Hope is glorious. Sometimes the greatest struggles we face are actually blessings in themselves, for hope generally shines brightest when we are in our darkest moments. Even if the future looks bleak, find hope in that you are still in the present, and the future has not yet arrived.
And we only reach tomorrow by finishing today.
This beautiful cub lost his mother, thus his future looked very bleak. But he kept going any way, day after day, and found a way to not only survive, but thrive, against the odds. He did not focus only on the bleakness of his future, but just getting through each day, simply by trying.
Today he is a young adult, together with his siblings, hunting on their own despite losing their mother at a young age. And they are living. Still living every day without question that they WILL make it to tomorrow.
Don’t give up hope. Just keep going!
All of us are built to overcome the odds and to thrive.
Be strong. Always be strong. Because you are growing… This is quite a mighty little cheetah cub, for though he is small now, (you can see him in comparison with his mother), one day he will grow to be larger than her.
However this is not going to happen overnight, because he still has to actually GROW. Wherever you are in your life, remember to stay strong, because you are growing. Whatever trials and hardships you face, whatever darkness that you cannot see through, you are growing. You ARE getting stronger. But growing also takes time.
Grow through the weaknesses.
Grow through the fear.
Grow beyond the shortcomings.
And grow above all that might hold you back.
There are so many challenges in life, but every individual has the ability and the power to stay strong, to overcome, and to never give up. We are all growing. But the direction we choose to grow is our choice. And so like this little cub, may we all choose to grow UP, with the desire to always become stronger and better, to not focus on what is negative and what holds us down, but rather how we can grow above such things. There is no cheetah cub I know that grows DOWN. Because there is not one of them that I know, that has ever stopped trying. Neither should any of us.
I was working at a lodge in South Africa, and the lodge owner’s family/friends were visiting. So it was a very laid back few days. On one particularly cold and rainy afternoon, me, along with the guests, the lodge owner, and the head guide/tracker all went on a relaxing game drive. We did not see to much, most animals were hiding away from the cold and rain. But as we came to one of the dry riverbeds in the reserve, we spotted a white rhino and her calf! They were on the other side of the river. There was a river crossing not far behind us, so we turned around quickly and went to it. We crossed the dry riverbed and drove to area we had seen the rhinos. They were gone. As if they had simply taken flight and flown away! At this point, the rain was only a faint drizzle, but evening was approaching. The head guide/tracker, I cannot disclose his name, who had been in the industry for many, many years and was highly qualified, offered to go on foot to check in the river bed for the rhinos, and maybe he could find where they went and if they were accesible. This was agreed upon. Normally, I would have accompanied him, but I knew he had had a particularly stressful day, and guessed he might need some alone time. So I stayed where I was.
He got off the tracker seat, and took off his radio and placed it in the vehicle. Do you not want to take it? I had asked, and the lodge owner also suggested he should take it, but the head guide said he did not want it to get wet in the rain. He then started off for the steep edge of the river. Both me and the lodge owner called after him to take a rifle with him. As a guide, if you are going to track something out in the Bush, you should ALWAYS take a rifle with you for protection. You almost never need to use it, because you generally already understand animal behavior well enough, and know how to show wildlife respect, especially dangerous wildlife. The head guide denied the rifle, saying he was just going down quickly, and then he would be back. Again, we suggested taking the rifle anyway, but he promised he would be quick. He walked away into the fading light of early evening, the cold, drizzle of rain splashing off of him, and he disappeared down the steep side of the riverbed. We waited awhile. The guests chatted away in the back of the vehicle. Everything else around us was quiet. Only the dripping on rain drops on leaves, and a whisper of breeze in the grass.
It had been quite some time, and I thought, he should really have come back by now. I felt a slight feeling of foreboding.
My ears, as well as the lodge owner’s, suddenly caught a sound further up river. My heart went cold. It was a sound I knew instantly, but desperately hoped I was wrong. Maybe I misheard it? It was like a deep, barking “brah!” type sound.
We quieted everyone. Silence. A long silence…
“HEEEYYY!!! HEY!!!! HEY!!!!!” the silence was broken by the sounds of our head guide screaming. He was WAY up river. In an instant, we started the engine of the game viewer, and flew up river along the bank. There was way down for the vehicle, it was to steep.
