There is a quote that reads, Time spent in nature is never wasted. Sigmund Freud believed that it was time with cats that was never a waste. So, I guessed, while planning a trip with the boys, you surely cannot go wrong with both cats, well, meerkats, and the wilderness.
We piled bags, cricket bats, Boon Boon the Velveteen Rabbit and road trip snacks into the car and headed from our home at Royal Chundu, across the border of Zambia, into Botswana… Destination: Kalahari, to meet not only the meerkats, but the other desert-adapted animals and tribes of this part of Africa.
There is nothing like a road trip to lull my sons into slumber – except perhaps a plane ride. Young travellers that they are. But soon the Volvo was replaced by an open-sided game vehicle and the boys were wide awake and pointing out the wild things in the distance – “Elephant! Elephant! I saw it first!” And, “Mom, mom! Wildebeest. Wildebeest.”
For the next few days we called Camp Kalahari home. Deep in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, solar energy fuelling our A-frame tents, we were without Wi-Fi. Without mobile connection. Without the outside world. To the boys, a cricket bat or a Monopoly board is all they need. I had some adapting to do.
A funny thing happened though. And I blame the meerkats. I blame the boys. I blame the desert. And I thank them, each and every one. Time disappeared. All we knew of time was that once the sun had risen, it would sink again, and that once the moon was lost to daylight, the day would heat up and then cool and the moon would return.
I watched this phenomenon unfold first with the meerkats, as my spirited young boys sat almost not breathing on the open plains of the Kalahari, waiting for a meerkat to grace them with a paw.
Carlos is an animal whisperer. A meerkat was on him in a second. And then another. And another. Renzi, the littlest, sat still and silent for the longest I’ve ever witnessed him do so. Until pins and needles set in. And until, finally, a meerkat came close and his little itchy-to-move fingers got the better of him and twitched nervously. The meerkat ran away. But still Renzi sat. Still and silent. Patient. Perhaps, I hoped, he was experiencing those words for himself, the idea that time spent with cats, or animals of all sorts, in nature, is never wasted… Perhaps he was happy, just as he was.
While the boys walked with the meerkats, until the light of day faded, I followed, photographing the moment, to hold on to it forever. A reminder of patience, of living in the now, and of how nature never fails to be the best friend and teacher that my boys need (after me, I hope).