Hut With a View – 9/27/11
Sable antelope are the world’s most magnificent creatures – messengers, almost, from another earth. If you can’t visualize them, remedy that condition. Two days ago while walking through the bush to the Savory camp we came upon a group of 7 to 10 animals. I didn’t count. I was too mesmerized by their grandeur – black with long vaulting horns – just like you would see in National Geographic, but here I was, on foot, just strolling from one one part of the center, to another. It was about 4:15 in the afternoon, the time when animals begin to emerge from the thicket. This is the “commute” that Allan and Jody have, a commute they only do by foot during the day. The lowering sun was behind me shining right on the sable – photo perfect. At first I was scared, because all I knew was that there were large animals ahead of us, and then I saw the horns, arching with grace and purpose. If they wanted to charge, we’d be their trophy, but John said, oh, it’s sable. Don’t worry, they won’t be a problem. Indeed, they were a gift beyond compare. We approached gingerly, but they caught our scent and left – slowly at first, and then with some haste, galloping into the woods with the crack of twigs beneath them. This is Africa.
Exactly midnight and a herd is outside by the watering hole. They are large animals, snorting and prancing. I feel their hoofs and hear their nostrils. What are they? Not bush buck. Those are more ginger. Maybe not even impala. Perhaps kudo or, my favorite, sable. Of course it could be zebra, that would be more horse-like, which is the sense I get, but are zebra around here? Recently, Jody said she saw giraffe. I doubt it is them, but what a concept. If only. I shine my light but see nothing. The fidgeting has frightened them. I heard their departure, a subtle stampede, although I was hopeful to still catch their eyeballs in the flashlight – like fire flies evenly spaced. A real game watchman would already be perched outside, sitting, for hours. I’m not there yet. It’s cold at night. And moonless. And scary. I’m still a bungalow man, but I’m learning. I venture out a few yards from the enclosure and then turn off the torch. Above is loud with stars, still mysterious in their pattern. Jupiter, bold as ever, is the one familiar site, racing between hemispheres like a lion circling it’s den. How quickly it scurries, already now in the west. Will the sun catch it? We still have many hours to find out.
Watching the shadows grow like a curtain on the veld – brown goes dull, warm breezes eddy, and the pigeons drone on, and on. What are they, if not slightly annoying ushers to this drama? Hurry on, they say. Intermission is over.
The day staff have left and John and Jody, to my knowledge have not yet returned. Alone. Just me, the cabin, and the bush. How perfect a time, to do nothing. Just watch. Just listen. Just remember.
Eating an orange, innocently enough, when I heard an intense swarming sound. Locusts! I thought. We’d been discussing these earlier. No, not locusts. Then what? Ah, killer bees! No. Not those. But it was loud, and I was looking over the watering hole. A swarm of mosquitoes from the watering hole? My god, it would be massive! No. Maybe something from Steven King, like The Langoliers, or Tremors! No, my sober self said, it must be frogs from the watering hole. Not frogs like I’ve heard before, but that must be it. What else could make that sound? I thought of going to investigate, but obviously banished such foolishness. I finished my orange, noting that the sound was not getting louder, and stood. Lo! It was a all about a my head. A swarm of mosquitoes were right above me the whole time. The sound was not in front of me, but actually just above. They weren’t biting, so perhaps they weren’t mosquitoes, or weren’t in an eating mood, for certainly I would have been attacked. They were just a buzzing cloud – inches from my thinning scalp.