Setting a Mountain Top Goal…A Master Photographer

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.”

—Andrew Carnegie

How do YOU define success…which achievements would make you sing with joy…it is as different for every person as there are stars in the sky…? what goals do you want to really go for with all your being …it may change with time and need to be changed…that’s where I am at… redefining and refining my vision of what “success” means to me during this new chapter of life…what audacious goal should I set my sights on…

THE WHAT: The primary kickstart for goals…what knockdown…knockout personal achievement would make you feel like you made it to the top…

This is mine
Ultimate Goal – Honours Laureate Gold

Currently after 1 year…I have accumulated 28 from entering the monthly …needing 40 club points to move to a three-star rating…

Goals map out where you want to land…but they can be ambiguous and you may never achieve your desired end result…Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re going to end up somewhere else…” I’ve been there before when I’ve set goals and then never achieved them…

  • What is your story, why do you do what you do? 
  • What keeps you awake at night? 
  • What inspired you to pursue your business?
  • What makes your heart race?
  • What was the moment that changed your life as you know it?
  • What’s been the biggest challenge for you on your photography journey?

What lights you up…Going “niche” makes you stand out…which reduces your competition… increases your visibility…stokes your creative fire…and hones your expertise…remember the old saying “jack of all trades and master of none”…

I’ve tried various niches…street, night, nature, portrait, wedding, black & white, boudoir, macro, candid, landscape, wildlife…some I lose all track of time…I find myself getting lost in creating the magic in nature and wildlife…adding artistic and creative techniques that help tell a story…yet still in the process of defining my own visual and artistic style…

Before & After – My “style” in progress

Always take time to play…“All work and no play doesn’t just make Jill and Jack dull, it kills the potential of discovery, mastery, and openness to change and flexibility and it hinders innovation and invention.” – Joline Godfrey

What are your fantastic magical goals…shoot for the moon🌙…my darlings…you have nothing to fear…at the very worst you’ll fall among the twinkling laughter of the stars…love, laughter and magic

A Place that Time Forgot

In the heart of the sizzling arid Karoo lies a small quaint village…Nieu-Bethesda…A little artist town with dusty untarred roads…approximately 50K (31 miles) from the town of Graaff-Reinet…

Karoo…not a Kangaroos in sight…maybe a herd of  Springbok or the ever present dorper sheep with their distinctive black heads…a mountain tortoise crossing the road…now and then…clean shaped hills or koppies capped with the hard jagged rock formations formed over millions of years..

The original inhabitants were the Bushman or San people…who named the area the “Karoo”…a Bushman word meaning “dry space”…

I had never traveled into this semi-desert region since I arrived in South Africa… on the central plateau of the western half of South Africa… place of relentless sunshine… a vast, open, arid region dominated by low-shrub vegetation and abundance of rock cropping’s…

Halfway to Camdeboo National Park in the Karoo

Doesn’t look like a desert…looks can be deceiving though…in stopping to take this photograph…the surrounding area told a vastly different story…the photos below were all taken at the same location…recent rain in the area had brightened up the brown to a more vibrant green…

Mr. P and I had taken a couple of days to breathe the desert air to check out a birding route that was located in a national state Park named Camdeboo…a park that literally surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet… over 240 bird species and the famous breathtaking Valley of Desolation…towering dolerite columns rising to heights of up to 120 meters…formed by volcanic and erosive forces over a period of 200 million years…Wow!!!

