One of the great pleasures of living alongside a river is the freedom of boating. Thanks to the Victoria Falls you can gently float your boat up river or rapidly raft down river. This separates the nature lovers from the adrenalin junkies which has its advantages when you are in your own world merrily watching a feathered friend and the unexpected roar of a jet ski sends you diving for cover. I confess there are no jet skis in this part of the world – imagine! If you are like me that thought would be as welcome as topless beaches are to the French, if not and a jet ski is your watercraft of choice then your white knuckle grip will not be wasted rafting the grade 5 rapids of the lower Zambezi. Yip, we have it all – whatcha want we got – except for the jet ski!
I have acquired a southern drawl after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, what a great book one I read years ago but one that should be read at intervals throughout one’s life. The author Harper Lee says ‘one should write about what he knows and write truthfully’, and so she did. And that simple fact engraved her words in American literary history. Book and boat go together like horse and carriage. Except I should write more and read less. I like to tell myself that all I see is art, and art being visual I too like Ms Harper Lee will write with ‘cinematographic fluidity’ effortlessly melting ‘scene into scene without jolts of transition’. If you don’t have a boat then take this book to the beach, it has nothing to do with an actual mockingbird if you are a birder, but everything to do with life and ‘should be read by every adult before they die’. As recommended by British librarians.
Back to birds. On my afternoon of work avoidance we pulled the boat up alongside an island and watched as one of Africa’s most revered birds built its nest. The pair worked together, one picking up twigs off the beach hopping from broken reed to the next flying back to where its partner faithfully strung it all together like a golden spider web. Spinning the separate pieces with its beak into an elaborate structure that would eventually fill an entire tree. This magnificent nest-chamber can only belong to one species of bird. Known in science as scopus umbretta, the hamerkop is masianoke ~ the Lightning Bird. Often seen standing in pools of water staring at its reflection, people in Africa say it is ‘the one who knows the unknown’. Bringer of the thunderstorm, this bird is known as a rain maker. To kill one is to provoke unthinkable bad luck. It is therefore treated with due respect, being watched from a distance for omens and changes in behaviour. Legends like this are what keeps birds alive in a continent known for poaching.
Chasing the sun, I steer Belly Button’s nose in the direction of the giant fire ball now illuminating the Ilala palms in the distance. The stairway to heaven is what people call it, that bright light shining on water like a path leading you to the stars. Silvery blues and burnt orange – an aqua world as timeless as the river itself. Bringing life, bearing life and taking it. Looking up at the birds heading for their roosts, I watch their wings in unison, drawn into their flight a sense of space and lightness sends me soaring into a place as limitless as the sky with endless possibility.
Photo by Sandi