Jambo, Seekervillagers! Myra here, recently returned from an 18-day African adventure! We spent a week with our daughter and her family, missionaries currently based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then connected with a group from our church for a photo safari through Kenya.
As you’d expect, I came home with wonderful memories AND over 1200 photos!! As I’ve been browsing through my photos and reliving this amazing experience of a lifetime, I realized many of the animals we saw have the potential to teach us a lot about ourselves, both in our everyday life and as writers.
So grab your binoculars, hop on the safari tram with me, and let’s explore!
First leg of the journey is a back highway through Ethiopia. It seems every roadway must be shared with cattle, donkeys, horses, and goats, so you have to drive both defensively and offensively (something my daughter and son-in-law are getting a lot of practice with!). The problem with goats is their unpredictability. Just when you think they’re moving purposefully across the road, they suddenly do a 180 and you have to swerve or slam on the brakes (or else the owner is having barbecue tonight).
Do you often find yourself randomly changing course with no clear direction in mind? Maybe it’s time to review your goals and refocus.
Our first stop is Lake Awasa, Ethiopia, where we come upon the vervet monkey. Considered pests when in close proximity to civilization, these monkeys are always looking for a handout. This guy’s sorting through a trashcan at the retreat center where we spent three nights.
Are you ever guilty of subsisting on handouts and hoping someone will throw you a juicy tidbit? A sure sign is if you keep rehashing the same manuscript instead of moving forward. Stop living on leftovers and go for something fresh!
High in the treetops on the shores of Lake Awasa, we spot the majestic fish eagle. This bird is described as “opportunistic” and is not above stealing food from other birds. It also preys on mammals, fish, reptiles, and smaller birds.
“Opportunistic” can be a good trait or a negative trait. Which is it for you?
Now we’re heading south and crossing the border into Kenya. Our first destination is the Samburu National Reserve. Here we spot the graceful gerenuk, also called the giraffe gazelle. See how she stretches up to nibble the top leaves of the thorny acacia bush?
Are you content to “nibble” on what’s within easy reach, or are you ready to stretch yourself and strive for something better? Do you need to grow your writing skills? Try a new publisher? Maybe even change genres?
Another graceful animal is the reticulated giraffe. You might assume these fellows are being affectionate with each other, when actually they’re vying for dominance (and to impress a potential mate). It’s kind of a passive-aggressive dance, and whoever has the strongest neck wins!
Remember, being stiff-necked is not always a good thing! When faced with conflict, are you the passive-aggressive type, or are you self-assured enough to stand on your own merits?
Next, we come upon the red-billed hornbill. You may recognize him as Zazu from The Lion King. The mother bird seals herself inside the nest with the eggs, and the male brings her food through a small opening.
Do you tend to shut yourself away while “incubating” a story idea? Who or what sustains you during “gestation”?
This lioness has her eye on the prey, and not even 30-40 avid photographers snapping away can distract her from the hunt.
Do you have a singleminded vision for your life and work? How do you shut out the distractions?
Time to continue our journey southward. We’ll stop at Serena Mountain Lodge on the slopes of Mount Kenya. Many different animals visit the watering hole behind the lodge, but one of the most impressive is the African cape buffalo. You can tell the males because their horns form a solid mass across their foreheads and are impenetrable even by a rifle bullet.
Hardheadedness can sometimes be an asset, but it can also close us off from new ideas. How receptive are you? Are you sometimes too stubborn for your own good?
Also approaching the watering hole are elephants, warthogs, hyenas, and bush bucks, but for now, it’s time to continue our journey. Next, we arrive at The Ark Lodge in Aberdare National Park, where we step out onto the overlook to view another watering hole in lush, green surroundings.
One of our visitors is the hyena, who doesn’t seem fazed by a herd of cape buffalo. Though rumored to be scavengers, hyenas are actually skillful hunters. They are territorial, and are usually most active at night.
Do you protect your writing territory with the courage of a hyena? When is your most successful “hunting” time--morning, afternoon, late at night?
That’s all we have time for at this stop. We travel now through the Great Rift Valley, where we’ll stop for a boat ride on Lake Naivasha to view hippos in their natural environment. Did you know hippos can be quite aggressive and can easily outrun a human?
Introverted writers often hide much about themselves below the surface. Sometimes we need to be brave, come out of hiding, and allow others to get to know our true selves.