As we came towards the screaming and yelling, my eyes fell upon the scene…
Down a small, muddy cliff, and in the sandy riverbed, first I saw the head guide. He was taking rapid steps backwards, his jacket was off, and he was waving it frantically in front of himself, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then there came charging at him a ferocious lioness. Her legs were stiff and she was snarling, her huge teeth bared. She was not mock charging. She was charging with the intent to kill. The jacket the head guide was waving at her seemed to be confusing her slightly, just enough to keep her from pouncing and grabbing him. And then there was another lionness charging at him. And another. And another!
Everything was happening in moments, yet it seemed to be in slow motion. The head guide was in mortal danger, for the entire pride of lions was in that riverbed, and this pride had several sets of new cubs with them. They were going to kill him to protect their young.
I do not know if any words passed between me and the lodge owner. I only remember that we each grabbed a rifle, for thankfully I had brought two with us that day. I don’t remember much of those moments, but I know that I had the rifle ready to fire in an instant. I did not feel anything at all. I just knew what had to be done, and that I was going to do it.
We charged down the muddy cliff side as quickly and carefully as we could. There was lots of yelling from all of us. And the head guide was able to stumble over to us. We stepped between him the angry pride of lions. Ready to shoot. I remember feeling entirely calm in these moments. I don’t think my heart rate had even increased. I was looking down the barrel of the rifle, into the eyes of one of the charging lionesses, I felt so aware of everything around me. Every sense and every detail was heightened to a point of purity. And felt such a sense of calmness. I remember, in those few moments that seemed an eternity, I willed the angry lioness to see how much I did not want to do this. Because shooting one of them was something I never wanted to do. Don’t do it. I remember thinking towards her.
And then, they backed down. They did not want this either, there was the loud, metal “clank” sound of the lodge owner loading his rifle, and this made the lionesses back away, still growling, and go back to their cubs. All of this happened in seconds. And then the head guide, who was very pale, took the rifle from me. For it was actually his rifle. (Legally, I actually was not allowed to use it, but that was the last thing any of us were thinking.)
Ferocious snarling came from my left side, and all of us whirled around to face another charging lioness. And I knew her. She had charged many people before. She had chased one of the vehicles I was in before, jumping at the back. And I had caught her sneaking in the shadows between the tented camp I worked in, trying to sneak up on a client who was distracted by other lions in the distance. This lioness was very aggressive, and fearless, and she charged at us, while we yelled at her. She came so close, that I believe she was about to be shot. Then she crouched down suddenly. Snarling.
We tried to edge our way back up the steep bank. I watched her tail, it twitched in an upward motion, which meant…
She snarled and charged again!! We yelled again. She crouched. Over and over and over, this happened. For every step away we took, she charged.
Twice she came to a point where I believed someone might really shoot her. Then she would crouch once more. Step by step, she escorted us back into the vehicle. And as we got in the vehicle, she glared at us, came forward again, but was interrupted by the gentle moaning call of her sisters, calling her back to the pride.
With a slash of her tail, the lioness turned and went back to join her pride.
Everyone was safe. Also, the rhino mother and her calf had apparently caught wind of the pride of lions, and bolted from the area before we had arrived. We did see them the next morning, far away from the lions. And the memory of that encounter remains clear and loud in my mind to this day. We saw that same pride again later on that night, and the cubs were playing as though nothing in the world had happened. And those same cubs are now grown up, healthy and capable lions, and powerful members of their mothers’ pride.
I was out one morning, checking up on a cheetah named Ava.
I had come to know Ava so well, I could often find her without even tracking. I knew her well enough to go directly to the area she would most likely be in, depending on the weather, how much she had hunted, and whether or not she had caught anything.
She has always been one of my closest “friends” among the wild animals. Ava probably taught me the most about myself of all the cheetahs I’ve come to know.
When I found Ava, she was lying comfortably in the morning sun. Watching me. She had seen from afar. And having become so accustomed to her, and her ways, I had spotted her from a long ways as well.
I came close. And Ava purred a greeting. As she always did.
