Wednesday, April 28, 2010


For some reason, well, I guess for obvious reasons, it took a while to start working with the images that I brought back with me---not only digitally, but in my mind, and heart. The beauty and power of Africa is almost overwhelming and can be intimidating, at least until I got started and lost all of that in the process. So, for the first week or so, thanks in part to severe jet lag, I found it difficult to do much of anything in my studio. When I finally got started, it just seemed right to stay with drawing for a while. So for the past month or so, I have been immersed in the purity of line and monotone rendering of animals. This is one of the Kalahari Black-Maned brothers, after a big meal.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Okay, so I have heard from quite a few of you, and I confess that I dropped the ball and have not been consistent with my posts. Nothing for over seven months. But a lot happened in that time, and I was diverted by other pressing projects. Not an excuse, mind you, just an explanation.

I started this blog over a year ago primarily to post photos, paintings, and poetry inspired by my first trip to Africa in October of 2008, but got so involved with other trips and projects that those images got put on the back burner. Well, I returned to Africa last month, and have been posting lots of new material---a not-in-real time journal of the trip, photos and soon, art inspired by it. I've been working steadily in the studio, doing lots of reflecting and drawing. Please keep checking back for results and in-progress projects.


We stayed at Chitabe Camp for only two nights. Maybe knowing that inspired us to pack in lots and lots, but more likely, we were just fortunate to have great guides (again), good luck with sightings, and really fun people to share the experience with (more on that later). It seemed that there were elephants everywhere, and it is fitting to show this one who became a fixture in our time there. He was usually blocking the road when we set out on our drives--standing in the middle of the road, enjoying a leisurely browse. It wasn't really a problem, since we were there to see the likes of him anyway, so we happily sat and watched while he munched and then sauntered off.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Evening Boat Ride and Memories That Endure

Our last evening boat ride was spectacular. We saw lots and lots of birds and I was especially happy to get to see the black egret, or umbrella bird again. He was my favorite bird from our last trip to Botswana. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of him, but they pull their wings forward rapidly from time to time, to shade the water so they can find prey. They look (not surprisingly) like a black umbrella, and they move so quickly that it makes a "fwap!" sound. There is a batman feel to the whole thing that is delightful. We stayed out a little later than intended so needed to rush back to camp. I swear that our guide Barobi can see in the dark. We were zooming through narrow channels of that water, in the dark, and he was able to maneuver perfectly. I later learned that many Botswanans have this ability, and they think it is normal. We think it is extraordinary.

Dinner that night was outdoors in the boma. It was memorable in many ways---delicious food, beautiful setting, and interesting company. What made it really stay with me however, were the sand fleas, that were feasting on my feet and ankles while I was enjoying the Botswanan barbecued beef. I have never had bites like that in my life and now kind of wish I'd taken a photo--it looked like the measles and itched like crazy for the next few days. Fortunately, the next camp supplied me with cream, and some new friends from Nova Scotia (more about them later), had some potion as well. They really saved me.

If you haven't read the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, you really should. They are delightful books, and he manages to truly capture the personality and character of the Botswanan people. They are amazed at his insight into their country and its people. He captures the genuine kindness and integrity that we experienced with nearly everyone we met there.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Baboon Bridge

The sleeping tents are reached by walking down raised walkways, and as many of you know, guests are not allowed to walk by themselves when it is dark outside. Our guide, Barobi, always escorted us with a flashlight, which came in handy when he pointed out the hyenas that were hanging around just below us.

To get to the camp, we crossed the bridge seen above. The baboons did as well, usually returning early evening, and when our jeep stalled as we left for the evening drive, forcing us to wait for a replacement, they became quite impatient. Finally, they just decided to risk it and came across anyway.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mom's final wishes fulfilled . . .

A local fisherman, John Collins, took me out on his fishing boat to an area just beyond the bluff. Afterwards friends joined me for a short memorial service, celebrated by Fr. Ron, glorious music sung by Betty Burton and the assembled. Followed by a delicious meal featuring what else? . . . Southern fried chicken, potato salad, jello salad, cole slaw, cornbread, pecan pie and run cake. Many thanks to my friends, old and new, who joined me in honoring Mom in this very special and meaningful way.

Mokoro encounter

Xigera is a "water camp" surrounded by miles and miles of channels, rivers and lakes. The first night we went out on a mokoro ride. Our poler was Orbet, who was very knowledgeable and capable, which came in handy when we turned the bend and encountered the elephant shown above. He wasn't happy to be surprised, so trumpeted and charged out into the water at us. We got the message, and Orbet got us out of there in a hurry. An exciting way to begin our stay at this beautiful camp.

Monday, April 12, 2010

On to Xigera Camp

After five days in the Kalahari, we took a small airplane to Xigera Camp,in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Needless to say, the landscape is drastically different and the views from the plane were spectacular. It's especially thrilling to be able to spot herds of elephants from that height. All of the bush pilots have been very competent and pleasant, but Felix here was by far the most exacting and colorful. When he learned that I was once a pilot, he very generously offered to let me take the controls, but in the interest of all, I declined. It's been way too many years.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Birthday in the Bush

I balanced the camera on top of the Land Rover for this shot. We were celebrating my birthday with South African sparkling during sundowners at the end of a long and wonderful day in the bush. There are herds of springbok frolicking in the background, but they don't show up very well.

Lilac Breasted Roller

These little guys are all over the Kalahari and Okavango Delta. They are like little jewels and are even prettier when they fly away as the underside of their wings are brilliantly colored as well. Nice little bursts of color in that vast and sometimes monotone landscape.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


We spent five nights at Kalahari Plains Camp, and were out in the bush the first evening, after traveling for nearly two days. Our guide was Russell, a South African, who was full of information, anecdotes, and insights. As you'll see from these posts, we had great guides in every camp, they were all different and brought their own unique perspectives to the experience. Russell had great stories--not only of Africa, but of his experiences in New York City and elsewhere. This photo shows him at the wheel of the Land Rover--our perspective for most of five days. We had two full day excursions--from 6am to 7pm--driving through the landscape, watching animals-. It was Africa immersion--exhausting but wonderful. The expanse of the Kalahari is unforgettable--the land and skies seem to go on forever. It is amazing that the guides are able to find wildlife in this vast area, but they do. Their skills are incredible.

One interesting note---the sand of the Kalahari is 1000 meters deep in some areas. For this reason, they don't feel earthquakes the same way that we do. All of that sand buffers the jolt.