The Quiet Moments

You can listen to the narrative below, or read through the text.



The sun played hide-and-seek between drifting clouds. A breeze from the south-east slipped in under the shadows and laid a chill on the skin. John caught me indulging in as much warmth as I could catch, and a bit of Stephen Hawking, while my companions worked on the reedbuck I had shot for the pot. I had taken on John as go-between and translator, but he quickly migrated to tea-maker, cook, general go-for during rests, and snap taker.

I always take at least one book on my wanderings, to give colour to those inactive hours in a bush-day – the midday rest, the last bit of daylight when the camp is set, in my hammock with my portable little Coleman lamp, to ease me into doze-off…

I usually avoid fiction on expeditions. If it is really worth the read it tends to keep me carrying on too deep into the night, and that makes for fuzzy senses the next day. So, it has to be history, or verse, or popular science, or something philosophical. I love commentary that brings together important events and ideas and movements and discoveries across science disciplines – very few intellects can credibly achieve this though.

So, the bush experience has, for me, many colours. There is the hard slog of working over difficult terrain with the vehicle, or the grind of walking in the heat for hours, but then there is the excitement of spotting something interesting, and the grateful tea breaks, and the midday pause, when the bush, and all in it, seems to go into slow contemplation. There are the sunsets, when the skies breathe out the day in red-hot splendour and the earth inhales the grey coolness of evening; the nights, that whisper their many unseen sounds, sometimes only to be wondered at.

Over this rich palette there are the fine brush strokes of swopping stories, or turning and turning my thoughts in my journal, or the slow replay of an experience of the day, or just going quiet and opening to the sounds and smells and feel of the bush.

Maybe this, from Paths of the Tracker:

Here nature touches you all the time. It sticks to your skin and presses against your eyeballs and your feet, and it is at your fingertips every time you touch something. It is mysterious. It is alluring. He did not understand much of it, but he sensed it to be ominously uncompromising. In a way he felt an affinity to it. It was pure. The truth. The whole truth. Nothing but the truth.

He gazed at the Africans lying asleep, spread around like discarded blankets on the faded yellow of the dry leaf bed. This is how you must be in it. You must let it wrap around you, bend you to its form. You must yield to it, seek out spots where you fit, where you do not bump against its will; like the Africans there, taking the shape of the ground with their bodies, on the bed of dead leaves, embracing the dusty smell and the coarseness, completely surrendering, relaxing, going to sleep.

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