The Lions in the Riverbed

Part of the lion pride in the riverbed, with some of the older cubs

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.

Watchful but calm pride members

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.

Yawning lioness

We tried to edge our way back up the steep bank. I watched her tail, it twitched in an upward motion, which meant…

Another afternoon with some of the pride, relaxing

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.

Yawning. Another time with some of the pride

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.

Leading the pride away

With a slash of her tail, the lioness turned and went back to join her pride.

We found the rhinos the next morning…

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.

An older cub
Proud mother

Lions and Relaxing

Relax.

I’ve seen many lions in my lifetime.
Each one is beautiful and made perfectly.
Each one is an individual.
But one thing I always notice with lions, and I’m sure many can agree…they seem to sleep a lot.

On on gorgeous morning patrolling in South Africa, me and my team stumbled upon a lion pride on the reserve. All of the lions were resting in the sun, quite content.


The lion in this picture I took certainly looks very relaxed.
But why?


His life is not so easy. He has to be the protector of his pride. And he has to travel miles and miles, far from home, to keep his territory safe from other lions who, if they can, will fight and kill him, and kill his cubs.
The life a lion leads contains so much danger and fear, and it takes a ton of work every day, and every night to just live.
So again, why is he relaxed?


Lions find time in their day to rest. They take a moment for themselves.
You will never see a lion try and “look busy”, and dedicate every second of his day to “staying busy”.
The life a lion leads is already busy enough without adding unnecessary complications to it, and that type of “busy” accomplishes nothing except adding to stress.


So what this lion, and most all lions, can teach us is this: take time in every day to simply relax.
You do not have to fill every second of the day with “doing”. There’s a difference between simply being “busy”, and actually accomplishing.
Rest is super important, and highly overlooked.
Taking five minutes to relax will probably accomplish more than five hours of “busy” work.
It is very important to take a moment for yourself, for you are not actually able to help anyone until you learn that you must also take care of yourself.

Finding time to rest


A lion knows that if it’s injured, it might have to rest more.
Its not resting because it’s lazy. But it is wise enough to know how important it is to take time for itself to recover.
What good can a lion do for it’s pride if it can no longer stand? What good can it do if it stays busy, but remains injured, and does not rest?
For us, we do not need to “physically” be injured to relate to this. But by refusing to relax, and staying busy without purpose, we are injuring ourselves in ways far harder to heal from.
Take a lesson from this lion, rest, relax, and enjoy those moments. It does not take a lot of effort, and it will accomplish more in the long run.

The Lion in the Bush

The lion in the bush

It was a cold, dark morning.

The dawn was still far away.

It was only starlight that gave shadows in the bush.

I always started my mornings earlier than anyone else, because I found it was the best way to know the wildlife.
I liked to them from how they arose in the mornings. From the moment they started their day, or ended their night.

Lions coming out in the morning

Amid the mist laden valleys, the low roars of lions filled the cold air.
And based on the general direction, I had an idea of where the lions would be.

So I followed my instincts…
It was still very dark.
But I had a feeling, if I went to a particular place and waited, eventually the light of day would show me what I was certain would come…

I knew could try and follow the calls of the lions alone, and hope to pinpoint where they were, but I paused. Simply reacting to their calls I felt would more likely lead to confusion. The echos were to untrustworthy for exact direction.

So I instead trusted my instinct.
I went to the place…and waited in the silence of darkness.
Birds began to chirp as a pale light touched the horizon.
I hoped I was not wrong.  But perhaps I was? Maybe they would not come at all. And I was waiting for nothing…
But then in the darkness, I saw the eyes.
Not because they were glowing, for I was not using a light.
Only because it is always the eyes that stand out to me first.
An animal in the bushes can be completely hidden, but I always catch the movement of their eyes. There lay the great lion.
As the light of the world increased, I was able to snap this picture of the lion in the shadows.

And then all around came through roars of his pride, and one by one, each lion arose from the hills and shadows, and padded out into the open.

Lions coming out from hiding, calling to each other softly

And such is the glory of this lesson…In the darkest of times, when all around us the answer seems to be to follow the loudest call, we often think it would be much easier to simply react, and fall into the temptations of what we see as “safety”, for that can be such a loud and easy call.
Yet when we arrive, we realize it is not safety or peace.
It is in fact the same shadows as where we were before. 
Sometimes, we need to rather pause, in the darkness, and allow light to come on it’s own, and thus bring clarification. 
We cannot force the dawn to rise. But we can choose to pause.
Simply reacting and running to the first loud call will lead to the lions you cannot see.
But pausing, and choosing your reaction, because it is always your choice, this will show you the lion in the bush.
And then you will know the glory of the lions’ roar, instead of the terror.

Two male lions leaving their hiding place to begin the day

Of Love and Lions

I was on my first date.

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.

Amber rays of the sun

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.

Gold morning

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. 

The Lions at Dawn

A lion at dawn…

A young lion coming out of the shadows into the dawn.

There is much to be said for this picture.

I was out monitoring before the sunrise, the creatures of the night still sang in the darkness beneath the last stars. 
It was very dark. And very cold.

But as a milky light touched the eastern horizon, the world became alive with the songs of the morning…yet resounding above them all was the thunder of the lion’s roar.
I followed the powerful, echoing call.

And as dawn arose, giving color to the world, out of the fading shadows came the lions.

They called to one another. Young and old. Their breath came from them like clouds of smoke in the cold.

And they joined forces together again after a long night apart…

A family of lions, coming together again after a long night.

Across the earth, wherever you are, wherever your loved ones are, though the night is dark now, dawn is coming. Have faith in the light on that horizon. And like the resounding song of the lions, we will know the victory that comes with the dawn, and in this, we will always come back together again.

Whatever your night may be, keep going.

Whatever the darkness, do not stop.

For like the lions, you do not know when the dawn comes, but there is no doubt that it will.
The light is often closer than you think.

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