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.
Life begins again… All life is precious. And with every new day, there comes with it new life. Do not think so much on what “wasn’t” in yesterday, but try to practice focusing more on “what is” in today. In this moment. Guard your life, your thoughts, your feelings, against unnecessary negativity, just as this mother cheetah guards her cubs from danger. Because it matters. Animals guard themselves against danger, they don’t look for negativity in their lives. I believe that every individual’s mind, body, and soul is as precious and able as a young cub. Perfectly made. Entirely beautiful. And capable of withstanding any trial or fear. We ALL are built to be successful. So allow yourself to feel joy and love, because this good, and all living things deserve to feel such goodness. Allow yourself to except and learn from your shortcomings and mistakes. This mother cheetah did, and her cubs have done the same. Because this is an important step in growth and your success. I think no other animal except humans focus so strongly upon the mistakes and gloom of their lives and the lives of others. Yet at any point, we can choose to focus on the positivity of new life that is surrounding and presenting itself to us, every single day. Life is so important, YOUR life is so important. So live every new day as such.
Observing affection between animals is truly a pure and moving experience. This particular moment was between a mother cheetah and one of her cubs. It was such a sweet moment, but I find that it was also a moment that was powerful and inspiring… Here are two individual, living creatures, and neither of them are controlling the other, both of them have made the conscious decision to show this affection towards each other. And in this, it is a picture of pure affection and caring, because both individuals are choosing to share this with one another. What we can learn from this interaction is this: Each and every one of us is an individual. We each have our own thoughts, our own emotions, our own challenges, and our own experiences. We are all capable of making conscious decisions in our personal lives. To choose to give without expecting anything in return, but giving purely because it is our choice to give. We have no right to control others in their lives and choices. And others have no right to control us in ours. We always have a choice…we can allow others to control us, and manipulate us. Or we can choose to not let them do this. And control ourselves instead. We ACTUALLY get to decide this. We also get to decide how we choose to treat other living beings. We know what’s right and wrong. Choosing to love another should not be done with the expectation that the other MUST give this back in return. Because then we really are only loving for our own self gain. But loving another, with no expectations of them, and then they in return choose to love us in the same way, with no expectations of us, that perhaps must be one the purest form of selfless love. When two individuals choose for themselves to give love and kindness to each other. For no self gain except the happiness that comes from loving another and seeing their joy. That is why this moment of affection between these two wild animals is so remarkable, and I found it to be very meaningful for my own life, and hope it will inspire others as well. Animals truly are a remarkable blessing.
This was a picture I often scrolled over when going through my photos. It just wasn’t one I thought much of. But then I took a moment to really study it, and contemplated the memory I have when I took it… And I realized it holds quite a powerful message: This cheetah is a picture of success. But this is not the normal, heroic image we have in our minds when we consider what it means to be successful. Looking into her eyes one sees the struggles and terrors she had faced to arrive in this moment. This cheetah is haggard and exhausted. She has pushed herself to the limit…
This is often what true success looks like. Success takes dedication and effort, it takes much pain and turmoil, and it can take many failures. It can seem so hopeless and bleak at times. Let’s be honest, bad things happen. Yet what this picture shows me, and what this cheetah wordlessly tells me, is that through these difficulties we ALL face, we CAN get through it. This cheetah, like most wild animals, had to fight every single day to achieve her goal…which was simply to live. She often went hungry. She would face the cold nights, the freezing rains, the blazing sun, and the terror of larger predators that wanted to kill her. But here, depicted in this image, I believe is what victory should be when we have put in the true dedication to reach our goals…we don’t always come out looking like heros with beams of light shining on us…
We carry scars and weariness, but with these, comes a silent declaration of undoubtable power. This cheetah does not speak or boast of her success, because seeing her is enough to hear the story she tells. And so it should, and will be, for all of us who never give up.
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.
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.
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
This cheetah was living a life in chains. He was chained to the ground. Forced to be petted by hundreds of people a day.
He did not know his mother. He was taken from her as a cub. And thus he was never taught how to hunt by her.
He was destined for a life behind fence. A life behind bars. But then, this cheetah, whose name is Ivory, was given another chance at life…
He was released into the wild.
Experts said he would never be able to hunt. It was impossible. Because he never had a mother to teach him.
They said, he could never be wild.
It was a hot afternoon, I was out monitoring, and was looking for Ivory.
