Thursday, April 29, 2010

Elephant Walk

Foolhardy adventures are streaming through my overstuffed, desperately under-used brain. Addled as it is.

It's flowing now. The spigot wide open. Have decided to stick with the theme-of the moment. At least for a day or two. You don't mind, do you? Stream of consciousness rules!

The theme? My bucket punch list. Egged on by spontaneity and wanderlust. Hey, who knows when I will close my hazel green eyes for the big sleep. Imagine all the possibilities. Experience and revisit places in and out of my comfort zone. Time is a'wastin'.

I have 4 more states. 1 continent, 2 if you count Antarctica. Micro-finance in Southeast Asia. Or teaching English. Building communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Restoring an ochre plastered farm in the southwest region of France. Tuscany. Argentina. Connecting with the love of my life. Exploring. The adventure unfolding one day at a time.

My comfort zone ebbs and wanes with the tides. The season. My coffers. My nerve.

Redefined at a given moment, depending. A shelf life of several days. The amorphous comfort zone interpreted on an 'as needed' basis. Maybe a month. But only if reservations are required and an overseas flight is involved. A tad longer if being joined by a bold intrepid soul, my venturesome son or a dear friend. To coordinate calendars. Schedules. Bailey. It fluctuates wildly.

Oh to be utterly boundaryless. Unrestricted by either time or money. But you know the drill.

A few weeks before my travels to meet Charlie in South Africa I dared to commit to a pre-paid elephant safari. In the bush. Bareback.

The bonus of an aging mind and faded memories. Not intimidated one iota by the eight inch scar running from stem to stern. Forty five autumns later, a whiter shade of pale. No more bikinis. Or a tawny, suntanned tummy. Unless you count the topless beaches in France (another story, peut être). Ruptured spleen.

Involved: Galloping double bareback with my school friend, Libba. A skittish mare. Handsome teen age boys. A train crossing on a country road. And yes, you guess it, poor timing. Recipe for disaster. Cantered right past a RR crossing. Gates descending. Clanging bells. Lights flashing crimson. A maniacal freight train bellowing black steam roaring past. Horse shied. We tumbled to the gravelly pavement. Woke up in the ambulance. The horror now as faded as the white stripe.

Obviously. Or I wouldn't have found myself four decades later leaping from a second floor deck onto the thank god swayed back of Muqua. My transport for the next sixty minutes through the bush. One of a handful of orphaned adolescent males rescued from ivory poachers. Oh my. Hadn't we just watched as he sparred playfully with Duma, the alpha male, Charlie's mount? I prayed their barely over quarrel for dominance was complete. Let Duma lead.

Monkeys darted in an around. In between the grey wrinkly legs of our mounts. Muqua lumbered over the rock strewn path. I clutched the skinny waist of my Zimbabweayn guide in a death grip. Up. Down. It mattered not. My knees couldn't grip his sides. This was no thoroughbred.

We'd stop. I'd catch my breath. Mustering the courage not to ask to head back to the lodge. Muqua's giant trunk arched in a 'u' onto our laps for some gigantic pellets. Super-sized treats. Bailey would have been jealous.

Muqua's giant Africa-shaped ears flapped back and forth to keep cool. Resting on my knees. I thought it was my guide getting fresh. But I didn't care. I gripped him tighter. Linking my survival to his jungle instincts. Wild birds dipped in flight. A lemur family perched in the scraggly trees. It was exhilarating. And terrifying. If Muqua misstepped I would tumble onto the jagged rocks far below. Or onto a prickly shrub with 6 inch dagger-like thorns. Did they take Blue Cross/Blue Shield in the bush?

When we approached the watering hole I slid off Muqua's leathery, wiry haired back onto a platform. Legs wobbly. Pulse slowing to its natural rhythm.

Buckets filled to the brim with the gigunda treats awaited on the ground. Charlie already had his hand in Duma's gaping mouth. Muqua nudged me with tusks as long as my arm. His trunk arched high. His mouth gaped open. I tentatively placed a nugget on his tongue. He gently swallowed. Brushed me again. This boy wanted treats. Now! Muqua curled his wrinkled trunk downward, snorted and made a bowl with his snout. I tossed in a handful. My new adorable pachyderm buddy. Now that my feet were planted firmly on terra firma.

You never know what crazy-out-of-my-comfort-zone discovery is in store for this self-proclaimed adventurer. I cannot wait. I can feel the tingle.

Let the games begin!

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