That a goliath baobab sprouts from a tight, hard fist-sized shell, the work a common weaver distills within its drooping angled abode, the slow, shallow path rain water takes from Angola before it fans out into the Kalahari sands - all these are mysteries to the eye.
We see things fragmented and disparate; a patched quilt view at best. But no matter how small the piece, whether it’s a single strand of DNA or an atom, the minute gestures toward the infinite. Still, the fragments must somehow be held together if we are to truly see; we treasure books and maps and marvel at time-lapse photography for their ability to bring life into a tight view.
After all, life is all about perspective. And yet only in rare turns are we offered a window wide enough to glimpse the whole scene.
The other day my window opened up. It was late afternoon when we pushed off the helipad -- straight up through the froth of golden dust. Strapped in with no door, there was nothing between us and the rush of air and everything we had only seen from an angle allowed by gravity.
We flew low over swerving Delta channels, skimmed the papyrus beds and just barely scaled the tree line. We saw slick mounds of hippo flesh surface and plummet; watched them walk along the channel floor. We held pace with a goliath heron and spied a thousand buffalo backs in between the Kalahari apple leafs.
But this agile birds-eye-view was a complicated blessing. Since I’ve come down from those heights of adrenaline and perspective, life on two legs seems far less vivid. I can’t take in the whole panorama in one turn, nor can I span the great length of a swamp in seconds. Yet still something of my experience remains. I can see that the small things do add up to something while some details are best left to blur into the bigger picture. The palm belts and termite islands, tall woodlands and flooded grasslands all form part of an intricate web glued together by water.
Nothing has changed in my world but my view of it, which can make all the difference…
Photos by Tim Gaunt