I’m sitting on the deck overlooking the dam at Mopani Camp in Kruger Park. I woke up this morning rather desperate for a leg stretch, so the run and walk and reflection time around the dam perimeter was real soul food for me.
My overriding feeling today is one of nostalgia. Five years ago, I came to Kruger for the first time with my twin boys. It was an amazing and also a sad and painful time for me. At fifteen, they had just flown the nest; one to boarding school and one to live with his dad. I was rattling around in my life, trying hard to make sense of who I was and feeling inadequate in so many places.
The Kruger trip over the Easter weekend was an urgent attempt by me to slow down time; to create a tranquil pool of memories of my motherhood years, before my little birds flew away completely. Already the roles had shifted subtly. Although I still drove the rental car, my boys took care of all the braai-ing, and even did an Easter egg hunt for me, hiding eggs all over our cottage, and in the car, for me to find as we set out before dawn on Easter Sunday. So many special memories in my heart of that trip; a beautiful oasis in a year of pain.
I’m still not sure why I found it quite so difficult to move through the idea of being a full time mom, munching and chewing my way into a cocoon of pupa-like stillness, where I barely existed for about six months. Eventually, I appeared to be ready to emerge, and I began to study again, enabling a new career in coaching and facilitation. That year changed me, and softened my caterpillar legs and constant chomping. Gently, slowly, without me even knowing about it, I emerged on the other side with transparent wings, and the ability to fly.
Forging Ahead, the name I chose for my newly formed consultancy at the end of 2010, was a tribute to a horse of the same name, and to the idea that even when there appeared to be no movement, somewhere deep inside, an unquenchable spirit kept whispering, “keep looking ahead and take one step forward. Just one tiny step.”
So coming back to the bush five years later was a nostalgic reminder of that time, and of my triumph over the doubt and uncertainty that I stared down daily: the fear that I would be alone, forever. With nothing to look forward to. I remember thinking that I had at least twenty years ahead, stretching into the distance, and I had no idea what I would do with them. Nothing that I had loved before held any magic for me during that year; I withdrew and pined.
Watching the seasons change outside, I surrendered to a bigger force, and endured my own “winter” – hibernating and resting. As spring took hold and mellowed into summer, I met the man who was to become my husband, and we began a new cycle, together. My little birds learnt to fly, and flew in and out of the nest often, practicing and growing. His little bird joined my two, and we started to change the shape of our nest.
Walking through the African bush today, stepping quietly over twigs and rustling leaves, I emptied my busy magpie brain enough to feel the gentle touch of nature, smoothing and soothing my bristly city edges. Five years later, I look back, take stock and breathe deeply, filling my lungs with Kruger air. As the bush hums all around me, I can feel myself slowly sliding once again into human being, instead of that busy, bustling human, always doing.
Sometimes “Forging Ahead” means just being content to “be” wherever I am, keeping eyes front, and whispering to myself: “Just one step.”