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Beauty and Joy

August 10, 2016

Last year, in summer, I visited the Augrabies Falls National Park for 10 days. One of the evenings was devoted to a night drive through the park.

We set off as the sun was setting, with the world going quiet as it does in the African evening, with the air becoming slightly chilly, the endless sky above and the wide open spaces all around us.

There were only four of us in the game vehicle, so we spread out, each taking a seat at the edge for a good view. The guide started his introductory patter.

I felt enormously privileged to be in a position to do this – to be driven through this totally wild space on such a beautiful evening, with not a care in the world other than keeping hold of the bottle of water in my hand.

Our guide picked out silent, somewhat spooky owls for us, and we saw hares bounding away in the spotlight. I was counting – one owl for each hare. The odds seemed to be against the hares, but we were assured that there were more hares about.

We saw an African wild cat, a hedgehog, and many other small creatures.

At one point he stopped the vehicle and turned off the engine. We all climbed out and stood looking at the stars, so brilliant in the unpolluted air. It’s rare to have a 180 degree view in every direction.

On the way back, near to the start of our trip, the guide turned his light on to the right, stopped the vehicle and casually announced: “and there is the leopard”. Sure enough, in a tree some 100 meters off the road, lay a magnificent leopard, watching our lights. Despite having lived more than fifty years in Africa, I had never seen a leopard in the wild. He was beautiful. We sat in silence, until he tired of the spotlight, jumped down from the tree, and walked off into the darkness.


Photograph by Wegmann (Wikimedia Commons)

There is such beauty in the world, and yet we don’t take the time to take it in. While that trip was exceptional, I see moments of beauty every day. Yesterday I watched two Egyptian geese proudly walk their brood between the groups of students scattered across the West Campus lawns. Today I watched two Green Hoopoes nodding up and down as they ate suet in my garden.


If all the people in the world could slow down long enough to notice the beauty, to take it in and to experience the joy that comes with it, the world would be a better place. So how can we set life up to give people time?

The sense of urgency that comes with having A Job and having Important Things To Do is what robs us of little moments of beauty. We have to find a way to organise the world so that what is really important becomes more obvious. Clearly it is more important to stop and watch the goslings waddling across the lawn than to get back to reading my student’s work. There is no joy in another student mastering academic writing, in marking another essay. The joy is in the fluffy little tail-feathers.


Picture by GalliasMJ (Wikimedia Commons)

  1. That’s awesome!! Hopefully one day I get the chance to visit that park and have a nice experience like you did!. Check out my most recent post “wildlife Wednesday” and let me know what you think !

    • Thanks Kathryn for stopping by. I love your idea of wildlife Wednesday. There are so many great parks to visit. Judy.

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