But none of forgetting.
Yet there should be, as they are twin sisters,
Twin powers, and walk,
On either side of us, disputing for sovereignty,
Over us and who we are,
All the way until death.
A meander through memory and forgetting
It was twilight on our second day at the park. The crimson sun’s rays were slicing through the dust raised by migrating animals. On the park radio, our guide heard that a couple of lions had surrounded a blue wildebeest (an animal the size of an adult cow) and were attacking it with their natural ferocity. Our guide quickly turned his land cruiser in the direction of the hunt. By rushing through the maze of dirt roads which snake through Serengeti, we reached where the wildebeest was on its last leg of battle, and within a few seconds it fell on the ground, its body ripped apart and the force of life leaving it forever. The attacking lionesses - one older and one around three years old - now exhausted from battle sat down stoically next to the dead beast. Their silent expressions were giving the illusion that they were coming to terms with raw grief of taking a life. It is said that sorrow has a voice: it is a scream turned inward and silenced. I suppose the lionesses, if in grief, had turned their roar inward. It has been shared that lions carry no memory of previous kills, so each act to them likely feels like innocence lost.
The vultures perched on leafless trees looked like monks contemplating on the nature of death. For their meal, they would have to wait. The lions were going to guard their hunt overnight.
The above episode has left a deep impact on my memory. It dawned to me that our lives are so separated from the natural actions and cycles of animals. While for me and others, this was a powerful experience, for the lions and wildebeest, it’s the natural way of the world. The poet John Fletcher said:
Weep no more, nor sigh, nor groan
Sorrow calls no time that’s gone
As the title suggests, this blog post is not about the size of the park and various animals in it - Wikipedia and internet are loaded with the such information. This writing is about my memories, reflections, and the changes the visit brought in me.
After seeing the hunt, we headed back to our tent house. The night was falling and very soon the sky turned a dreamy velvet black. Every night, the sky brought the same color. The nightly bonfires at the tent had gold, red, and purple flames dancing on the embers. In the park, the animals were roaming free and we were caged in a secured tent during nights. Every night you could hear hyenas calling each other with a full range of musical tones including legatos and staccatos.
Our guide suggested that if we wanted to see lions feasting on the dead wildebeest, then we should start by 6 am. It was still dark, but the sky was changing its color from black to indigo. The shadow of yesterday’s moon was still lingering in the sky. It had rained in the wee hours of the morning, and the vast cathedral of Serengeti was being swept off its feet by the moisture laden breeze. On the way, we saw guinea fowls (I would describe them as cuter versions of chickens) doing their sputter walk on the side of the dirt road amidst line of blue monkeys. We reached the place of the kill at around 6:45 am. It was an unbelievable scene. There were at least 4 lions sitting cheering on two other lions, one eating the face, and the second, a child, like any curious child, struggling with the tail. From here, we moved on to other parts of park.
The sky by now had moved from indigo to a blue which can only be experienced and not described. According to the author Earl Shoris in The Last Word ’ the Mayan language had nine different words for blue”. The loss of language has made the blue I was witnessing beyond description.
By noon the sky had turned pale blue. In the open grassland, the animals were sunbathing, and the atmosphere was like a picnic. Lions, elephants, zebras, giraffes, a few foxes at distance, gazelles, all were in proximity of a few hundred yards of each other without any fear. I saw carcasses of dead animals in the same mix. I saw a mother elephant breastfeeding her baby, a male and female Ostridge couple taking a leisurely walk during their picnic, and lions sleeping on the trees. A few miles from this place, we saw a lioness sleeping on a big lava rock like a beautiful lady in a portrait session of sleeping beauty. Her 5 cubs were playing around and occasionally sucking on her breasts. The littlest among them was constantly hitting on her face and periodically stopping to gaze at her face possibly to ensure that her spirit was still a float in this world. The beauty of this Eden like place brought the memory of the following verse from Gregory Orr:
To be alive; not just the carcass,
But the spark
That’s crudely put, but……
If we are not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?
The story of circular migration of animals following the rains and rejuvenated vegetation is nothing less than magical. Science tells us that the animals for navigation shave several tools like spatial memory (some genetic and some learned), earth’s geomagnetic field, and seasons. I am not as well-endowed with spatial memory as these animals. The goddess of forgetfulness is always encroaching on the memory land. I am always trying to remember as much as I can the landscapes experienced with their wind patterns and sky.
Serengeti was a gift to us from our children - Chetan, Megan, Ashim, and Pooja. Their gift brought an experience which we will cherish for as long as the goddess of forgetfulness does not turn her eyes towards us.
Visiting Serengeti and listening to what this land was saying, a new understanding and appreciation of life and nature developed. In conversation with the land, we create spaces in our life where wisdom arises like morning sun and our spiritual landscape expands. The forgotten experiences come back as stories to be reflected upon as something new and novel. We realized that this season of our lives is more important than any other season to cherish lived moments and stories. Most importantly, a realization that the eternal call of time is beckoning us to cherish the internal seasons of life together with the knowledge of our partner's heart's wants.
I carry your heart with me ( I carry it in my heart)
I am never without it (Anywhere I go you go, my dear)
Here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root, bud of the bud and sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grown higher than soul can hope, or mind can hide)
And this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.
-E. E. Cummings