Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Travels with Mom

I took a trip to Africa this past month.
At the last minute, my mother decided to come along.
It was a great trip,
everything that I dreamed it would be and more.

Africa is not a place that Mom ever thought of visiting when she was alive.
Her world was so much smaller than it might have been.
But she is now free to go wherever she pleases,
and she sees things with clear eyes that are open
to limitless possibilities and great surprises.

She always was a cat lover
so I expected her to be most enthusiastic about the lions.
There is something deeply appealing about those huge carnivores
acting so much like the household pet
as they bathe or play or simply lie in the sun
gazing out at nothing in particular.
I could watch them for hours,
and did just that from the safety of the Land Rover.

But Mom surprised me.
It was the expansive vistas that she responded to the most,
especially the sunsets over the Kalahari.
Those seemingly limitless vistas awash in brilliant color,
a blaze of finality bearing
the promise of a new beginning.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Morning Tea . . .

with the lionesses that we found after watching their lion. We enjoyed tea and conversation as we watched these two relaxing beneath the thorn tree.

Morning Stroll

Just to clarify, it was the lion who was strolling, not us. We were safe in the Land rover as we watched this lion saunter across the landscape one morning. We were close enough to see the muscles ripple on that incredibly powerful shoulder. Awesome!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Morning with the Bushmen

There were thousands of springbok--lively and charming, hundreds of oryx--very snappy-looking, and lots and lots of ostrich.


We left for Africa on March 2, arriving March 4 and heading directly out to the Kalahari, where we spent five nights. It is often referred to as a desert, but is actually a semi-arid savannah, with wonderful wildlife. It was a great way to start the trip, and sink into being in the African landscape, along with herds of antelopes of various kinds, and other critters. We saw the three cheetah brothers gliding across the bush nearly every time we went out.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Photo contest

Before getting started with my Africa journals, here is a related item. This photo of my African grey parrot, Wyckham, won second place in the photo contest. The competition was stiff, and we feel quite honored.

Wyckham is shown here pondering the Congo, a part of Africa a bit farther north of Botswana. More on that later.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kalahari Black Maned Lion

I was able to spend time watching this beautiful lion on my birthday. He and his brother were relaxing under a tree after consuming some really large antelope, probably an oryx. The size of his belly tells it all.

Monday, March 22, 2010


A week before I left for Africa, my mother, Margaret Hlebakos died at the age of 86. She was one tough cookie who maintained her sense of humor to the end. She died on her own terms and in her own time, and there is much to be thankful for. Here's to you, Mom.

Lent 2010

Lent has taken on new meaning for me this year.
Oh, it’s still about waiting,
but this time instead of Jesus’ death and resurrection,
I waited for Mom’s.

Her kidneys shut down,
and she was expected to die about a month ago.
As soon as I got the word,
I went down and spent several days with her.
It was a good time of closure and good-bye,
in what we thought were her last hours.
But several weeks later,
until this past Wednesday,
she was hanging on.
not even in a coma yet.
She slept most of the time,
only waking every now and then to sip a little orange juice.
Everyone was amazed at her tenacity.

About thirty years ago on Easter Day,
when she was very drunk,
she shot herself in the chest with a revolver.
The bullet went right through her,
just missing her heart and lungs.
She survived with no ill affects
and people were amazed then as well,
and rightfully so.

But perhaps the most amazing thing to me,
is that she was given this second chance.
She now rests in the hands of God,
comfortable and at peace.
Quietly, she waited for Him to call her home
secure in his love and perfect timing.