There aren’t many moments of my past that I can put myself back into completely - sight, sound and smell – just by closing my eyes except for memories of experiences in Africa. Today I was telling my hairdresser about a morning in Zambia when I heard talking outside my tent. I opened my eyes and rolled over to where I could see out my tent door. I saw my two guides pointing to the sandy floor of our riverside camp.
I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, then sat up and tried to focus on the guides. One was a South African who had journeyed to Zambia with me. The other was a local Zambian river guide. Both were walking slowly around camp pointing at the ground.
I yelled out, “What are you two looking at?”
My South African guide - as casual as if he were telling me he spilled his bottled water - said, “A pride of lion were in camp last night. Looks to be about ten of them.” He walked closer to my tent and then said with a devilish smile, “Check the tracks just there outside your tent before you come out.”
I scooted up next to my mesh tent door and looked out at the sandy floor. The tracks were unmistakable. They were huge cat tracks, and there were several of them only inches from my tent. I lay back down on my sleeping bag with a plop shaking my head smiling. I had a strange feeling of silly self indulgent satisfaction and bone chilling fright.
Today I closed my eyes in my hair stylist's chair and breathed in deeply. I smelled the fresh morning river air impregnated with brief whiffs of a fire from the nearby village. I saw my guides against the hot, summer, morning sun walking with the soundtrack of fish eagles and hippos calling in the background.
Are my memories of Africa so easy to recall because they are truly spectacular moments or because Africa is the one place where I have absolutely no obligations, so I get to slow down, take it all in and burn the detailed images in my mind? Both. The memories of Africa are immensley spectacular and I get to take hours - should I decide - to imprint them deeply in the memory bank. Each to be withdrawn as needed.