It was over 100F that day…hot and windless…sweating (or glistening as the ladies are more prone to do) as I climbed over stones and up a narrow dirt path to the top…the view was breathtaking…towers of Sheer cliffs and precariously balanced columns of Dolerite rise 120 metres from the valley floor … worth the trip to see what millions of years have created…makes me wonder what the next 120 million years will create on this magic blue marble in the sky…

We still had some time in the day and following the suggestion of our hostess at the B&B…we took a short drive to visit the renown “Owl House” in Neiu Bethesada…off we went to check out this quirky little town…

Almost missing the turnoff…just a small country road…surrounded by fence…scrub land…with interest in what we might find…we traveled on…

The narrow road started slowly spiraling downward…descending we were on the outside edge of the road…I held my breath, closed my eyes, and wondered if we should go back when I saw a car coming towards us…just nowhere to turn around… and …after all…just another adventure

Breathing again at the bottom of the hill…we continued forward…around a sharp bend in the road…almost running into a white farmhouse smack dab in the middle…delineating where the road changed from blacktop to a dirt and gravel lane…how could we be on the right road to the famous “Owl House”…where thousands of visitors stop in to see this treasure of either weird or wonderful (depending on your preferences) art is located…onward, Mr. P…

Dusty, dirty road that seemingly led nowhere…passing abandoned buildings…now only inhabited by Mother Nature and her children…

Like a valley of desolation…everything in ruins

We continued…the road would eventually end up somewhere…we hoped…

Tree lined dirt roads…a dusty padstal…which is an Afrikaans word that many locals use, and roughly translated means “shop next to the road”… so, there was life somewhere…at least at one time in this remote part of the world…finally the town came into sight…

Quiet street scene in Nieu Bethesda
It was not what I had envisioned…but there was an other worldly charm about it…https://www.karoo-southafrica.com/

Our first stop was not the “Owl House”…but the Kitching Fossil Exploration Center…Mr. P’s ongoing fascination with dinosaurs, our history, and how the earth began…

A small museum that shows fossils of life 50 million years before the dinosaurs…what life was like in Nieu-Bethesda 255 million years ago…James William Kitching (6 February 1922 – 24 December 2003) was a South African vertebrate paleontologist who was born in Nieu Bethesada…at six years old he scoured the countryside to find specimens for a paleontologist named Robert Broom…his becoming one of the world’s greatest fossil finders had begun…I had never been aware of the life in the Permian Period, “populated by mammal-like reptiles called therapsids”…learned something new

https://www.sa-venues.com

Down the street to the where Helen Elizabeth Martins who was a shy, retiring recluse… rarely seen outside on the streets of Nieu Bethesda… where she create a magical inner kingdom that she breathed into life…

Miss Helen’s imagination transformed humble materials such as cement, glass, mirrors and wire into a secret, magical world that she shared with few, drawing upon Bible stories, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the Orient, and everyday objects – all of which blended to create a personal cosmology.

https://theowlhouse.co.za

Her life had been tragic and unhappy…after the death of her mother and abusive father…she began to use her inner creativity and imagination to transform her home into a wonderland of color, light, and texture … an escape from the dullness and despair of her previous life…

She transformed every space within her house…changed by finely ground glass of assorted colors using an old-fashioned coffee grinder…

The sadness of her life was palatable to me…the black ground glass in her father’s bricked up old room…called the Lion’s Den… the fact that she committed suicide when she found out that she was going blind due to the long-term exposure to the crushed glass she used…yet, she had been happy creating and envisioning new work daily with her helpers…and left behind the richness of an “outsider” artist …

“Over the years Miss Helen and her helpers added to the mostly quasi-religious tableaus. Mythical figures started to appear, half human, half creature. Today it is a forest of some 500 statues, intense, baffling and compelling. Miss Helen committed suicide in 1976 by swallowing caustic soda. She left behind a legacy of intrigue – her kingdom sparks the imagination like few other places in South Africa…”

https://www.sa-venues.com

At the Owl House…I focused on the beauty that spoke to me…the vibration of the earth…alive and creating poetry for those who listen with their heart and not just their eyes…for me it is always in the perspective…

I embrace the journey to Neiu Bethesada…not what I expected…”old places have soul” …a place of that will fill my own soul in the remembering… may your journey’s take you to all the magical places you never even began to think about…

