…if I know a Song of Africa, does Africa know a Song of me?
One ordinary day, two decades ago, I opened a glossy and an image shot an arrow of desire straight into my heart. A giraffe stood in the doorway of what appeared to be an old hunting lodge, looking as if it had been invited to afternoon tea.
I was captivated. I’d only seen giraffes (or any other wild animals for that matter) in zoos which always seemed far from their natural homes in both distance and reality.
The pages were filled with stunning images of elegant long-legged twiga (Swahili for giraffe) loping around lush grounds, poking their heads through bedroom windows and one even sticking its imposing neck into the breakfast room, eating from a woman’s plate as she watched with amusement.
Where was this wildly magical place that allowed rescued giraffes to come close enough to share (steal) your breakfast…?
The Place: Nairobi, Kenya
Tearing the pages from the magazine, I stashed them in the top drawer of my grandmother’s old sideboard, knowing somehow, someday, I would go there. And because she had once told me she’d longed to go to Africa long before women traveled such distances, I would take her spirit with me.
Fast-forward to 2017. Having left a 29-year career in inpatient psychiatry and launched Wayfinding Women, LLC, I was now providing empowerment coaching and leading bespoke international retreats for women. And I was ending a 33-year marriage.
In her book, “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World”, my teacher and mentor, Martha Beck, described how you know what you’re meant to do with your one wild and precious life…
“It’s a journey to the thing that so fulfills you that, if someone told you, ‘It’s right outside–but watch out–it could kill you!’ you’d run straight toward it, through the screen door without even opening it.”
While re-organizing the sideboard, I found the old article. I was running right through that screen door… straight to Africa.
The following March, eight women accompanied me to the wilds of Kenya. Our first night was at a secluded home turned guesthouse in a peaceful suburb of Nairobi. Filled with original artwork, it felt like a living gallery.
Meals exquisitely prepared by a private chef and new friendships formed on the tranquil porch overlooking the garden where we relished the breeze and listened to resident monkeys playing in trees.
The road from Nairobi to the Masai Mara in our 4×4 safari vehicle felt jarring yet strangely freeing, much like my previous year. Along the way, we stopped to take in the expanse that was the Rift Valley, osmosing its calm power.
Arriving at Kichwa Tembo, a luxury tented camp, we were greeted by families of wart hogs. I was enthralled watching piglets snuggle against their mama in the afternoon heat. Our large canvas tents were complete with luxury bed and bath… and zippers to keep monkeys out. Our guide firmly instructed should we wish to leave the tent after dark, we had to have an armed escort. From our porch, we could hear the animals as they snorted nearby.
Each day the game drives took us up close to lion prides, elephant herds of mighty matriarchs and tiny calves, old and tired water buffalo, dazzles of zebra (which are pronounced zehbru instead of zeebra), and hippos up to their eyeballs in the Mara River to prevent sunburn.
Here we learned to be still and connect with our energy. I am certain this was how we found that leopard in the tree on our last day.
Sheldrake Wildlife Trust provided another opportunity to connect to the wildlife heart to heart, this time, with orphaned baby elephants. We listened to each heart-rending rescue story, watched their handlers bottle feed them, and then joined them in their stable with a blanky, we then adopted our chosen little pachyderm.
It was time. We packed up our bags and headed to Giraffe Manor for our final night. Standing under the tallest mammal in the world, stroking its solid, garrulous neck, feeling the blue-purple, sandpaper-like tongue, heaven and earth merged.
In that moment I fully understood Karen Blixen…
“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?”
Next time: Magical, mystical Ireland… come away with the fae!
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After life unexpectedly changed, ANNIE DICKINSON moved abroad, living 3 years in Ireland before settling in the English Lake District with husband, David. From here, she operates WayfindingWomen.com, providing empowerment coaching for women and designing, organizing & leading bespoke retreats to magical destinations worldwide.
Her intention for women joining her retreats is to find joy in moments big & small, establish genuine connections with like-hearted women that last long beyond the trip… and offer the space & time for women wishing to find it, the empowerment to transform their world.