Encounters # 3 Bubo, the Cape Eagle Owl

owl_feb17

I met Bubo (Bubo Capensis) during an evening stroll and was happy when I realized he wasn’t scared of me. He didn’t even seem to think of flying away. He sat on his branch, orange eyes taking me in, as well as his surroundings, while the wind was playing in his ear tufts.  He looked straight through me, as if he just knew.

Watching him for a while made me realize (again!) that it is no surprise  that people of all – or at least most – cultures have always been captivated by owls:

Symbol of wisdom for the ancient Greek, wizard’s mate in parts of Africa, harbinger of death in certain areas of the Americas and messenger of the gods and divine ancestors in Asia; ‘Owl’ is Winnie the Pooh’s wise friend, ‘Hedwig’ Harry Potter’s trusted companion, and ‘I heard the Owl call my Name’ by Margaret Craven was a New York Times bestseller.

Cape Eagle Owls are monogamous, call in duet and sometimes like sunbathing in the early morning. They eat mostly small mammals, including bats, but also small lizards, insects and crabs. Like many other species of owl, they are able to fly in effective silence, their unique wing and feather design suppressing all sound that lies within the range humans, and apparently most of their prey, can hear. Recently, scientists have been researching the owl’s flight mechanisms and wing design to improve human-made aerodynamic design.

 

A wise old owl sat in an oak,

The more he heard the less he spoke

The less he spoke the more he heard

Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird?

 

Ever since writing “Healing Rhinos and Other Souls”, I’ve been fascinated by owls. Many a night they accompanied my late writing sessions with their calls, some near, some in the distance. And to this day they remind me of Walter, who always maintained that he could chat to them.

Walter had a special relationship with owls all his life, and the night after he died, the eagle owl in the terminalia tree outside his house in Vaalwater called incessantly, until the early hours of the next morning.” Healing Rhinos and Other Souls, p298

Thank you!

 

Adventure #1:The Idea

***Release “Healing Rhinos and Other Souls – The Extraordinary Fortunes of a Bushveld Vet” as Podcast and Audio book. (Just let it go! It’s been ready for a while, but my old friends, Ms Perfectionism and Ms Procrastination interfered… )***

audio-chair

How are ideas born? Where do they come from? Why do they sometimes linger for a while, before they raise their heads and demand attention? Do they have a life of their own?

Where exactly the idea came from to experiment with audio books and podcasts, I don’t know. However, once that it was there, it seemed obvious that “Healing Rhinos and Other Souls” would be the perfect starting point. But how to go about it?

‘Things will happen when the time is right,’ my magic life-coach friend said and, as usual, she was right. After pondering for a while, things suddenly started to happen. Bokkie Botha, whom we’d later just call ‘The Voice’ kindly volunteered to read the parts of the book written from Walter Eschenburg’s point of view. The narrator’s voice, I felt, I could do myself, for better or for worse.bokkieb-1

The Voice – Bokkie Botha (©James Botha)

But where and how to do the recordings? Turns out that Farai Bloemendal aka ‘Farai the Producer’ has set up shop in town recently and is running a small but very professional recording studio. Wow! When the time is right…

sept-15

‘Farai the Producer’

A huge thank you here to Bokkie and Farai!

Things were running smoothly and production was nearly done, when we hit a serious roadblock. I had read the small print of the “Audiobook Creation Exchange” before, or so I’d thought, but somehow it had slipped my eye that in order to use their services, one needed to be a resident with an address and a bank account either in the US or UK. Dismay! How could I have missed that? And now what?

Ms Procrastination was celebrating, while Ms Perfectionism just said, “Perhaps it’s a good thing, after all you are not a professional narrator, and it’s not perfect!”

Ms Pragmatic replied, “Mmm, but what about the time? The money? The effort? The favours?”

I remember lying on the sofa, listening to this conversation in my head. “Hey, what about me, I really like it! And I want it published!”

“Do you? Although it’s not perfect?”

“Yes! It may not be perfect, but we all gave it our best! And after all it’s a memoir, and a personal book and I think people will just love Bokkie’s voice, and…”

More pondering and wondering followed.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea: Why not publish it as a podcast, serialize it, one chapter at a time!”

“Good plan; then people can listen to it for free , and maybe that’s a good thing? Then you don’t have to worry so much about it being perfect!” says Mrs Pragmatic

“Yes, and also remember, what you give is what you get,” I hear my magic life coach friend chip in, “you never know what kind of wonderful magic you are going to release.”

“Ms Pragmatic, now it’s your turn to find out how to go about it! Soundcloud, itunes, youtube…”

“Ok, Ms Procrastination, I’ll do that. Can’t be that difficult, we’ll start in the New Year…”

“And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect… Just give it your best!”

