Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Place for all the Senses

A door unzips. There is a scratch on the door, a low voice calling us to wake. Smiling black faces, red cloth, white teeth. The day extends in senses. Songs vibrate, linger, and fade. Sand, stone,brick, cement – carefully quartered. Tires rumble, cement rooms stand black against the sun, black like the faces, and just as full. We are quiched for lunch.
                Then there is a zebra. Striped pearl against a green ocean, uncut yards away. We close the gap, like the Masai boy who chased our tires. Corn stalks bleed gold into the breeze, swept against our skin. Sun settles, skin sweats. Seventeen pilgrims cross the Mara, record the zebra in film and mind and heart. Soon, beyond the fence there are many zebras, protected. Among them is a donkey, adopted, accepted, and bred into the tribe. And suddenly we realize we are that donkey, newly dull and plain against the wild, rough stripes of the animal world around us. We return breeded, melded, a new creature affected by the unbridled Beauty we absorb. We are affected – we are the effect. We sit cotton on nylon, boot on boot in a truck that’s not meant to fit but does. These are the safari steps of life: taking the judgments, the prejudices we pack and realizing there is Room.
                Then we shower. Mouths filled with salty water, we let the grime of misconceptions wash off, shed the skin of what we thought yesterday. The kids we visited, the Primary and Secondary Emarti schools, sent us down lines of singing and clapping, excited that we had come to visit. But we who are smart, taught, we are educated again, as our skin swells with goosebumps at songs we do not know, of foreign places that without a pen or a book, teach.
                Feet sieve grass as we skip toward our tents. And as we sleep, nature moves again. A hippo bumbles up the highway to our campground, letting out a moan that leaves us bedridden and sheet-twisted. The hippo that makes us fear, question, remain.
                But in Kenya, the sun arrives early. We wake in the chilly morning air, ready to unzip the doors again, to open that which makes us change. From schools with young, smiling faces to Mara hikes to zesty lunches, we adventurers rumble on toward the zebra in the wilderness, the experiences that compel us to change. And in absorbing by film and mind and heart, we realize that it is Beauty that scratches the tent flap, Beauty that invites on the ride. Beauty we find in smiles and meals and nature and human connections. The tires rumble, the road twists, and we see.