“Youth hasn’t got anything to do with chronological age. It’s times of hope and happiness.” – Wallace Stegner
There are many ways to go about this life. Einstein saw it as only two ways – “One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” It’s clear which path the great physicist took, but I’d like to add another way to living life and that is our relationship with the word “youth”.
Many of us think of it as something we never have again once we grow hair in new places or lose hair in old places. I prefer Karl Lagerfeld’s view: “Youthfulness is about how you live, not when you were born.”
If there is one place that makes our entire tribe feel that burst of youth through our veins it is the Zambezi.
If youth has nothing to do with age, then the same can be said for adulting. For maturity. There are times when I see it even in my youngest’s face and body – when he’s tired and grumpy and hangry. That’s the feeling of youth slipping away. When the clouds of rules, responsibilities and consequences blow into the realm of the free spirit, of that springtime feeling, it’s time to break away. To slip off and chase down youth, roll around in her glow like our Labradors in the deepest, muddiest puddle they can sniff out.
Our version of muddy puddles is something more along the lines of a treehouse sleep-out under the African night sky, or a day of boats, binoculars and birdwatching with our river friends at the lodge. That said, Renzi and Carlos do love a splish and a splosh as much as Spike and Duke.
For us, the feeling of youth is waking up with your body and the sun as guide – not with an alarm and uniform. It is falling asleep when your legs can’t move any further because they’ve been playing all day – not only when the assignment is finished. It is filling the hours in between with every whim of your wildest desires. Tadpole catching, tiger fishing, picnics and cricket, tree swinging, hammock cuddling.
I don’t believe that we lose youth when we grow up. Youth is a matter of spirit. It is the appearance, freshness and vigor of one who is young but it’s open to all ages. It comes more naturally to the carefree and life’s optimists, perhaps, but it’s not something a little paddle down a river, a breakfast with monkeys or marshmallows on a campfire can’t realign. It’s something we have to constantly work to uphold throughout our lives, but the song of youth plays for everyone.
As much as it is an attitude you carry within, there are experiences and places and people that bring it out in you. I find it in the unfamiliar, when in a country completely foreign to me, or in a country I know well, like Zambia, when coming across new discoveries – new animals, birdlife, plant life, butterflies, new customs and foods.
There is always a new lesson to keep the mind young. There are always new adventures to be had and if anything that is the crux of feeling young at any age, at any stage. It’s a lesson I’ve learned here on our river, but it’s one you just need to step out into the wild world to find.