Okavango Delta Aerial

Okavango Delta Aerial

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Happy Place

The walk to the local train station in the morning is not an attractive one; along untidy urban streets littered with bits of rubbish; the damp air laced with unhealthy fumes from the rush hour traffic. This morning as I trundled along, head mulling over the everyday mundane things like… Did I lock the back door? Did I put something for lunch in my bag? Will I get to the station in time?  One of the endless thoughts that buzzed about in my mind was the self-nagging remonstration that I have, of late, neglected this blog. When I first set this up, the intention was to post something every week. There was so much to post about my trip and the progress towards the fund-raising exhibition... was once a week going to be enough?! Ah the best laid plans of mice and men...

Thinking and trying different ideas about the way to present it all, has slowed me down, with one idea overtaking another and not much progress being made. Maybe I should stop trying to be all fanciful with pages etc (which are much more limited than I would like) and just go with simple posts.

Another sad truth is that my attention has, of late, been diverted away from the project..  with seemingly so many stokes in too many fires I have had difficulty doing what I need for each one. Keeping up with what needs to be done, what should be done, what I haven't done, what I keep putting off doing.. you know the scenario. It all comes down to how you deal with it and I wouldn’t say I have been struggling with it all, but there certainly seems to be a bit of confusion leading to getting lost in a maze of 'to do' job lists. Life does that now and again, nothing unusual in that, just it has for a while slowed me down on some aspects… my self-employed art being one.

So this morning, as I watched my feet stride out alternatively in front of me,mulling over the mundane intricacies of my everyday life and feeling a little glum that I wasn't  seemingly getting any further forward in my various to do lists, a stray thought came to the fore. It's March...Where was I this month three years ago? 

Aaah yes… that’s it.. I was there, wasn’t I.  I felt a warm glowing smile inside my mind remembering that very special place and time.  'Happy Places'.. you know those all too few places that you have experienced in your life where you were at your happiest and most at peace.  So another thought followed on… Think of your ‘Happy Place’. Imagine you are there….

Walking to the station? Was that wise? As I am almost on automatic pilot anyway, why not let my mind drift a bit. Just for a few minutes...

The pavement, damp from last night’s rain, was hard and unforgiving under my boots, but what if it was soft dry sand so pale in the strong sunlight that it glistened almost white. 

And instead of the patchwork of squished chewing gum blobs, cigarette butts and other bits of urban litter, what if there were small footprints of tree squirrels, vervets and francolin criss-crossing over the small undulations of the sand’s surface and the large almost invisible footprints of an elephant that had walked along this same pathway last night.

The sound of traffic filtered out and I recalled the sounds of baboons barking in the distance, the lowering call of yellow-billed hornbills , the ‘Bots- wana, Bots – wana, Bots – wana’ like call of a dove and the buzzing flight of large dragonflies and beetles as they zoomed by me and out across the lagoon or on into the surrounding bush. The heat I felt inside my padded waterproof coat from my  brisker-than-normal walk, was the heat of the day, 90 degrees in the shade.. lovely. Instead of the grey flatness of aged and beaten up tarmac I saw the sun’s intense light filtering through the leaves and fronds of the trees and plants around me, dappling the shaded parts as I retraced, in my mind, the pathway around Seba Camp. 

It was so easy to imagine I was back there.. I had walked the pathways a number of times during my stay, some parts six or more times a day for a month and each time I focused hard on remembering the scene, picking out details to burn on my memory. This was somewhere I wanted to be able to re-walk again whenever I wished.

I could smell the warm soft herb infused air filling me with a sense of well being...aromatherapy for free.  As I walk I watch for the locals, big and small, in the trees, on the ground, in the air... all around. Butterflies flitting delicately on the slight breeze, basking on the hot sandy surface or alighting on nutrient elephant dung. A woodland kingfisher on that particular branch near the lagoon, a crested barbet defiantly shouting from its chosen territorial posts. Bennet's woodpeckers tapping on the branches, hammering their bills in for a good few strikes with almost every hop and step as they make their way through the trees. Jacana's and pgymy geese calling across the lagoon. So many birds all around; tiny rustlings and flitting of small wings deep in the thicker recesses of the vegetation, give a hint of some little treasure you have missed, but might catch a glimpse of another time.

I turned a corner from the side street onto the main road. In my head I had moved from the main walkways of the 'Front of House' guest area to the more ‘closed in’ tracks that the staff used round the outskirts of the camp. I wandered farther down the track, it wound as an animal trail round tree trunks and patches of spikey pale silver grey leaved palms. 

Along the route I spot all kinds of birds.. francolins rush ahead of me bobbing along the track until they find a gap to dive into thick cover, perhaps hiding just feet from me as I pass them by. Glossy long tailed starlings shimmer with refracted light; their plumage bright iridescent green and blue looking far from natural and more like they have been shrink wrapped in a metallic film.

Walking along here slowly and silently could lead to all manner of discoveries like bushbuck with young, the local group of banded mongoose and my real treasure was one day seeing a male bushbuck very close... much more shy and reclusive than the females around camp. He stood up from his resting place and watched me intently for a while before moving off slowly and melting away into the thick bush around. 

Somewhere off in the distance, carried in gently on a whisp of a breeze is the sound of zebras  braying almost donkey-like for a few seconds and then silence again. Only it wasn’t silent.. there was sounds of the bush all around, yet it felt like peaceful silence compare to the sound of the bus as it passed close by in the bus lane disturbing me from my thoughts. Its engine whining as it increased speed through the traffic lights merging with the sound of the line of cars in the traffic lane alongside, stuck in the hell of rush hour.

Regretfully pushing my 'Happy Place' back into the depths of my mind for now, it was time to focus on where I actually was. The cold wind bit at my face again as I carefully picked my way through the stationary cars to cross the road to the station. With a sad sigh I again smelt the city air as I breathed in and thought back to the day's tasks ahead... preparing myself for another 9-5.