Life on the Wild Side

I sit curled on a rock at the dimly-lit watering hole, the thick blackness of the African night settling over me. It’s silent except for the far-off cough of zebras and the quiet lapping of a pair of hyenas come for an evening drink.

They pad away as silently as they appeared. A shadow flits, then another. A pack of black-backed jackals, their tan coats disappearing into the dusty plain the moment they stop moving.

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Bare bushes rattle like ribs and I catch my breath. A rare black rhino edges toward the waterhole, the little shadow of her baby hovering by her leathery sides.

As mama drinks, the baby steps out, inspecting the wary jackals curiously, tiny round ears swiveling. I smile.

There are some moments in life that fly by, rushing through the sieve of my busyness. Some moments still and stretch, seeping into your memory.

My visit to Etosha National Park in northern Namibia on a recent filming trip was of the latter variety. Even for someone accustomed to unexpected, surreal and surprisingly delightful moments, Etosha was a very special experience for me.

As a child fascinated by animals of all kinds, I spent hours watching David Attenborough’s “Trials of Life” nature videos, “Lions of the African Night” and, more recently, the “Planet Earth” videos.

Nothing could have prepared me for seeing magnificent African animals up close in the wild.

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Elephants approached our vans, playing and eating grass before crossing the road in front of me. They stood at least 1/3 again taller than my van, yet moved in near silence on padded feet the size of dinner platters.

Long-limbed giraffes stride through stands of trees, extending black tongues to grasp leaves in the treetops and sprawling to drink from pools, an impossible blend of awkward grace.

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This is where I see God—in the male lion getting up from his nap beneath a tree to stalk regally across the desert; in the herd of countless grazing zebra spread across the plain; in ostriches sitting on their eggs and warthogs snuffling beside the road.

They say the red dirt of Africa gets in your blood. 

Now I know why. There’s a mysterious, timeless quality to this place, to these moments. Unfamiliar constellations spread across the velvety dark sky and an overwhelming sense of my own insignificance presses into my chest.

Dust swirls across the dry, cracked ground waiting for the rains–waiting for the flood season that brings new life–and isn’t that all we are? Dust blowing in the wind?

It’s this fear of the vastness, the awareness of unchanging rhythms of life, myself only a brief spectator, that creates this soul-deep wonder.

At the night-shrouded waterhole the mama rhino snuffles in the water, blowing gently through her nostrils. With a nudge to her baby, they disappear into the night as quietly as they’d appeared.

And so will I. Today, tomorrow, someday my story on this earth will end and I’ll join a much greater story for the rest of eternity. But for now, I have these few, precious moments to live my story well.IMG_8566rv

IMG_9086rvvtKatie Morford is a founder and editor at Crosshair Press and author of travel adventure novel, “Kenan,” under pen name Karis Waters.

In her spare time she travels the globe as a photographer and writer, producing documentary videos for a Christian non-profit. She lives in cold, rainy England despite disliking both rain and milk in her tea.  

Story and photography by Katie Morford. All rights reserved. 

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