It was an extremely peaceful moment. I had Ava’s respect, and she had mine. And so with her, I knew I could squat down where I was, and she would not be bothered. As I did, Ava shifted to a even more laid back position. And for a few moments, we both had our own thoughts. Observing the awakening world around us.
It can be a extremely difficult task to reach a point of feeling at peace with yourself. Especially when, all around, you are constantly being overwhelmed by negativity coming from others or unpleasant happenings and circumstances. The issue tends to be, we as individuals think we can control others and events. We think can convince others to change their ways, that if we just keep trying, they will finally listen. Problem is, no matter how nasty and truly wrong another person might be, we cannot simply change them. We can’t force them to stop. We can’t force them to change.
But that’s not our job anyway.
This does not mean we have to cease giving guidance and advice where needed, or love. But it’s not our job to just give these things because it’s demanded. It’s our choice. No one should force us to give these things. So we should never force others to give these things either. Or to simply change because we want them to.
Finding peace with yourself means you can except what you can do, and what you cannot force to change. Life is going to happen whether you except it or not. But how you live your life, and the choices you make while you live, is ultimately your choice.
You can make a mistake. Guess what? It’s actually ok. Because you can choose to fix it.
You can be successful too. And you can choose to enjoy it. This is also ok.
From day one, I observed how at peace Ava was with herself. There was no action or circumstance that ever had an effect on her. Because she knew herself. She knew what she could control. And excepted what she couldn’t. When she missed her prey, she excepted the outcome and tried again. And it was her choice. When a new cheetah entered her territory, she faced it, and then they both went their separate ways. She excepted the circumstances that could not be changed. And even when Ava was relocated and released onto a brand new reserve…I will never forget how she stepped out of the crate, took everything in around her…and made her choice to except it. And keep living. And to be at peace with it.
With my first boyfriend, (and still the man I am in a relationship and SO in love with today.)
Enslin is a field guide from South Africa.
We met at the reserve we both worked on.
So for our first date, I accompanied him on a game drive for the morning.
It had been a glorious morning. The rising sun giving off rays of deep amber light across the Karoo.
We took the guests to search for the rare Black Rhinos. And along the way, we each gave interesting stories and facts on the wild world around us.
We tracked the rhinos for awhile, but there was nothing to be found. So instead, we decided to look for lions. And this proved a better call.
We found four lions lounging in the sun together, overlooking a dry river bed.
It was simply a stunning morning, the sun was warm and golden in a sapphire sky. The grass, bushes, and flowers were covered in sparkling dewdrops, as if the stars had descended from the heavens.
Cheery birdsong filled the slightly cool, crisp air.
And they guests all enjoyed the magnificent scene before us.
One of the female lionesses arose after awhile, stretched and yawned, and padded slowly towards one of the big male lions. She came up to him, they both looked each other in the eyes for a moment, and then touched noses. The female rubbed her head across the male’s face in a kind gesture.
And then she brushed passed him and began to make her way towards the riverbed with a flick of her tail.
Almost instantly the male arose, and padded after her quickly, and gently took her tail in his mouth. As if he did not want to lose her, and they walked off together like this, perhaps this was the equivalent of lions holding hands? I found it to be a very beautiful moment. And it made me consider love in human form…
Love may be highly unpredictable. It may be one of the most incredibly beautiful and mysterious things in the world.
But one thing that it is not, is painful. Love is not abusive. Love is not cruel. Shaming another person and saying ‘it’s out of love,’ is not love. Hurting another person and ‘calling it love,’ is not love. Love will endure all things. But it is not meant to used. It cannot be used.
True love will never be the cause of suffering. It will remain the stronghold THROUGH all suffering. Love is not hardship. But it will ALWAYS overcome hardship. When I observed this male and female lion, as they paused a moment, and stared into each other’s eyes. And then touching noses, I was reminded of what love is…eternal and enduring. It happens in single and often unexpected moment. And in its purity, for love is certainly pure, love never fails.
One beautiful, gold morning, I found all four cubs practicing the new skills their mother had been teaching them. Their mother lay nearby, observing them proudly. They were so focused and serious about their practice.
The cubs were trying out over exaggerated stalking poses on each other. And they would be so clumsy, tripping over themselves, crossing the wrong paws which made them stumble.
