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Moments in Africa November 1, 2011

Posted by jayocallahan in Adventures.

Elephant in Kruger Park

A breeze that frees us as we ride in an open-air van through the Kruger National Park in Africa. I sit feeling the warm breeze and have no responsibilities other than to feel the breeze and I must repeat this to myself over and over and over, since it is my tendency to carry invisible worries. I often carry the past as if it were great rocks in a sack on my back. But in the breeze I let go of the sack. I imagine being as empty as I was before I was born. Empty and free. I am empty and let go of all of the past and the present and the future.
What was I before I was born? I was not. I was not even free for I was not, though perhaps I was in the mind of God. Sitting here in the breeze as we move along in the van looking for elephants and lions, I am free in the breeze. Now we pull over to watch a giraffe only a few feet away. The giraffe is the most elegant of creatures; the giraffe walks with an ease, a grace, a fluidity in which there is no haste. It is a royal creature. We move along now in the breeze again, and the grasses are blond and a couple of feet high and I’m drawn to the grasses. They remind me of the high grasses in Wyoming just two weeks before. Imagine coming home and people saying, “What did you like?” I liked the grasses. I liked the breeze and the grasses. They were the best.

Safari Van

On another day in Johannesburg we go into a cathedral. It has a high ceiling and it’s crowded with people who are beautifully dressed. We have stumbled on a birthday celebration and mass for Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu. Years ago I was briefly in South Africa and it was a time full of fear and danger for all blacks. But now there is freedom. There is trouble, there is danger, but there is freedom. The atmosphere in the cathedral is electric. It’s a mixture of blacks and whites. You can feel their joy in what’s happened, and they focus their joy on Desmond Tutu. There are times when the African dancers get up and sing and dance and Desmond Tutu himself dances. Tutu speaks and he laughs and giggles and we all sing Happy Birthday.

In the pew to Linda’s left there are two very beautiful young black African women. At the end of the ceremony Linda exchanges a few words. The African women each hug her. We feel like dear friends although we don’t even know one another.

Dinner on the Train

Dinner on the Train

Africa. We are on a night train in Africa. We sit in our compartment and Africa seems endless. There are endless mountains and vineyards. It gets to be night and there is a full moon. We sleep and we tumble on into the night in Africa. We wake and say to ourselves, Africa, we’re in Africa.

We might just as well be in a movie for all is done so well. Linda and I are escorted to table number three in the dining car. Millie is the name of the man in charge of the dining car. He has a great broad front. He is blustery but courteous. He says he has been in this job twenty years. Africa. Africa. One night in Africa the moon is sufficiently low that suddenly there is blackness and stars above us, the African night sky. Two things I had wanted to do was to see the stars against the black sky in Africa, and to stand at the edge of the Cape of Good Hope and watch the swirly, wild seas and imagine those sailors the last many hundreds of years who have braved the seas. And imagine also the ships that have been torn apart and gone down and all those sailors who we will never know crying out and gone, they’re gone on the wild Cape of Good Hope. Africa, free, we are in Africa. We are in Africa.



1. Donald Mathews - November 1, 2011

Perhaps before you were born you were the grasses swaying in the breeze or one of the stars in the night sky!

2. Lauretta Phillips - November 1, 2011

Jay, Thanks for taking us with you. I feel as though I am there watching the grasses. I too am drawn in. Thank you for sharing time and space with us.

3. sandy bacon - November 2, 2011

Thank you so Much for sharing your story and photo of Africa. Congratulations on yur marvelous trip!!!!!

4. Marni Gillard - November 2, 2011

Oh, Jay. You take me back to when I was riding in just such a car through Kruger with BARBARA LIPKE. Yes, I too pinched myself – “You are in AFRICA” not inside the tv screen of Marvin Perkins’s wildlife show. ZEBRAS took my breath away and oh yes those long-necked spotted beauties. What a day God had designing them!
I’m flooded with memories of BLUE and RUTH on a great storyteller-filled bus – and a persnickety woman warning me that Blue gives a LOT of attention to young women. hahahahaha…and we so loved that he did. She meant well, I’m sure.
I love that you shared pictures of you and Linda and your train ride – that I didn’t do but I could feel the movement of the night train – and her greeting women at the church. Of course Linda would. AND Desmond Tutu’s bday! You were guided there no doubt. Did you touch the sea at the Cape of Good Hope? If not, I did that for you – the 4th grade girl in me, remembering that wonderful expression and wondering if I could ever be lucky enough to wear the cape of good hope. Thank you for these memories.

5. Janet and Johannes - November 2, 2011

Nice post. Glad you had such a good trip, and, together.

6. Sherry and Michael - November 3, 2011

thank you so much for reminding us to remember that feeling the warm breeze is our primary responsibility. …….and thanks too for taking us on this journey with you and Linda!

7. Molly Symons - February 25, 2012

Jay, I so enjoyed everything you experienced in Africa. I love the train story and the fullmoon. Wonderful. I have been in Africa in 2008 in march but did not get to go on a safari . Also, the story about New Zealand was so revealing and sad. I never knew so many homes were destroyed. It was great to read also.

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