This snapshot was taken on the boat ride back from Appledore Island on July 23, 2011.
We had just spent the day exploring Celia Thaxter’s Garden, a tiny but dense plot of wildflowers meticulously maintained that mom had been hoping to visit for many years.
I hadn’t posted this particular photo when I shared more from trip, but it is among my favorite because mom’s intent is so clear, basking in the moment and savoring the day.
I thought about this image in the middle of a month-long expedition to South Africa I’ve just returned from.
The first part of the trip was spent exploring Kruger National Park.
Before an early morning bushwalk, our ranger and guide mentioned we might not see particular big game as animals tend to flee from folks walking on foot. He spoke deliberately, giving each sentence a moment to linger.
“Use all of your senses.” he said. “Be open to the small things.”
I had seen so much already. There were moments of elation catching wildlife along the way, learning about animal behaviors and the environment on the trail. There was even a solid shot of adrenaline as a young male elephant became very curious of our small group. (I have a torn handkerchief to prove it, as we ran for cover wrestling with a stickerbush along the way.)
There were challenges too—long, hot, exhausting days and cold nights, and unexpected rain that pelted our skin like needles.
And then there was the last night in the park. We were driving back from our evening bushwalk in an open air safari truck as the sun was going down.
I closed my eyes and thought of mom.
Warm strobes of light with blurred edges flashed between branches of trees—a hypnotic disco without music. The truck creaked and bounced while the temperature dipped noticeably as we rode down small valleys, replaced by a warm wall of air on each ascent.
I didn’t need to see that sunset, I could feel it and the moments in between.
And I was so very lucky.
(There are many, many photos from this trip, I’m still sorting… It’s actually September 26, 2019 as I write this, but I wanted to post a stopgap.)