“yaa, but…”



P.S. Progress report to follow soon

Encounters #2 – Jiminy Cricket

When out and about, adventuring, experimenting, traveling or simply walking, I’m often amazed at the sheer variety and beauty of what I encounter along the way. At the same time I feel humbled, because I realize how little I know. So:

“Open your eyes, take note, read up – and learn something new.”

Randomly, random facts, at random times.

jiminy-cricket-1

Jiminy also goes by the name of Koringkriek, Corncricket, or South African Armoured Katydid. This fascinating, fat and flightless fellow’s proper name is Hetrodes pupus, and he grows up to five centimetres in length. He lives along the escarpment regions of the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape Provinces in South Africa, where he particularly enjoys the succulent Karoo and Fynbos biomes. He doesn’t cross the Orange River, but his cousin Acanthoplus lives further to the north where he eats millet and sorghum and is eaten by chicken and sometimes their owners. In general, Koringkrieks eat everything and anything, but preferably plants, insects and occasionally bird nestlings.

Jiminy’s body armour of vicious looking spikes and thorns serves as his outer level of self-defence, making it more difficult for birds and lizards to swallow him. Should that not be sufficient, he can autohaemorrhage, in other words spray a portion of haemolymph at his attacker, with a reach of up to six centimetres.

But beware Jiminy Cricket! – After this so-called ‘reflexive bleeding’ a meticulous cleaning of the body is required, in order to avoid attacks by his mates. Particularly when times are tough and their diet is lacking protein and salt, Koringkrieks tend to become cannibals!

 

 

 

The Big 7 for 2017 – or – Times Fly…

the-road-ahead

Originally I had planned to start this year with a blogpost on my Seven Goals for 2017; but Times Fly and – and now I think the first goal should be called, “Stop procrastinating and just do it!”

But here I am, still ruminating, and thus the second goal should be, “Kiss perfectionism good bye!”

They go together with their cousins:

“Live, love, laugh & learn more!”

“Be kind, be generous, be free, be me”

“Simplify, travel light and tread lightly!”

And finally

“Be creative!” and “Keep walking…”

But these goals, incidentally also seven, are not what this is about, as they have been the same for a number of years now, and probably rather fall in the category of life choices or a kind of a manifesto; more personal than professional.

The goals I planned to write about before procrastination and perfectionism got the better of me are of a different kind; more tangible, and in one way or another all connected to “Travel, Books and Bicycles”. Now I think I should refer to them as the seven “Adventures” or “Journeys” or perhaps even “Experiments” for 2017.

Adventures, because they are challenging and fun – and because I love what I’m doing, although at times, it is not easy. But then, nobody ever said it was going to be easy…

 “Nobody who says, ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.”  Ursula K. Le Guin

Journeys, because I love traveling – and am hoping to cross boundaries; personal, cultural, physical, geographical.

“Not everybody who wanders is lost!” (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Experiments, because:

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”  (Ralph Waldo Emmerson)

 

And here they are… My Big Seven Adventures/Journeys/Experiments for 2017:

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #1:

Release Healing Rhinos and Other Souls as Podcast and Audio book. (Just let it go! It’s been ready for a while, but my old friends, Mr Perfectionism and Ms Procrastination interfered… see above!)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #2:

Release »Deleted Scenes« of Healing Rhinos and Other Souls. (This should be a lot of fun! And perhaps I’ll include »The Making of…«)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #3:

Publish the German Version of Healing Rhinos and Other Souls. (This is close to my heart. Nearly done, but still searching for the perfect title!)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #4:

Finish writing, compile and publish the first in a series of Travel Books

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #5:

Create a »Magic Co-Production« with a great friend. (It’s still early days, “We are going to do something together… “ Watch this space!)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #6:

Create an app relating to »Travel, books and…« (Although I’m not quite sure yet where the bicycles will fit in here…)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #7:

Write the first draft of THE novel which has been fermenting in my mind for many years

audio-chair

This adventurous list is by no means final; there might well be changes, because after all, change is the only constant!

And now that I’m thinking about it, I could add a list of the ‘Other Seven’

Here goes:

#1 – Write every day

#2 -Publish seven books (see above)

#3 -Create a journal

#4 -Delve deeper into translations

#5 -Learn something new – and write about it (NOT every day)

#6 -Create seven reading projects

#7 -Be open to new adventures, journeys, challenges and experiments!!!

And how about the seven books I’d love to read, seven destinations I’d like to travel to, seven passes to cross, seven marathons to run, seven habits to master, seven languages to speak, seven…

Anyway, I’ll be back for more soon, with updates on how the adventures are unfolding.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish you all the best, with lots of love and laughter,

What are your Big Seven for 2017?

