I found myself raptured upon ascending sounds and in the presence of pleading souls. I was surrounded by dancing feet, clapping hands and raised voices. Many stories were being told through rhythmic dance and harmonious song. I took this trip alone. I usually have company on my voyages to my mothers’ and fathers’ land, but this time I traveled solo. I took to clear, inviting skies one Friday after work. I swapped my New York and Company blazer for a violet cape I had stuffed in my work bag. I’d learned to always be prepared for whenever the desire to explore would overtake me. Some of my coworkers were going to a comedy show in the city while I decided to travel across the world. It had been a long week, and I needed a break, to Africa. I’d decided to visit Botswana, a country known for its beautiful people and scenery. I was surrounded by the most beautiful people in this melodious setting; a people known as the San people. The San people are known as the most ancient race in the world. After enjoying the sights and sounds of the San for a time, I decided to explore the Kalahari desert. I’d planned for this trip to be brief and exhilarating. Little did I know what adventure awaited me.
I took off toward the Kalahari desert. I soared above miles of sand dunes and woodlands. I decided to get a bit closer to the terrain below so that I could truly see all the sights. It was very early morning in Botswana and the sun was just peeping its charming head through the clouds. Beginning to feel the sun’s warmth on my bronze skin, I decided to stop soaring above the terrain and take my time walking on it instead. Taking my time, enjoying the sensation of the sandy savanna below my feet, I possessed my surroundings with my eyes. In the distance two baboons were fighting over a wild cucumber. Not far from them a yellow billed hornbill sat upon an enormous, decorative rock. As I walked toward the hornbill perched upon the rock, I noticed that the rock was exquisitely painted. “I learned from them, you know.” I stopped and looked around to trace where the voice was coming from. “The San are amazing people. I’ve learned so much from them over the years.” I looked around some more. By this time the sun had fully risen so I could see around me for miles and the only other living creature besides myself was that hornbill on the decorative rock. I decided to get closer to the hornbill so that I could see him speak as clearly as I could hear him.
“It’s fine. I know you weren't expecting to encounter a talking hornbill. I’m used to the glares, stares and shock. The San, my friends, they know me as Henry.” Now realizing the humorous situation, all I could do was smile and greet Henry the hornbill. “Very nice to meet you Henry.” I took a seat next to my new friend. “So, tell me Henry, what is there to do around here?” Henry turned to look me in eye and replied, “Oh Honey. Didn’t you hear? We are in a drought! The people sing and dance regardless. They are praying for rain. Those baboons over there are fighting for that sad cucumber. We’ve been waiting for rain for a while now.” I started to feel a sense of guilt. I felt like a silly foreigner, haphazardly wandering to another land, privilege stifling my sensitivity. “I am so sorry. I left work and just wanted to get away. I should have known before I came.” Bowing my head, I stood ready to head back home.
“Don’t be a silly foreigner!” Henry lifted his bill toward me. “How can you know everything? You may be able to fly like me, but we can’t always fly above trouble. Sometimes it’s meant for us to go through it, survive it, and help others along the way.” I looked at Henry in amazement. This is one profound bird! “So, what can I do to help?” Henry fluttered his wings and said, “Well, first, I must give you some background information. Then, we’ll take a walk.” I sat down on the rock again and Henry got comfortable as well. He took a deep breath and then he said, “It hasn’t rained for a few months. The San people believe that a dark cloud is upon them. We aren’t sure why. Centuries ago, around 1652, European settlers came into the land and exterminated hundreds of San people. Men, women and children were wiped out because the Europeans thought they looked hideous, like animals, and they treated them as such calling them Bushmen. They killed many and they sold others to slave markets and others to circuses. These horrific tales have been told to generations since, and when rain doesn’t come for a time, the people begin to get scared. They think maybe the land has had enough bloodshed. Maybe the land is ready to just swallow them whole.” Hearing these terrible things, I truly felt a need to help the people in any way I could. Henry continued, “The San are very skilled archers and hunters. They are knowledgeable in making tools, clothes, weapons and equipment. They can take plants and roots and use them to heal anyone of just about anything. Genius people they are. Yet, my San friends nearby are afraid of one small thing that could probably save us all in this time of drought.”