And of course, as soon as one made a mistake, the other three would quickly take advantage and pounce! All the cubs would squeal and make little sounds of protest, or challenging squeaks of courage.
Streaking through the dew enveloped grass like spotted comets.
They were stumbling and rolling about. Awkwardly throwing themselves at trees and climbing to a point which really gave them no advantage at all. But it gave the idea of power.
The cubs were so interested in practicing, that they did not even notice my presence for a long time. But as soon as they did, they saw an even more exciting opportunity to practice!
They all four ran up to me, and tried to puff themselves up and walk in a “threatening” posture just like their mother showed them.
All the while, their mother lay close by, relaxing in the sun, her eyes narrow slits of pleasure. She knew she had done her job well.
The cubs all came up to me, one even stood on my foot on accident. And they starred up at me with their deep, amber eyes. Their sweet little faces all alight with energy and playfulness. After a time, three of them went back to playing amongst themselves. But one of them, the same one that always took an interest in me, laid down where he was at my feet. And began washing himself.
Finally as the morning sun rose higher, and the earth began to heat up, the mother cheetah called her cubs. And they all five disappeared into the cool shadows of a nearby riverbed. These moments were so special to me, and I also found it inspiring. Even when cheetah cubs grow up, they never stop learning. Wildlife cannot foresee the challenges ahead, they learn to read the natural signs of the world around them. They never stop learning. Most adult cheetahs know their prey, and they know their territory. But when seasons change, or prey patterns change, the cheetah will watch and learn. A consistent student to the world.
None of us should ever be an expert. Ever. You should never stop learning. Or being a student.
And observing these cubs learning and putting to practice what they had already learned, was a good reminder of what we should all strive to be…students.
There are far to many experts in the world. There are so few teachers. And even fewer students.
Never stop striving to learn. There is NEVER a point in your life that you are not able to learn something new.
And when you do learn something, it is never right to withhold information from others simply so seem “better”.
Don’t hold back others in order to remain an expert.
Any true expert should dedicate their expertise in teaching others.
Knowledge is beautiful. And to be able to give knowledge by teaching is an honor.
Like a mother cheetah, we should feel great pride when those we have taught move forward in success.
And like the cheetah cubs, we should jump on any opportunity we can to learn something new. I must say, that the greatest experts on the planet that I know, are all wild animals.
A first time mother of four male cubs, and they were very energetic, and confident little boys.
I absolutely loved monitoring this fantastic family of wild felines every day!
Catja really had her work cut out for her!
Though she was a first time mom, she showed superb maternal instincts, being highly protective of the cubs, and an amazing consistency in hunting and providing food for them.
Catja worked tirelessly day in and day out, raising those little cubs into the strong males they are today.
There had been a severe drought in the area I was working. And this, coupled with the fact that Catja was so efficient in making kills, drastically brought down the numbers in her preferred prey species, blesbok.
Therefore, Catja had to resort to hunting smaller, and quicker game.
This meant she had to start hunting springbok, impala and other small game.
But with four growing boys, a single springbok antelope is not enough to suffice such hungry mouths.
Catja began working twice as hard, so efficient and clever she was, she would often kill two springbok a day. She was a phenomenally proficient huntress.
But as time went on, the springbok herds became even more vigilant and learned her ambush methods, and so her kill streak began to dwindle.
Then came the hardest time, Catja began missing her prey.
She still managed to kill small animals like steenbok and hares, but this was barely enough to sustain herself and four cubs.
My job was the daily monitoring of the cheetahs on the reserve.
So it was of great interest observing how this particular mother cheetah had been raising her young, and the struggles they faced, and how she continued to adapt to overcome the turmoils…
I found Catja and her cubs, they needed food desperately. And Catja was entirely exhausted. The evening was gray and overcast. The world seemed entirely quite. Catja starred into my eyes, her eyes like deep pools of amber. They always seemed to much darker than the other cheetahs.I knew already what she had been going through, the struggles, the hardships. She was exhausted. But her eyes told me, she was confident. Her eyes told me, victory was certain. I believed her…
I was on foot the next morning.
