savanna.
There was a full moon whilst we were there in Namibia. It was a night 32 Bushmen women gathered for their healing trance dance, healing me with their bodies and voices and their clapping, a night of remembering. Three of the elder women were known as the “hearts of the spears” We are an integral part of their world the indigenous people and the wild, not the other way round. That’s what I remembered and in that I remembered again, my own wildness and true nature, for that I am truely grateful.
2 very interesting articles worth a read.
After the journey my friend who was tuning into how I was feeling sent me this:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Join us on our incredible Return To Origin Journey, October 2016. JOIN the wild beings and Anna Breytenbach, the wild nature at Cape Point with Craig Foster and experience a glimpse into what I witnessed in Botswana with master guide Alwyn Myburgh.
All photos are copyright and courtesy of Alwyn Myburgh.
May all worlds bless and protect you always.