Walking Through the Middle of Majesty

I have gotten off the train on a very different landscape. Right now, I am a teacher without a classroom, and while I am on a continent where many come to save the world, I do not want to be anyone’s savior. In fact, when people have asked me what I was coming here to do, I have found myself floundering for an explanation. Honestly, I don’t want to “do” much except keep my eyes open and soak in the world I have been hearing about for years. On my last day of school in January a student asked me why I was taking this trip. I told him I simply wanted to learn more about Africa. He replied, “Well, that’s good because Africa is no vacation.” And yet, that’s exactly how this trip has started out. I am staying with my very accomplished niece Bethany who works as the Director of Research Operations at CIDRZ, Center for Infectious Disease Research Zambia, her expat husband Jason and their young children Calla and Everett. My sister was coming here to visit them, and I decided to start my adventure by tagging along. Together we are being shown the wonders of Zambia by family who live here.

Bethany and Jason stuffed me in the jump-seat of their 1996 Toyota Landcruiser, and we set out for Livingston, Zambia. It was an eight-hour trip over bumpy terrain, police checkpoints, and amazingly well-behaved children, and every minute of it was worth it. On the way down, my eyes were glued to the scenes flashing before me. The road to Victoria Falls is filled with paths I want to walk down and explore.IMG_2303
Yet, I am very conscious that I am a white woman who does not know this culture. While I have been listening to stories of this continent for years, I know nothing about real life here. Now that I’m here, all I want to do is listen, observe, and ask questions.

I had no idea I would be coming face to face with majesty on my first weekend here. Arriving at the entrance to Mosi-Oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders) National Park is without fanfare. There are not many signs. You just walk down a path, and there, right there between the trees you get your first glimpse.
A canopy of majesty envelopes me. My throat closes up, and tears come to my eyes. I feel as if I am walking through the middle of God. I remember this feeling of overwhelming beauty at least twice before. The first time was standing in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston with my beloved playgroup friends, and then years later in France at Sainte Chapelle when the combination of the beauty from the stained glass windows and the haunting of a string quartet stopped me cold. Both times I felt the power of something much, much larger than myself. It surrounds me on all sides and I am suddenly caught. I cannot move. My senses are overloaded by beauty. On the day I was at Victoria Falls, the sounds penetrated as deeply as the vision before me. There was a mad, mad rush of water frantically, frantically getting to the edge and then plummeting in a dissonance of watery static. Bethany and Jason tell me that when you come during other seasons at some spots the water is reduced to a trickle, and that you can walk in places where the day I visited you would have been swallowed alive. It is hard to imagine anything beyond this power. I walk on and see more of the wonders of the falls; I do not want to leave this beauty.

Rainbow Over Falls

Rainbow Over Falls

But then there are the animals…..

One of only nine rhinos left in all of Zambia

One of only nine rhinos left in all of Zambia

Female giraffes have hair on their antlers.

Female giraffes have hair on their antlers.

Elephants at the elephant orphanage

Elephants at the elephant orphanage

There is more to see. It is time to move on and find one of those paths to walk down.


27 thoughts on “Walking Through the Middle of Majesty

  1. Martha says:

    Sue, it does sound so magestic, and you capture is so beautifully. So glad to hear from you and see some of what you have seen. Love you. Martha

  2. Oh Martha, thanks so much for getting in touch. So much more to tell, but I am grateful for your comment. I miss you too. Hope you’re not watching too much TV…..

  3. jduncan1951@gmail.com says:

    I love your writing! You capture and convey your experiance in a way that makes me feel like I’m there. Can’t wait to read more! Take care

  4. Robert Stein says:

    Beautiful! Going to post it on facebook?

    Boys lost last night in overtime by two point. 😦

    I think Serge had a good game, though.

  5. Beverly Freeman says:

    Oh Sue, you’ve captured the feeling…it does leave me breathless too! I miss you so much already and I will faithfully read this blog to keep it all close to my heart. You’re really on a great adventure and I admire your courage and audacity too!

    • Thank you, Lindsay for all you did to get me here! I am so, so happy and I am enjoying myself! I think of you often…especially today when I had a dress made for myself just as you suggested!!

  6. Michele says:

    Oh, Sue…….I’m relishing the pictures of an Africa I have yet to see but more specifically the insights of a person whose courage I can’t even begin to match. Safe continuing travels. Love, Michele

    • Oh Michele…..I am so glad you contacted me! I miss you, my dear friend. So much. I am loving this and so, so glad I did it but truly so far there has been very little courage involved. I am having the time of my life.

  7. What a cliff hanger. Really looking forward to the next post. It looks wonderful. Are you going to take pictures of people? Although, I love the animal pictures. Wonderful posts. Looks like you have blog talent. Take good care of yourself. I wonder what you’re up to in Africa often.

  8. Thanks for writing to me, Steph. It is so wonderful to hear from you. I am currently writing my next entry and I think it will be full of pictures of people!!! I am thinking of you and your beautiful girls often as well!

  9. Stephane Pejic says:

    Very profound evocation of Africa, Sue! You may have turn an atheist as me into a believer in “walking through the middle of god” at Victoria Falls.

    • Stephane, what you have written really hit me. I have struggled with my relationship with whatever it is out that might be out there, but I have to say, the power of Victoria Falls is overwhelming. Thanks for taking the time to read and write to me. It’s really touched me that you’ve done this. All my best to you and your family!

  10. Stephanie Dolan says:

    On yet another cold March day, your writing has left me dreaming of warmer days! Enjoy Sue….I will keep reading!

    • Swear to God, I was just thinking of you today. My niece and nephew are expat kids and I find myself thinking of what an experience it is for them and must have been for you as well. I can’t wait to talk to you when I get back!

  11. Suzanne says:

    Susan, for our years living with one another, I never knew you were such a wonderful writer! I knew you LOVED it, but I guess I was too young and too self-absorbed to pay much attention! I’m so thankful you get this opportunity. I’m thankful to be able to follow you along via your blog!

    • And I am thankful you aren’t mad at me for the years I have not been in touch. Thank you for reaching out to me and leaving this comment. And by the way, you have never been self-absorbed. Never. Thanks for all your kind words.

  12. Linda Gilman says:

    Sue, You amaze me. I love your words and emotions and how they conjure up for me my own memories and experiences of magical places and moments. Your pictures are so rich in color and subject; what a beautiful rainbow! And, to think of that wondrous falls turning to a trickle. Look forward to hearing more about your travels. Hope you are healthy and happy. Fondly, Linda

    • Ahh, Linda! Thanks for writing to me! I am oh so happy and healthy. You are so kind to write to me and make me feel so good! I hope you are having some adventures of your own right there in Portland!

  13. Florence Bernard says:

    Bonjour Sue!
    What a good writer you are. I am so happy for you to see how much you enjoy this wonderful gift you did to yourself. Let your 5 senses and your heart enjoy every new discovery.You are in my thoughts and I wish you many,many more beautiful discoveries.Love,Florence

    • You know, Florence, you are one of the reasons I am here! Thank you for being an inspiration! I am so happy to hear from you and know you are here with me in spirit!

  14. LisaLibby says:

    And you didn’t think you’d have any followers. 🙂 Look at all the lives you have touched my friend. Can’t wait for the next entry. Hugs to you!

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