Cohabiting on the plains of the Serengeti, zebra and wildebeest graze side by side. By enlarging the herd, there are more lookouts for toothsome predators. They may have different stripes, but when united for self preservation and faced with death, the differences fade away.
Just another lesson from the animal kingdom, one that we must embrace if we are to save our home from the perils of climate change. Happy Earth Day!
After hours of putting one foot in front of the other, stomping up stairs, I was nearing my goal. I was in southern Sri Lanka and a holy pilgrimage had pulled me out of bed in the middle of the night. I was surrounded by the faithful, making their climb to the top of Adam’s Peak in duty to their deities. But the only absolution I sought, was with the rising sun. Soon, the darkness began to break and shapes came into focus across the hazy horizon. The eternal battle between night and day waned, as fiery light shattered the blackened battlefield.
The dense and heavy fog that filled Ngorongoro was just starting to abate as we reached the crater floor. Having spent the night sleeping on the rim of the dormant volcano, we woke invigorated by the splendour of our natural surroundings. We begged our guides to make sure we were the first truck inside the crater, and we got what we asked for.
Just as I was clawing the remnants of sleep from the corners of my eyes, we spotted a pride of lions sprawled in tall grass. As we approached, they barely flinched. The stains of blood smeared across their faces left them nearly comatose, burdened with the meat of a fresh kill. Behind them, we spotted a destroyed zebra carcass, picked clean. Hard to argue with the efficiency of nature.
The sun was already shining when I threw my things in the car to head to work. For 7 years, I’ve toiled as a kayaking guide out of Prince Edward Island’s Brudenell Provincial Park. It has continuously been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Not only do I get to spend the day in the sun, on the water, wrapped in pristine nature, but I get to bring along my camera.
On this particular day, I drove across the small bridge connecting my family home to our town and immediately threw it in reverse. I backed on to the bridge, grabbed my camera and hopped out to stare out at the seamlessly still water reflecting the world above, while dark shadows revealed slivers of the secrets beneath the surface.
My legs were aching as I lunged down to take two steps at a time. I’d been climbing stairs since 2 am with only a few samosas to keep me going. Thankfully, the descent was easier than the climb, because leaving Adam’s Peak behind wasn’t.
My memory is of a rising sun splashing colours across the sky like a drunk Jackson Pollock while the sounds of Buddhists banging on drums and clanging bells rang in my ears, I stopped to look around me. Beside me, in front of me, and behind me were hundreds of people all with sunlight and smiles beaming off their faces.
We live our lives through moments that fleet instantly into memories. When we stop to soak in our surroundings, take time to absorb it all, the moment we’re in becomes a memory, marked in time and in thought.
Together, we shared that moment that is now my memory. They were on the final steps of their spiritual pilgrimage, while I was just beginning my Sri Lankan adventure.
Unfortunately, my pockets were empty. In retrospect I should have known better. I should have packed some cookies from breakfast just in case. While travelling in a new country, it’s always good to have little odds and ends to give to the swarms of kids that come up to say hello. Or in some cases, a swarm of toque macaques.
I couldn’t resist those big brown eyes so I passed this fine fellow a stick, thinking he might enjoy playing with it. He quickly went about fashioning a pair of chopsticks and then looked back at me as if to say “So where’s the sushi?”
I had dreamed of going on safari all my life. I wanted to be surrounded by animals, indifferent to my existence. I wanted to be wrapped up in the wild, cut off from the world and its rules.
We, humans, employ our logic and rationality on an irrational world. We seek truths and answers to push us from one day to the next. But our answers are only that, ours. Our lives are guided by our collective subjective interpretations of the world around us, forming what we perceive as objective truths. But our truths are fragments, silhouettes of a fuller picture. The only objective truth we have is the one we are born into. We are alive.
Not far from the small Western Australian town of Cervantes is one of the world’s most unusual deserts. Jutting out of the ever shifting sand dunes are limestone pinnacles, formed from the remains of ancient seashells, swept inland over time.
I had arrived in the Nambung National Park, home of the Pinnacles, as the sun was highest in the sky. I’d heard that the time to explore the eerie desert landscape was with a rising or setting sun, so I wandered down to the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean to swim and escape the heat.
As the sun began to sink down to the horizon, I trekked back into the heart of the Pinnacles. Photographers, tourists, and limestone rock enthusiasts congregated to watch the golden light of the setting sun cascade over the alien landscape.
After holding a rather sleepy koala at Brisbane’s Koala Sanctuary, I made my way to the kangaroo pen. In a large fenced off area, kangaroos and emus roamed about munching on pellets.
I filled my pockets with hundreds of the little pellets and set forth to make friends with my new marsupial friends. It didn’t take long to lure a few bouncy kangaroos to my side. As they slobbered a meal out of my food filled hand, I used my free one to pat heads and scratch backs.
Another item checked off of my Australian bucket list.
Waterfalls and pools of ice blue water line the well worn path of the Milford Track. By celebrating the natural beauty of New Zealand, the Kiwis have established a lucrative renewable business based on the appreciation of nature, not its depletion.
Each part of the world has unique and stunning natural beauty. If we all had the same appreciation for our own back yard, our small speck of a planet would be in better shape. Your share of planet Earth is essential to the wellbeing of our home as a whole.
As celebrated photographer, Ansell Adams, famously said “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”