Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Go Placidly Among the Animals

[Tarangire National Park -->Manyara National Park]

We’re up by 6 a.m., in time for a spectacular sunrise, delicious breakfast, and more fun in Tarangire. It’s quiet and empty and then—lionesses, 3 of them, 10 feet away from us! First we spot one twitching ear, then a nose, then a terrific yawn and 3 brown blotches camouflaged in the grass turn into sleek, drowsy lions. They’re by a tree near the river, snoozing until their prey comes to the water for a drink. Later we see them get up, stalking the antelopes!

Our luck continues; driving through the park we see 2 cheetahs, unmistakable with that height and gait, walking along the river bank, making the zebras up ahead nervous.

The main performance today is by the tembo—the elephants—who arrive en masse at the river. They arrive in a line, spread out along the bank and the older elephants—mothers and grandmothers—methodically start digging for water since it’s tastier the deeper one digs, out of reach of antelope urine and other dirt. The babies entertain themselves, get in the way of their protectors and every now and then a frustrated mother bats her baby away from her freshly dug hole, while an indulging grandmother shares hers. We watch them for at least 45 minutes.

After lunch back at Zion Campsite, we leave Tarangire and drive to Manyara National Park, sampling red banana from a street seller along the way—sweet, cheap and delicious! The campsite is up a mountain and the drive is exhilarating. We scope out our sunrise spots.

Back in park land, we see hippo, an assortment of grazers—i.e. more punda nilima (zebra), wildebeest, and pumba—and birds chilling at the river. Baboons and other monkeys boldly pass by. The elephants are shy, the zebras confused when we get too close, and they stride and gallop away as we furiously snap pictures.

Manyara is lush, green, fragrant with flowers of the white Mango tree; the sign at the entrance was clearly onto something, which reads: "Remove nothing from the park except: Nourishment for the soul; Consolation for the heart; Inspiration for the mind."

The sun sets behind the mountain, we head back to the campsite. Before, during and after dinner, Walter and I embark on quite the conversation—Ramana Maharishi (“Purpose of this world is to transcend it.”), Eckhart Tolle (“I am not perfect, I am whole.”), the Bhagavad Gita, marriage, a definition of the soul, a collective mind 6-billion strong, alcohol, and time warps. I read him a poem I stumbled upon at the safari office in Arusha, Desiderata, posted below for your enjoyment:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
PS: Happy Birthday, Aparna!

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