I was now very curious about the fearsome thing that could be the key to salvation. “What is that?” I asked. Henry answered, “My friends are afraid of the Glowing Bush.” Confused I asked, “Glowing Bush? Why does it glow? Where is it?” Henry pointed his bill east and simply said “That way.” I looked toward where his bill was pointed. He continued, “The Glowing Bush can provide water endlessly or it can refuse to, causing the Bushmen to endure an even longer drought. They rather avoid it all together and simply wait for rain. They are afraid of angering it and possibly having an endless drought. The glowing bush has been around for centuries and is said to have provided sustenance to many, many souls.” Now truly motivated to help the people, I insisted, “Henry let’s go have a talk with this Glowing Bush.” He looked at me with an eyebrow slanted up. "Are you sure my fearless friend?” I laughed my nervousness away and said, “Of course I am, let’s go.”
We both took to the sky. Henry flying high and gliding easily, took the lead. My cape flowing on the winds of the Kalahari desert, I didn’t miss the opportunity to possess even more of the country’s beauty, my eyes wide and in awe of all the sights and sounds below me. Henry began slowing down and soon we descended upon more woodlands. Brown shrubs, grass and trees were in abundance. The lake was vast but dry. The area looked like a ghost land, as if no life had been there for a very long time.
“Just beyond those dry shrubs over there, behind the hill, is the Glowing Bush. I’m ready when you are.” Henry began to look a bit antsy so I reassured him that I would give it my best effort. “Let’s go my friend. We only have life to gain!” Henry and I walked carefully over the hill. When we got to the top and looked down, I could see the Glowing Bush. It truly glowed but a darkness was upon it, like a bright hope within a dying body. Henry stood still, his bill closed tight, eyes wide, legs stiff. I slowly walked toward the Glowing Bush. I decided to talk to it like a beloved family member I hadn’t seen in some time. “You are more beautiful than I’d imagined. There are so many beautiful people in need of your strength and fertility during this time. Sadly, so many are afraid of you. Can you imagine? Afraid of something so beautiful. They are afraid of angering you. I know you have been here for some time. I know you have seen a lot. You’ve lived through greed and prosperity, good and evil, plenty and now lack. I know you’re tired but you can’t stop glowing. You can't get weary in well-doing. It’s who you are! As you glow can you please help the people?” I said a prayer to God as well. I prayed that God would nudge his creation in the right direction. If God’s power met this powerful creation, the people would never be thirsty again. The lake would be resuscitated. They'd have hope.
I stood back and waited then waited some more for the Glowing Bush to respond. I wasn’t sure how it would respond, but I held on to my faith. I could hear Henry release a deep sigh. On the verge of tears, with nothing else to pour from my heart, I turned to meet Henry on the hill, defeated. My back to the Glowing Bush, I felt a cool breeze gently caress my neck. I turned slightly, the Glowing Bush now at my side. Its leaves began to rustle as it expanded. The Glowing Bush started to grow and glow even more intensely. It said Yes. I looked around and the dying things began to breathe, sing and dance again. The bush glowed and it was enough. Sometimes all that is needed is a fearless spirit and an undying will to make the best out of any situation, especially those that catch you by surprise. Henry let out a joyous shout and then he began to make an odd noise, as if it was a secret summons. “Click, click, click… click, click, click.” Henry was hopping around on the hill, clicking away. Moments after, I heard the sound of countless running feet. They came from every direction, responding to Henry’s call, running and clicking in unison. Flying through the air to the Glowing Bush seemed to take us forever whereas these people seemed to glide swiftly over land in less than no time. Agile and magical, they came with hearts full of hope. I met Henry on top of the hill so I could have a better view of the people running toward us. The crowd of bronze, mocha, ebony, mahogany, licorice, butterscotch, caramel and every other shade of sun-kissed skin soared toward us. Their smiles shone and their slanted eyes glistened with joy. As they ran, their long, lean limbs extended, each stride in hope for more life. How beautiful are the San people!
Henry and I watched on elated as they filled their water containers with more life, and a new water. We lingered for a bit and then he accompanied me for some time on my way back home. That trip sure beat a Friday night out on the town, yes even a comedy show. I wouldn’t trade my desire for adventure, my sudden urges to travel, nor the ability my creator gave me to help others worldwide for anything. Another facet of my purpose fulfilled, I got ready to call it a night. Tomorrow morning I’d go for a jog in Prospect Park, no cape just my Nikes. As for tomorrow evening, maybe dinner in Chelsea or a voyage to Madagascar.