I have always been fascinated by creatures that other people are typically creeped-out by. I love snakes, spiders, bugs. There are, however, a few exceptions.
Adventures In Africa
A number of years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to a few countries in Africa. At the end of the trip, my then-husband and I took some time to rest and explore in Zimbabwe and Botswana. We stayed in a lodge at the edge of the Hwange National Park.
Things got real, fast, when we were advised to lock up anything important. In fact, every cupboard in the kitchen was equipped with a padlock. Security was no joke. And it was because of the monkeys. Apparently, they stole everything!
In lieu of a door, and instead of a wall, the back of our accommodations was hung with a large, canvas shade. During the day, this was wide open to the park that boasted all sorts of wild and large animals. It was recommended we lower the shade in the evenings. Uhhh, obviously. Right? It did not feel like sufficient protection to me, but we quickly learned that it wasn’t the larger animals we needed to be concerned about.
I’m not sure if it was the day we hiked around Victoria Falls, or the day we got to take a safari cruise on the Zambezi River, but we were gone all day. When we returned to our room that evening in the dusky light after sunset, our canvas shade back door was still wide open. After a quick check for monkeys and boars, lions and the like, the canvas was lowered with relief. But then, spiders.
As we moved around our room, we began to notice, large, eccentric, confident, arachnids of many shapes and colors. There were roundish, flatish, leggy ones. Foldy, fuzzy, fast ones. There were ones from the Russian mafia. Some of them spoke Spanish. And for the teeny, tiniest, briefest moment, my curiosity was piqued. Then, as my courage unraveled inside of me, I found myself in the center of a horror film.
Disappointment With Myself
When you are a visitor in a national wildlife preserve in Africa, and you are in a room of countless species of spiders, you have a unique opportunity to find out what you’re made of. I had always thought I was a tough cookie. When others screamed and ran from snakes and spiders, I moved in for a closer look. In this very raw moment, though, I wasn’t who I thought I was. And it shook me to my core.
Somehow, we made it through the night in our netted-in bed. The next morning, I went into the bathroom and was frightened to death by a frisbee-sized spider in the bathtub. I actually heard it before I saw it. Not a super comfortable experience to have with a spider. But we continued to have our fun and epic adventures anyhow. The monkeys never got the better of us.
It took me a long time, though, to work through my disappointment with myself. I had always assumed I was the type of person who would thrive on an Indiana Jones adventure. In a room full of snakes, pulling the lever in the hole in the wall that saves the day despite the throng of creepy-crawlies seething over my hand. Real life is a lot different than the movies. And though there was unraveling on my Africa spider adventure, since then, I have proven my fortitude to myself time and time again.
Life is funny in the lessons it teaches us. Sometimes we aren’t the people we hoped we were. Sometimes, who we are, is astonishing. Every one of us is on a journey. If you have agreed to the adventure that is your life, you have already proved yourself to be brave. You have already overcome hardship, and shown love, and shined. And for that, I congratulate you! Things aren’t easy down here.
But things are also beautiful. And compelling and awe-inspiring and weird and unexpected. There is adventure to be had for the wide-eyed and open-hearted.
The Wise Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver writes, in her poem, “To Begin With, The Sweet Grass”
Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.
. . . It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life – just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another.
. . . And, if you have not been enchanted by this adventure – your life –
What would do for you?
So, if you have overcome hardship or been disappointed, or you have not been the person you hoped you were, or if you long to be enchanted by this adventure, your life, let’s be friends~