I walk in Eden. Dappled light paints shifting patterns on my legs and arms as my feet sink into a lush moss carpet. My steps unleash the scent of green growth; it mingles with the hints of lemon and spice lacing the air in this part of the garden. I stop a moment. Listen. How can I begin to describe Eden’s music? It’s the sigh of the wind, the chorus of birdsong, the buzz and snuffles and purrs of all the creatures in our care. It fills and thrills, inviting every voice, even my own, to join in the chorus. I do not sing today. I only listen. Yearning to hear, just one more time, another voice – His voice. Rumbling with laughter or humming an ancient tune or calling my name. Continue reading
I look up in time to see that the two largest elephants have broken away from the herd. They must have heard Neema’s distress call.
“Everyone, back in the car!” Uncle Rob hisses. Adriaan, Samuel and the other ranger are backing away towards their vehicles and Samuel grabs Jabu by the arm and pulls her along with him.
Uncle Rob clambers in to the trailer, desperately trying to undo the last two ropes that hold Neema in place. There is no way of knowing what the elephants will do to the trailer to get to Neema. For her own safety she has to be free. Continue reading
The next day all the preparations start. The specialised relocation trailer that my father had had made is brought out again, and its lock repaired. Adriaan is called and asked to be available the following day. Samuel keeps a track on the herd’s movements and—as if they sense Neema’s presence—they keep moving steadily in our direction. Jabu and I spend one last bitter-sweet day with Neema while Aunt Christy takes photos of us kicking balls, rolling in a muddy pond together and feeding her her last few bottles of formula. Continue reading
The next morning I wake up to an urgent hiss. Next to me Neema is asleep; Uncle Rob and the ranger’s anxious faces are pressed against the fence.
“Anna! Get out of there now!”
I have the sense that, despite his many stern words, Uncle Rob is actually a little proud of me. He allows me back into the enclosure almost immediately with a bottle of the formula. Neema’s attempt at drinking is clumsy and most of it spills onto the floor, but Uncle Rob and I agree that we’ve made good progress. Continue reading
Throughout that afternoon, Neema continues her destructive behaviour. Nobody can get near her to try and feed her and Uncle Rob is adamant that Jabu and I stay out of the enclosure, reminding us constantly just how heavy she is. By nightfall Jabu and I are forced to go home, no closer to giving Neema the formula.
But I know what I need to do. That night I lie awake listening to the house falling silent. When I am sure that even Uncle Rob is asleep, I pad to the door in my slippers and gown, and slip into the cool night. There is almost no moon, and the Milky Way ribbons across the sky in all its splendour. I remember my father’s words. Seeing an African night sky is like touching the face of God. I look for the two distant galaxies he once showed me, for the super-nova and the Southern Cross. I trace their shape with my fingers and marvel at the silent vastness, feeling my own smallness as never before. Is this what it feels like to touch God’s face? Continue reading
We find the elephant pressed back against her mother’s side and Uncle Rob brings her down with a single dart. That’s the easy part. Next Samuel brings a thick piece of canvas; it takes six rangers to roll her onto it. The material strains under the weight as they half lift, half drag her back to the camp. Every twenty steps or so the men are forced to stop and new carriers take their place. Once inside the camp, a crowd of people push around to take a look at the elephant and the progress becomes even slower, until my uncle shouts for a path to be cleared to the enclosure. Continue reading
Earlier posts of Orphaned Grace: Part 1
That night my sleep is restless. Elephants charge through my dreams, catching me in their wild stampede; poachers’ guns maim my uncle and cousins; and a small elephant is surrounded by a pack of hyenas, moving in closer…closer. I wake with a start, my breathing laboured. The image of the hyenas crouching down for the jump still burns behind my eyes, but I am relieved to find it’s just a bad dream. There’s no baby elephant, no hyenas. Continue reading
This is the first part of a 7-part story set in the African bush.
Neema came into my life one dark, brooding September day. I remember how the promise of rain after the long dry season had brought a lightness throughout the Ngwenya bush camp. It was the first day of mid-term break, and—unlike all the other boarders—I was not happy to be home.
Home—the place of memories, the place where I could never forget. Continue reading
I’m excited to announce something new on my blog. From Monday, you’ll be able to read a very special short story that I’ve written. It will run as a 7-part series for two weeks on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. “Neema” is the Swahili word for ‘grace’ and it’s the name of the young elephant in my story, who I hope will touch your hearts. Continue reading