Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Back to Africa. Waaaayyyy Back.

My Mom and Stepdad are on sabbatical. Technically. They are really just full-on doing what they have always done - caring huge about the state of the world and working to make it better through meeting people, being in awe of what people can do when they put their mind and hearts to it, and teaching others what they learn along the way - stuffed into an employer-granted framework of time and general expectation for ummm, something? to come out of it. So they are on a world tour of transformational leadership practices. Meeting, being awed, taping interviews, being awesome themselves. They've mapped a trek through their vast network of friends/colleagues turned family that takes them right through South Africa. Yeah, you heard me. South Africa. Dang.

You KNOW how badly I want to go back to Africa. Need to go back. My since-childhood impulse to go there made stronger, rather than sedated with one visit. People often ask me, so casually, "are you going back this year?" Well intentioned, supportive, interested. My reply of "not this year" polite shorthand for a dissertation of whys and why nots. Of course it is possible to go back. It's just money and time. Limited resources, yes, but not impossible to figure out. Truth is, I've chosen not to go. And in that choosing, another way back has opened up.

Two ways back, that I know are all bound together in a way I just need to patiently discover. The first is writing. I've been attempting to write myself back to Africa. It's all in me somewhere, tossed in a box underneath the stuff from my Dad's dying and death. The second is testing my DNA. Did you know that National Geographic has been tracking human migratory paths via DNA testing across thousands of years and thousands of miles? The Genographic Project has determined what they believe to be the original source of each and every one of us back to human DNA in Africa. One male and one female ancestor for all of us. An Adam and Eve that makes sense to me. The amazing thing is that for $107 you can have your DNA traced to key points on the path that your ancestors made from these roots in Africa to where you are in time and space today.

No bags to pack. No itineraries to book. No insurance, no shots, no back-up childcare plans. I'm going back to Africa and I am so excited to see what's there.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sarro's Balloon

When I am paying attention to only the notion of paying attention, and nothing else, I am always always stunned by what rolls out of the ether to rest at my feet, my ears, my heart, my soul. On days when I risk cracking open the door in the floor, risk being knocked flat by the tsunami of the collective beating, breaking, elating hearts of this world, I am transformed. Not without cost.

Yesterday I drove to my parents' house alone. An hour and a half along familiar roads from suburb to the lake country where I grew up. From day-to-day familiar territory to the places that have always known me. And I was listening to this little piece of radio - mesmerizing art of sound called Sarro's Balloon. As the story ended and I exhaled the extra breath I was holding - letting just enough come and go while listening to stay alive - I glanced to the shoulder of the road to see exactly what I had been thinking about without thinking. A white cross with the artificial flowers and other icons that have come to be familiar on roadsides where a life has been lost.

I was driving on this road with my husband the day after Christmas. Returning home, having left our daughter to hang out with her cousin. My sister would take this same road to deliver her to me later - a handoff in a restaurant parking lot. Convenient. Logistics designed to maximize my time on a busy busy day. In that small slice of saved time, a family lost control of their car on this very pavement, this very spot, and their little boy died. My sister was late to our meeting, the road closed between us for some unknown reason.

The radio story, the moment, the place. The door in the floor ripped off it's hinges. I pulled over and had a much needed cry. Hey Dad. There's this little boy, just arrived. I didn't know him but he has people near our people. Maybe you could teach him to fish. I bet he'd like that.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Tracker Seat

Choosing The Tracker Seat is best done without too much thought. One of those moments best just seized, if you know what I mean. Don't let the photograph fool you. Fourth row at the twelve screen cinema they just opened down the street, being all still and situated in front of a cool view that's doing all the work for you it ain't. No popcorn or diet coke. Being in The Tracker Seat is more strap yourself to one of those big exercise balls and shove it over the edge of a thorn filled ravine, with um really big spiders and stuff, oh and lions in the bushes as you careen down the hill. And you have RESPONSIBILITIES.

Keep your eyes glued to the immediate foreground and notice, while bouncing in forward motion at say 30 miles per hour, a shadow of a pawprint barely making a dent in the dirt while ignoring for sanity's sake the Golden Orb spider the size of your fist. Keep your ears attuned to some frequency that allows the huff of some wild thing to cut through the roar and clatter of an under-serviced volunteer-outfit-in-Africa hand-me-down jeep engine. And breathe, through your nose please, to pick up any musky stink, and discern if that stink is carnivore, or third-day safari socks.

It is also peaceful in a way that only being in the wide open, your line of site unedited by anything man or manmade, while enjoying the completely underrated comfort of being in a chair, with padding and a seatbelt, can be.

I chose The Tracker Seat one time in Africa. Barely felt I'd earned the right just yet. Crazy and sort of dangerous that it is, it is a coveted position. You won't get the chance if you pay the big bucks for one of those tourist safaris. Liability and such. Volunteer in some back-bush preserve and you might. Don't think. Take it.