Wednesday, September 3, 2008
night noises and morning spoor
When you sleep in the bush in Africa, you seldom sleep through the night. There's nothing quite like being woken by lion voices vibrating through your blood. Or the bellow of some beast giving its last to teeth and claws. The scuffle of a chase right through camp, right past the thin grass walls that you're sleeping behind. Hyena sirens streaking your dreams with colour. The slow soft breath of an elephant, metres away from your head.
Sometimes, its the silence that wakes you. Its so rare to have utter silence, it usually signals some drama about to unfurl. Like when there's a lunar eclipse - the deep darkness and silence that creeps across the bush for a few long minutes while everything holds its breath, even the insects that I used to think were stars singing. Truly soul awakening stuff.
Luwi camp, one of my favourite spots on earth. Waking in the morning, and last nights mopane coals are still alive in their grey jackets of ash. The horizon is steely, before the ripening blush, and your breath is grainy smoke, fingers cold but before you clutch a handful of warm air at the fire, you must walk around camp and look for spoor. That's footprints, for those of you who don't know. Signs of the drama of the night.
When we was kids, my sister and I, it was daily routine. Bonkar would show us the perfect pugs marks on silty riverine sand and we had to identify - porcupine, honey badger, civet. We got good at it. We learned how to fake them, even, to make our own. We could read the map of an elephant footprint, outside the house at night, in between the toys that we had left out the night before. Never a single toy trodden on, mind you. Those eles just pick their way through. And yes, one thrilling morning there were lion prints in the sandpit where we played.
As I sat at my desk this morning I realised - I'm still doing this. Treading through blogland with my morning coffee, looking for the signs of the night. Ah, good, Janelle's feeling better. Miranda has a clutch of friendly comments. Ooh, look who came past my front door. Now, which of my cross continental facebook friends have left tracks in my inbox, or pissed on my wall?
I guess we're all just territorial beasts at heart.