Deep in the thick bush, I found him.
He was a huge cheetah. Most people were nervous of him. He was very powerful. And I had seen him charge several men before. Though with me, he was always very calm. I believe because I showed him respect, and simply remained very calm when around him, it gave him the sense that, me being there, was totally normal. And thus he had no reason to have a reaction to me.
I also never went to close to his food. So eventually, Ivory knew me to be an “Acceptable human”. He would allow me quite close.
So when I took this image, Ivory had just made a kill. And as he tore into his meal, I watched his absolute ferocity. His most certain strength. How could anyone look at the magnificent example of power, and not see how incredible he was.
And as I was thinking this, marveling at his beauty and strength, he paused for just a moment, and looked into my eyes…
It was almost like he knew what I was thinking, and in his eyes he seemed to say, “I will always overcome.”
This magnificent cheetah did not doubt his ability to overcome all things.
So I believe Ivory is sharing a message to the world:
Your current circumstances may have you feeling trapped, chained, and behind bars. All those “experts” and “judges” who seem to be good at declaring your wrongs, yet refuse to see their own, may be telling you what you are. Who you are. What you cannot do. What you can never be.
But if a cheetah can prove wrong the naysayers, and rise above the darkness of current predicaments, you can too. Challenges are a part of life. But we can overcome all things. We are built to succeed. And Ivory is a perfect example of this.
Ivory is a fully wild cheetah.
He is living free at Amakhala Game Reserve. And is a father of two cubs. And sure to be a father of many more magnificent cheetahs in the future.
In this picture, one of the cubs I enjoyed monitoring the most, was caught in the act of trying to grab my backpack strap! Note his look of surprise that I caught him sneaking up from behind. This little cub was certainly the most mischievous and brave of his brothers. He was one of four brothers. And his mother was a beautiful first time mother cheetah named Catja.
It was part of my job to monitor this family every day.
Catja, the mother cheetah, would sometimes bring all four of the cubs close to me, when they were being particularly energetic and noisy, and she would then leave them with me and go off hunting on her own for awhile. Catja and her cubs had come to know me well, and I them. Catja was a very clever mother, and she trusted me to the extent that, she knew I was human, and other predators will not bother humans. And thus, she knew if her cubs were alone with me, they would be safe.
So when she needed to hunt without the noisy cubs, and I happened to be out monitoring on foot, she would bring them to me. I guess she also figured I would be a good distraction for her naughty youngsters!
Telling her cubs to stay, Catja would come up next to me, look me directly in the eyes for just an instant, and in this passing glance, I could see a weary gratitude. And she would pass on, disappearing into the scrubs beyond, heading towards the direction of antelope herds.
During these times, the cheetah cubs would chase each other, squeezing and squeezing and yowling at each other, they would climb trees, and of course, come and inspect me.
But it was this one particular cub that made it his goal in life to try and sneak behind me to try take my bag.
And eventually he did manage it.
He snagged my bag, which was empty because I had my camera with me, but it was to awkward for him to run with it. So, with his mother and brothers watching nearby with mild, but lazy interest, we had a brief tug of war for the bag. He eventually let go, but not without breaking the zipper. And then he proudly scampered back to Catja, who gave him a couple quick licks, and then rolled over to sleep.
I was laughing the whole time. And to this day, I still use that bag, and have never fixed the zipper. The memory is just to great!
So needless to say, this little cub certainly became a favorite of mine.
He was quite a unique character, and he never behaved this way with any other human.
He would come very close to me while I was taking pictures, so curious of what I was doing. Walking up to me, quiet yet confident, he would lie down next to me, almost touching me, and just watch me. Sometimes, if I was focusing on something else, he would then start rolling around. Watching me all the while. And would just lay on his back, like he wanted to play. He was simply adorable! Of course he was wild, and I would never disrespect him by touching him. But his showing off certainly made it difficult!
But the most fascinating behavior of all, was he would purr at me.
It was amazing. Here were these wild cubs, but because their mother knew me, and never saw me as a threat, and because I was having to check them every day, they just saw me as part of their lives.
And especially this cub.
It can only be described as an honor, and a blessing, to have meant something to these wild, beautiful cubs. To the point that one of them, would purr at me when I was around.
Now these cubs are getting bigger and bigger, soon to be adults, and they will start hunting on their own.
But I am certain they, this band of four brothers, will become as successful and powerful hunters as their mother!