 

Greetings from Gabon

An elephant wakes up from having been fitted with a tracking collar that will help protect him and his kind from poachers, and shows that he’s more awake than…

Enjoy – and watch to the end!

It reminded me of Walter Eschenburg – a lot! That’s just the sort of thing that could have happened to him, and tht he would have loved! I can picture him laughing about it afterwards and pondering about “a sense of humour”…

 

Travels with Kapuscinski (1) – Why? or “The Delight in Life”

He is a wonderful travel companion; tireless, humble, inspiring, full of understanding and wisdom. One couldn’t wish for better, more enlightening company. The great Ryszard Kapuscinski. When I first read his books, I had the strange sensation that there was finally somebody who understood…

IMG_0321

In “Travels with Herodotus”, Kapuscinski muses about the need to travel…

“… We do not know what draws a human being out into the world. Is it curiosity? A hunger for experience? An addiction to wonderment? The man who ceases to be astonished is hollow, possessed of an extinguished heart. If he believes that everything has already happened, that he has seen it all, then something most precious has died within him – the delight in life. Herodotus is the antitheses of this spirit. A vivacious, fascinated, unflagging nomad, full of plans, ideas, theories. Always traveling. Even at home (but where is home?), he has either just returned from an expedition, or is preparing for the next one.Travel is his vital exertion, his self-justification is the delving into, the struggle to learn – about life, the world, perhaps ultimately oneself.”

As a young man he felt the need “to cross the border”…

“…this was only about crossing the border – somewhere. It made no difference which one, because what was important was not the destination, the goal, the end, but the almost mystical and transcendent act. Crossing the border.”

Just the thought of ‘crossing the border’ causes a feeling of elation, of happiness, it scratches the itchy feet. The bubble is rising to the surface, the need to go, to move, to explore. To be able, like Herodotus and Kapuscinski, to ‘delve into, to learn – about life, the world, perhaps ultimately oneself’.

“Is it because you think the grass is greener on the other side?” some may ask.

No, not really. It doesn’t really matter. It is more about the need to find out if there is grass on the other side, what colour it has, what it looks, feels or smells like. To experience it – life, the delight in life.

IMG-20140727-01043

Perhaps, ultimately, it is about the desire to find out, as a dear friend suggested the other day, what it is that holds the world together on the inside…

A Promise…

IMG_20150512_142608

Bicycles in the sun and in the rain. Leaning against a wall, a fence, propped up on a stand or on the beach. Laden with fire wood, carrying a child’s seat or touring panniers. Blue, green, purple, black or red. New or old, cheap or fancy, city cruiser, mountain bike or tandem… the possibilities and variations are endless. All with their own character, everyone a piece of beauty.

But it’s just a bike, isn’t it? Like there are many millions more, six million bicycles in Beijing alone? Probably more.

Each and every one has a story to tell; carries a load of questions and answers.

Each and every one carries a promise.

The promise of a journey, an adventure, of going somewhere…

Home?

Away?

Does it matter?

A Serious Sense of Humour

Willem’s expression suddenly changed. ‘Walter, Walter, die ding word wakker! – She is waking up!’ There was more than a little panic in his voice. The truck just carried on slowly, the driver completely oblivious to what was happening behind him. From Walter’s vantage point, things looked quite safe, so he leaned out of his bakkie’s window and shouted back,

‘Hold on Willem, it’s not far now, hold tight!’ hoping this would do. …

To his delight and Willem’s dismay, he then watched how the elephant began exploring. She didn’t move anything but her trunk, but with that she began feeling Willem from top to toe. And then – Walter couldn’t believe his eyes and at that moment he really felt for his friend – she ventured with her trunk up Willem’s leg and inside his short blue shorts.

Walterrrrr, sy word wakkerrrrrrr! – she is waking up!’

20130811_134918

More about inquisitive elephants and other creatures with a serious sense of humour on page 199 ff of Healing Rhinos and Other Souls 🙂

 

Giraffes …

P1160773

‘Mr Eschenburg? It looks like both tendons are torn,’ the specialist remarked. ‘You should have come earlier… How did you manage to do this anyway?’
‘I was running through the veld after a giraffe and I stepped into a hole.’
The doctor laughed politely. ‘No, I actually need to know what really happened.’
‘Ja, well, giraffes are dangerous animals,’ Walter grinned. ‘How long, Doc, before I can use this blerry foot again?’
‘At least three months.’ The doctor shook his head. He’d had stubborn patients before.

Three months! But there was no other option. However, it would take more than a foot in plaster to stop Walter from tending to his business – and more giraffes…