Mosi-oa-Tunya – Does your Smoke Thunder?

 Dedicated to my precious niece on the occasion of her 7th birthday.

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Like a bird, I first saw the Victoria Falls when looking down on them.

I saw the falls but I didn’t really see them. As is often the case, it happened this way because of my own ignorance. In other words, I didn’t know what I was looking at. From my bird’s eye view, I could only see evidence of the falls and I even made a wrong assumption about that.

I only really saw the falls when my feet were planted firmly on the ground and I only felt the falls when my very being was completely submerged beneath their thundering force – but that happened after. Let me tell you what happened first.

I first approached Livingstone in a little commuter plane and as I looked out the window I saw large plumes of billowing smoke rising in the distance. It wasn’t entirely unreasonable for me to assume that I was seeing smoke, nor was it inconsistent with the experience of my good old-fashioned rural Canadian upbringing. I wasn’t unaccustomed to witnessing smoke plumes rising high above their fires below.

So there I was, sitting in that plane, on my perch, I was too high to hear the thunder announcing the presence of one of the largest, most beautiful, most majestic waterfalls on the planet. I was too isolated and far away. Besides, I believed in smoke.

Today I rose early and once morning had broken, I went exploring. It was a glorious start to the day. The sky was power blue and happy to hold the sunshine. The birds were singing and I was alive.

The path to Victoria Falls was set out before me. It was a bit of a winding path and I had to go through some checkpoints. I had to sign out of my resort at one station and then sign into the national park at another station. I said some “hellos” and “goodbyes” along the way.

I can best describe the path as African cobblestone. It was a bit uneven and didn’t follow a straight line. It wasn’t yellow or made of brick but it did lead me to a place that has exhausted all of my transcendent expressions of praise – Victoria Falls.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the falls. My eyes popped out of my head. My jaw has since returned to its usual position and now I’m able to tell you about it.

It was love at first sight. Instantaneously, I fell in love – in love with the “smoke” and its thunder. All the superlatives in my vocabulary but cast a shadow upon its beauty and I cannot adequately describe it. You need to experience it for yourself. You need to submerge yourself beneath its thundering force and let it take your breath away before you start to breathe again – and look up for the very first time.

Today was that moment – that moment that takes your breath away. That breath in time – suspended for a moment but enduring for eternity.

In a spirit of reverence we must treasure these moments. We must remember them and believe in the reality of their truth. We must hold them close no matter how beautiful or painful and still believe in the beauty of those dreams.

And now, here I find myself writing to you on your birthday under the canopy of the Zambian night sky. Miles apart from you but sitting under the same moon.

The water is sparkling and reflecting the starlight and so I look up to the stars. Various people at various stages of my life have told me that that if I “shoot for the moon” then even if I fail, I’ll still land amongst the stars. But tonight I want to give you different advice because tonight I know that I am in the right place at the right time and I am happy that my feet are planted firmly on this terrestrial ball. The celestial glory of the heavens will have to wait. I don’t want to look down from above any longer. I want to start looking up.

And so sweetheart…

May you ever, only and always let your smoke roar.

And may we look up – together.

Zebra Encounter

Help! I woke up and I can’t fall back to sleep!

It is 3:30 in the morning here (8:30 pm in Toronto) I tried falling back to sleep but it isn’t working because I’m just 100% alert and aware. So, I’ve decided to write you a short post.

I’ve had my first Zebra encounter. It happened as I was being escorted from my room in a speedy little golf cart.

As per my adventuring  self’s typical modus operandi, I arrived here in Livingstone, Zambia  late in the day and without a reservation. I’m going to have to ask you to please not tell my darling Mom about this.  She simply doesn’t understand my ridiculous tendencies to tempt fate.  She’s right about so many things in life and I’m trying to make a renewed effort to acquire her propensity toward organization. In any event, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that the sun was quickly setting on my day’s two immediate goals of: a) finding a room and b) watching the sunset.

It had already been a very long journey and to top it all off… I had been standing at the reception desk waiting for service for about 30 minutes. I was in a big rush but no one else seemed to be. EVERYTHING and everyone seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace.

I was getting a little antsy and so I started peppering the staff with questions. I started asking what exact time the sunset would happen.  My first question was met with some amazement. First the lady looked at me in bewilderment and, then simply looked at the sky before looking at me again. Clearly – the sun was in the process of setting and it was quite obvious by simply looking at it. But the silence and grey that was descending upon us at  that in-between time of day made it increasingly urgent for me to expedite my efforts to achieve my goal.

Needless to say, it didn’t take long for the staff to understand how important it was for me to watch the sunset… and immediately.

What happened next was a big surprise. EVERYTHING and everyone instantly shifted into sixth gear. Before I could say ‘jack rabbit’ there was a porter ready and waiting with a little golf cart to escort me to my room. He took my luggage, urged me to hurry and in a flash we were off.

And so, in all of but the twinkling of an eye, I found myself holding on to myself and my luggage for dear life as I raced around in my first African Formula One experience.  Needless to say, it didn’t take long to reach my room. I literally ran into my room and dropped my luggage. There was no time to look around; the sun was setting and fast. So I ran back to the golf cart for round two. The cart made a little noise as we reversed and then jolted me forward to meet our next corner. Everything was moving so quickly and fast it was all a blur until I was startled into clarity. As I looked up to prepare for the approach of that next corner,  there it was – BAM!  A Zebra! Not just a Zebra but also a baby Zebra! I gasped in surprise and wonder. I started getting all excited and then my Formula One driver and I started laughing and giggling and sharing in a moment of bliss.

And THAT is my first Zebra story.

I’ll tell you about the sunset later.