It had been hard to watch Catja over the previous days, she was exhausted. And she was hungry. And so were the cubs, who were a constant worry for her.
They NEEDED food.
I walked about, looking for tracks and signs.
I knew Catja was going to be in the area.
I walked through a vast scrubland, shrouded in mist.
I looked upon a ridge to the north, the herd of springbok which Catja had been sticking to over the last several days, were grazing along the hill. And in amongst them were the quick and clever impalas, another species of antelope. I knew this would make matters even more difficult for the huntress. I knew Catja was around. She had to be.
I kept going along quietly and slowly, looking for the familiar spotted camouflage of the cheetah pelts.
Then, I saw a little ways ahead of me, Catja’s four cubs.
They were sitting under a bush together, watching the herd on the hill intently.
The cheetahs here are accustomed to seeing me on foot or in my vehicle every day, so they had little interest in me.
I did not see Catja. I knew she would be hunting.
So I got down low where I was, in a bush near the cubs, not wanting to disturb the scene.
And this way I could watch the impending action that was to come. I just knew Catja was hunting.
All eyes were on the herd, the fog from the early morning was lifting, Catja would come out eventually. She had to.
Maybe, this would be her day.
We seemed to be sitting there forever…suddenly, one of the cubs made a little squealing murmur of excitement, they all sat up straight, and I saw the reason why…
Ahead of us on the ridge, the impalas started alarm calling, and they began to scatter, the springbok scattered with them, all in aflurry of panic.
And then there was the cheetah.
Catja sprang out from the underbrush where she had been hiding, but I thought, it’s too late surely, the herd is so far ahead now, but then I saw her target…
One of the springbok had been further apart from the rest of the herd, but now was it was too late for it to react.
At that moment the cheetah’s speed increased to a full on high speed sprint that only a cheetah is capable of, and I witnessed then the most beautiful chase I have ever seen.
Sprinting between 75-80mph (120km/hr), to the point all four paws would in midair as she sprinted fully stretched. Catja was incredible!!
I never would have thought I would have the privilege to witness such speed except in documentaries, yet here it was happening before my very eyes.
Over the ridge they went, and the cloud dust went up, followed by the sound of the kill. We knew Catja had done it. She was victorious.
Silence reigned over the world.
The cubs were staring ahead, wriggling with excitement. They looked at me, they looked at each other, and looked to where their mother had gone down.
Then her chirping calls echoed across the silent Karoo earth.
The cubs sprang forward, sprinting towards the sound, chirping like excited birds in an excited response.
I followed behind and found them all together, the cubs digging into the springbok, practising their strangle holds on the carcass, while the mother lay panting and exhausted in the shade from all her momentous effort.
I was overwhelmed by the wonder of this experience, and so inspired by Catja’s determination and strength.
It was Catja’s devotion and and willingness to get through and overcome any obstacle, that ensured her cubs’ survival. Now as they are entering adulthood, all four brothers follow in their mother’s footsteps in confidence, energy, and ability. They’ve made their first kill. And I foresee these once tiny babies to become as highly efficient and gifted as their mother Catja was.
Catja had been at a point of hunger and exhaustion. A point where the heaviness of life’s hardships seemed suffocating.
I’m sure most can relate to this feeling.
This cheetah had been in a state of haggard weariness. Yet, she did not stop.
Giving up never crossed her mind. She was focused. Focused on the success that was certain.
This cheetah would never stop as long as her heart was beating, and as long as our hearts are beating, whatever the circumstances, we should follow her example…
I had a most remarkable moment with this particular cheetah one morning…It had been a cool morning. I had been up before the sun. And after finishing up my other monitoring duties, I was on my way to check on a cheetah named Jasmin.
Jasmin was a unique individual. She had a special and quirky way of doing things. And she enjoyed her solitude. She was probably one of the most difficult to track every day, because she would hunt by walking in large circles. I had to wonder if she had trouble with her sight at times. Because she definitely did not act the same as the other cheetahs on the reserve. But it clearly was not enough to keep Jasmin from making kills. She was definitely capable of that.She also would often hide inside of thick bushes. Not underneath them like most cheetahs.
