Saturday, 14 March 2009

Ghosts in the Darkness

I am battling my own ghosts in the darkness just now & feel like I may be cast into a wilderness at any moment unless I hold my nerve & choose the right path forward. In reality I feel kind of powerless, as I probably may not get the chance to choose my path but somewhere deep inside me, I at least may still have the strength to choose how I feel.

I am reminded of a scene I witnessed on a holiday of a lifetime in 2002 with some dear artistic friends, on my first visit to Africa. An incredible drama unfolded before my eyes. We had spent several magical hours watching a water hole in Savuti , Botswana, an eerie dusty timeless wilderness. The stage was set to watch one of nature’s most fascinating wild theatres. This was the only water for miles around & attracted all kinds of migrating wildlife. There was a certain pecking order as to which species was allowed to drink at any one time. Elephants ruled in day light & it was a joy to watch all the playful interactions & jousting. There were herds of Impala, Wart hogs, Jackals & all kinds of bird life. As darkness descended the hierarchy changed. As the Sun began to descend really quickly, the scene was bathed in a golden glow & there was a sense of the most wonderful peace & tranquillity.
As the light faded into darkness, a group of lionesses appeared from stage right, within minutes of the last elephant disappearing from view. They had been patiently waiting in stealth in the meagre brush which provided limited cover some 500 yards away. Playfully they frolicked around taking in water & the scent of all the thirsty visitors who had only recently paid a visit to “Café Graze”. Those seasoned travellers in our group realised it was too dark to take good photo’s with such limited light. One of the pitfalls on such a trip is that you can easily spend too long behind the lens & not enough just appreciating the whole experience. As a complete novice, transfixed (no pun intended) by the magic unfolding before my eye’s I greedily tried to suck every part of the experience into my memory banks, as well as continuing to futile continue taking photographs. The last blurry photographs of which are included above. I planned on one day using them for a painting but fortunately this time, while planning for tomorrow, I was certainly living for the present day.

What a privilege this was. A million miles away from civilisation & my normal day to day existence, this was an almost celestial experience an exotic mixture of animal heaven, that tickled all my senses. I felt so alive, like never before. Bizarrely I had also never felt more alone in my life, even though I was surrounded by friends. This was like living the most surreal of dreams, almost primeval & totally in tune with nature.

The lions never see us while we are in the vehicle, even though we felt at times like meals on wheels. We were quite safe. They just see a large shape which they assume is too big to be considered as pray, which was quite ironic. Mankind all too easily looks down on these beasts as natural born killers when it is us who should perhaps question our own morality. Should you break the outline of the truck for a moment with a sudden movement or noise & connect with their gaze it is a look you well never ever forget that goes right through you with a mixture of curiosity & total distane. If you ever fell out of the vehicle & tried to run you would look like an easy lunch & be in dead trouble. This was a unique moment in time, a vista that was all about nature, not machismo & mankind, yet.............
As we continued to watch, the silence was deafening. You could hear nothing for miles, not a sound. As the lionesses busied themselves, another character joined the cast. Waiting & watching from the wings just like us, a young lion appeared (photo top right). It seemed like an outsider yet the pride of lionesses seemed at ease with the stranger. Nervously it stepped out of the shadows. This was not the entrance of a magnificent macho king of the beasts. May be this character had not read the script or perhaps they had had enough of playing a role they were never at ease with. Perhaps they just longed to be accepted as part of the pride, the society it felt most comfortable with. The outsider was being tolerated. For what ever reason, this lion was accepted into the pride. I expect I was the only one on our truck that was seeing this unfold from my own unique angle of vision. Even on a trip of a lifetime in such a mind blowing wilderness, dysphoria was still leaking from my soul, through the pores of my skin.