Next, let’s continue to the Masai Mara, where we’ll stay in luxury tents at the Sarova Mara Game Camp. Lots of animals to see here, so let’s get started!
We’ll see birds aplenty, so let’s start with the lilac-breasted roller, a flamboyantly beautiful bird who perches out in the open where it can more easily spot insects, lizards, and other prey. Both male and female aggressively defend their nests.
This bird’s motto might easily be, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” For writers, though, we must often walk a fine line between aggressive self-promotion and godly humility. How hard is it for you to keep the two sides in balance?
Another bird spotted on safari is the ostrich. When threatened, the ostrich will either flatten itself against the ground or run away. However, if the bird is cornered, those powerful legs can become lethal weapons!
Think about how you respond to negative critiques or book reviews. Is your first impulse to hide, run away, or lash out? How could you respond more constructively?
Uh-oh, look up in that tree--vultures! The lappet-faced vulture is among the largest of the species. It feeds on carrion, typically waiting until the usual scavengers are finished and then coming in to feast on what other carrion birds won’t eat.
Sounds like the ultimate cleanup crew, doesn’t it? Let someone else do all the dirty work, then step in to finish things off. If you’ve ever shipped off a not-so-polished manuscript to your critique partner or editor expecting them to fix it, you may have a few vulture tendencies.
Across the savanna we spy a herd of zebras. Zebras are social animals with excellent vision and hearing, plus an acute sense of smell and taste.
Sensory awareness is definitely a trait every writer needs to develop in order to make our scenes and characters more fully alive.
There, hiding in the tall grass--a male lion! He looks content and well-fed, wouldn’t you say? Not surprising, since it’s usually the females who do the hard work of hunting. The male typically stays home and babysits the cubs.
Lions are a great example of cooperation and compromise. Life is so much easier when our immediate families or circle of friends are there to pick up the slack when the pressure is on.
The last big cat on our African adventure is the cheetah. Of all the big cats, the cheetah is the least adaptable to new environments. It hunts by vision rather than scent. While the cheetah is fast, because it is a sprinter, if it doesn’t catch its prey quickly, it gives up. The cheetah’s real advantage is maneuverability. It can change direction much more rapidly than any other animal.
Do you sometimes want to give up when the “chase” seems too long and arduous? Maybe you need to develop your flexibility and be willing to change direction as the situation requires.
This is the season of the Great Migration, so the wildebeests are on the move. Wildebeests are considered to have “swarm intelligence,” meaning they move as one entity to overcome obstacles and danger. Their primary defense is herding, the older animals protecting the younger ones.
While we don’t want to lose our individuality as part of a “herd,” a mutual support group can be advantageous. Do you have a group where you feel safe and protected?
Is that a herd of elephants in the distance? African elephants are highly intelligent. Adult males usually live alone, while the females, led by a matriarch, form a protective clan and share in the care of their young.
Like the elephants, we can benefit from being surrounded by a strong, supportive “clan,” which is exactly what we strive for in Seekerville. We hope all our visitors feel welcome and cared for here. Thanks for being part of our family!
Well, the sun is setting and it’s time to head back to camp. I hope you enjoyed the Seekerville Safari and perhaps learned a thing or two from the animals we saw. Did you find any favorites?
Share your thoughts and mention “Kenya coffee” in your comment if you’d like a chance to win a bag of roasted coffee beans from Kenya.
Photos by Myra Johnson
Coming in September: When the Clouds Roll By, book 1 in the “Till We Meet Again” series from Abingdon Press. Annemarie Kendall is overjoyed when the armistice is signed and the Great War comes to an end. Her fiancé, Lieutenant Gilbert Ballard, is coming home, and though he is wounded, she is excited to start their life together. But when he arrives, her dreams are dashed when she learns Gilbert is suffering from headaches, depression, and an addiction to pain killers. This is not the man she had planned to marry.
After serving in the trenches, Army Chaplain Samuel Vickary is barely holding onto his faith. Putting up a brave front as he ministers to the injured soldiers at the hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he befriends Gilbert and eventually falls for Annemarie. While Annemarie tries to sort out her confused feelings about the two men in her life, she witnesses firsthand the bitterness and hurt they both hold within. Whom will she choose? Will she have the courage to follow her heart and become the woman God intended her to be? As the world emerges from the shadow of war, Annemarie clings to her faith as she wonders if her future holds the hope, happiness, and love for which she so desperately longs.