No, Jasmin would climb on top of large bushes, and crawl down inside of them. Becoming completely concealed, unless she peaked out from the top. I spent many frustrating hours searching for her at times, when I was getting to know her. But once I came to know her special ways of doing things, I began to figure out her patterns.
On this day, I found her lying beneath a large shepherd’s tree.The early morning sun shone golden open her dappled fur. I came nearer to her, slowly.
I was surprised because she did not move. Surely she could hear me?
I edged closer, purposefully making loud footsteps so she would notice my presence. Still nothing. Jasmin was lying with her head up, facing the hills and valleys before us, but had her eyes closed shut. Only her whiskers twitched, as she breathed in the air. But as I came up to her, she finally opened her eyes, and gave me a slow, yet respectful, glance as I came close.
Then she slowly turned, and looked back out over her hunting grounds. And then closed her eyes once more. Jasmin took a long deep breath. Then released it. Her expression was one of complete, and utter relaxation. She seemed to have found a perfect state of peace. I was amazed. For here was a wild animal, teaching the simplest, and yet so important, lesson in the world: Breathe. Just take a breath. It is wonderful what the air can do for your stress. For your fears. Your anxieties. When your emotions become overwhelming, close your eyes, take a breath, and live in a single moment of peace. Just one moment. Emotions are not bad. They are entirely necessary. It how we know when we are happy or sad or scared. But allowing those emotions to control us, and make the calls on how we react is not good. Life can be terrifying at times, and we may want to allow those emotions to control us…but Jasmin is reminding us of something different…just breathe. When the rivers of emotions start to overwhelm, we just need to pause a moment and take a breath. And then, like this cheetah did after taking a moment for herself to breathe, begin your day.
Do not take a leap into a river of fears, uncertainties, and anxieties without taking a breath first. You may yet have a swim before you, so take a second to breathe.
Trust, and choice. This is a beautiful example I observed one morning while monitoring a mother cheetah and her cubs.
The cubs were awaiting under a bush for their mother to return or to call them.
Without really thinking, these little cheetah cubs, and in fact all cheetah cubs, know to lie with their backs to each other, because they trust each other. They are watching each other’s backs.
Yes, like any sibling they will play, they will bicker, but in these moments, when things get tough, when “mommy” is hunting and they are alone, they look after each other. They do not question whether the other sibling is doing their job, they simply trust that he is. Trust is an extremely difficult thing for us. But it is interesting, the example these little brothers are giving…
Neither of these cubs has control over what it’s sibling decides to do. Yet they trust that their sibling is looking after them. Both cubs have made the choice to look out for danger. Both have made the choice to trust the other one is doing the same. What I learned from this moment with these little cubs is this: We often try, whether we mean well or not, to control others. But at the end of the day, others will do as they will. It all comes down to our own choice, we cannot control another person’s choices or actions, but we can control our own. And we can also trust ourselves. We do know what’s right and wrong. And we can make a choice, at ANY point in our lives, to do the right thing.
It had been quite a day, I was feeling weary and scattered. But I still had to check on two more cheetahs.
These two cheetahs were brother and sister, they would soon be old enough that they would split and go on their own ways. But not quite yet…
They both followed a pattern in their territory, they would hunt and make a kill, then climb one of two mountains in their land. Until they became hungry again, and then would descend the mountain to hunt.
Today they were on top of one of those mountains.
I hiked up to the top, knowing them well enough that I would be able to find them if I just kept going.
I was quite exhausted when I did find them, both lying together in the shade, watching me with lazy interest.
The two of them rolled about, stretching, yawning, cleaning each other, and eventually playing with each other a bit, though rather lazily. I had to laugh. They were both so relaxed and carefree. And as I laughed, I realized how important that moment I’m had been for me.
Find something in every day to make you laugh, you will find your life increases because of it. This cheetah may have only been yawning when I took this picture, but in this simple action, he did two things… He made me laugh. And the fact that he “looked” like he was laughing, made me consider the importance of laughter… Something we can learn simply by observing the nature around us, though the animals may not always realize it, sometimes the little things they do can bring us laughter. So take a moment in every day to find something that makes you smile. Humor is a beautiful thing. “A cheerful heart is a good medicine…” Proverbs 17:22