I’m not sure what circumstances brought you to this page, but I’m overjoyed that you are here. In the spirit of Earth Day, I am delighted to set out on this new and exciting journey with all of you at the inception of Beyond the Riverbend. Please allow me to introduce myself: my name is Madison, and… how do I fully convey who I am in one short post? It is impossible to culminate 24 years of experiences and adventures into a single grouping of words.
Perhaps it is best for me to try to paint a picture – a picture of Africa with the stars hanging overhead and the moon washing the whole landscape with a beautiful silver glow. There, as I lay in my tent, I am unable to find sleep. I’m not sure of the time (midnight has already come and gone) but I do know I am the only one awake in the camp. Not because I am restless or because I cannot sleep – no. In the stillness of the night, I am unavoidably consumed by a slew of emotions. They all blend together until they are a river of feelings, but if I could distinguish a few from the rest, there would be three: euphoria, the sensation of existing within these moments in the middle of the African savannah, a true untamed wilderness; gratitude, the overwhelming kind that brings tears to the brink of falling, for I am finally here where I have wanted to be for so very long; and fear, an exhilarating and heart-racing tinge at the realization of my place within the food chain, here in the darkness where the predators rule the kingdom. The current of these emotions carries me away to thoughts of leaving the tent, stepping out into the night, counting the constellations, smelling the wind that rustles through the acacias… when suddenly, it begins. A singular, incomparable moan. That deep, low, guttural sound that sends shivers up my spine and down my arms. Nothing is stirring. Not my campmates who were in the midst of dreams, nor even the smallest creature among the tall grass. There it is again – a rumbling bellow, increasing in volume as it lingers in the air, then dropping off into stillness. Then another. And another. They are communicating. Deep vibrations that seem to reverberate across the entire plain, all around us. Ferocious and magnificent and enthrallingly beautiful.
It was the lions of the night, the kings and queens of the African savannah as they roared and asserted their rightful dominion. This, I realized, is what brought me here. This humbling understanding, the fear and the thrill of it all, the beauty of the dialogue I was listening to as I lay unmoving under my blanket. I had come alive as this deep inner connection to the natural world around me was illuminated. I wasn’t asleep, but I had been awakened.
So, my friends, will you ask yourselves – what brought you here?
“You have to understand – there is a romance to Africa. You can see a sunset and believe you have witnessed the Hand of God. You watch the slow lope of a lioness and forget to breathe. You marvel at the tripod of a giraffe bent to water. In Africa, there are iridescent blues on the wings of birds that you do not see anywhere else in nature. In Africa, in the midday heat, you can see blisters in the atmosphere. When you are in Africa, you feel primordial, rocked in the cradle of the world.” ~ Jodi Picoult