I was enthralled to watch the outsider become more & more integrated with the group. Gradually you could see the new arrival come alive. No longer isolated, the outsider had discovered peace for themselves, that only a short time ago had seemed a distant dream. For a brief moment I was as one with the outsider silently cheering their new found freedom & acceptance. They had worked so hard for their success & risked so much. I wanted to scream out loud & share my secret with the world, which was at the time my truck of artist buddies, but I remained in stasis, silent at this point. To see my favourite characters success was heart warming & inspirational. How I had wished my life could be like this, yet in the back of my mind an all too familiar nagging little negative voice began squealing.
Just as it seemed like there was to be a happy ending to the drama, the plot took a dramatic harrowing twist. Peace & tranquillity was replaced by an air of menace & foreboding. Lions are very family orientated but they can be ruthless cold hearted killers. Like Ghosts in the darkness two very large fat bloated cats bolted out from the tundra ,where they had been sleeping off the benefits of the sumptuous meal, the kill, that had been provided by the determined team work of the pride. They roared their contempt for the outsider, long & loud, which signalled their presence for miles around. Their roar like their icy stare, cuts you to the bone. These kings of the beasts ruled this primeval kingdom. Did this piffling outsider not know their rules? They quickly dispatched the poor creature off to oblivion, by chasing after the newcomer to frighten the poor soul away, possible for ever. We never saw the outsider again.

Initially I was more concerned for the lions well being than the where abouts of the poor love in spite of it being chased off right towards our near by campsite. Showering that evening with my imagination running riot got me into a bit a of a lather & I think we all set personal best times for our showers that night. Camping in the bush, you have to be quite open minded. This was after all the animals kingdom, not ours. At the same time this was natures world & the world would be a better place if we were all able to tolerate, & respect each other & live together in it. Humanity has a lot to answer for. This most amazing life enriching experience on a Botswana evening has left me with the memory of this broken dream, which still haunts me & lives long in my heart.
Life in the wilderness can be brutal & change in an instant, just as it can in our every day lives.
The whole world seems in turmoil, gripped with the doom & gloom of worldwide recession, fear & wars . We all seem to have our own worries. My heart goes out to each & everyone who is suffering. Sometimes I feel like a foolish emotional sponge trying to soak up all the tears of the world. My way of dealing with my fears is by running from my ghosts. I need to count my blessings & hang on to the positive things in my life. I have continued to push myself too hard in an attempt to keep going & perhaps been neglecting my family & friends, as the wheels have started to come off recently. I am full of self doubt & desperately fighting off self pity, yet I know how lucky I am. I am still struggling to sleep properly as that seems to be when my ghosts come a calling. My anxiety screams to me ever louder as I lunge between great sadness, frustration & occasional muted anger as I struggle along my pathway in life. I focus on the wise words of Martin Luther King Jr
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that".
My thoughts & prayers go out to all our friends. I value our friendships so much. I enjoy your successes such as dear Nicky & Rebecca, & share your sadness. A very special inspirational friend who I feel blessed to know, Lori D, who gives so much of herself to others, needs our love & prayers just now. .
Peace be with you.


alan said...

Yet here you are, in the midst of your own battles and turmoil, yet again reaching out and opening your heart to others! One of many many reasons my own has come to care for you...

Just by "being" you have already withstood the attempts of those lions to drive you away, Debbie. Though it doesn't seem like it, you have! That they are still voicing the occasional snarl doesn't change a thing! Those too shall quiet!

Thank you for being you!


Debbie K said...

Bless your heart Alan
Like a Knight in shining armour you so often come to my rescue & lift my spirits.

Anji said...

Alan is right. In the midst of all of your problems and worries you reach out a hand to others in need.

Thank you for sharing that precious time you spent in Africa.

Josephine said...

Thinking of you honey. Martin Luther Ling was right. Hang in there.

NickyB (aka the CFG) said...

hold your nerve dear kind to yourself, and I hope your sleeping improves xxx

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it.

I think that's from 1John 5 though its from my Sunday school memory so I could be wrong.

The thing is Debbie we can never turn darkness on without switching the the light off first. That works for both the physical and the metaphysical.

But I guess we all are in some way fumbling around looking for the light switch in one way or another.