Love, laughter and lots of magic for your life travels…

South African Black Ostrich…

The (Struthio camelus domesticus), the black necked ostrich, Cape Ostrich or Southern ostrich…although only the males have the bold black-and-white coloring that they use to attract females…Females, on the other hand, are a drab light brown…

A simple elegant wedding in a family member’s house at the Cape…a rainy weekend that turned into the most “perfect” wedding day with sunshine and cool breezes…just for me, I would imagine😉…I had the cake and flowers that I had always dreamed of…surrounded by my South Africa family and friends…and then, of course, my knight in amour who invited me to be his “forever’ love…to top the week off…my son flew 36 hours to give me away…

He had never been to South Africa…while he didn’t have a lot of time to venture through the country…we did have a day to take him to Addo…a wonderful spring day with playful babies and zebra love…it was wonderful to be able to share the beauty of the country with him…

Big Daddy Telling Us it was time to move a little further away… (Video by my son) …

It’s a little late being December, but Mother Nature has her own time frame (usually mating season is between July and November) …the male ostrich’s beak and legs turn red/pink to attract the female for mating…after dancing for her favors…for as long as it takes…men and their antics😉

Bet you didn’t know all these interesting facts…

Ostrich eyes are about the size of billiard balls…measuring about 2″ across…they take so much room in the skull that its brain is smaller than either one of its eyeballs…about the size of a walnut…making them not very adept at alluding predators…they tend to run in circles…they need those enormous eyes with its a high number of photoreceptor cells combined with the sheer size of the image from the lens help them see phenomenal details of the predators even from great distances… as far as 2.2 miles (3.5 km)… https://m.facebook.com/ScienceEvidenceIntelligence/photos/a.316858809164834/635684480615597/?type=3&source=57&__tn__=EH-R

Ostriches are the largest bird (an adult rooster can be 6 to 10 ft and weight up to 340 lbs…and while they can’t fly…they’re puny wings couldn’t lift their heavy bodies off the ground, boy, can they run…they can cover 5m (approx. 16.5 ft) in one stride and can sprint over 70 k/hr (about 43.5 mph) using their wings to balance as they run and rudders to change direction …AND they don’t bury their heads in the sand…they wouldn’t be able to breath😂 and definitely would not have survived for million years…The oldest fossil relatives of ostriches belong to the species Calciavis grandei, which were excavated from the Green River Formation in Wyoming and date to some 56 million to 34 million years ago https://www.britannica.com/animal/ostrich

They do dig holes in the sand to bury their eggs…and they lay their heads flat on the ground for several reasons…when they sleep, when they sense trouble to try and become less visible…they may flop on the ground with their heads outstretched…their coloring blending with the sandy ground and assisting in camouflaging themselves… they sometimes lay their head flat on the ground to swallow sand and pebbles… the hard grit helps them to grind their food in their crop… from a distance, the ostrich does look like it’s burying its head in the sand…. and that may be where the myth began…supposedly with that great Roman thinker, Pliny the Elder (23-79AD) https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2006/11/02/1777947.htm

Ostriches typically live in a herd of a dozen or less with an Alpha male and a dominant hen… a successful territorial male is polygamous, but will only form a “pair” bond with a ‘major’ female…he mates with the dominant hen (his favorite) … normally mating for life…but forms a complex structure with the other hens …the females who have become part of the ostrich harem may mate with the Alpha male or with wandering males …

The favorite female will lay around 7-10 eggs …all the hens will place their eggs in the nest dug by the male of the dominant hen to incubate sometimes up to 60 eggs…here its “put your eggs all in one basket” philosophy …she has a plan (the devious she-devil) …she will move the lesser hens’ eggs to the edge and move hers to the middle of the nest… When she sees a predator, she will sacrifice another hen’s egg by rolling it away from the nest beforehand…

Even though the Alpha male may be a regular Cassanova…he is a good father…helping the female by taking turns incubating the eggs for about 6 weeks…due to their camouflage coloring…normally she sits on the eggs during the day, and he sits on them during the night…so seeing the male nesting during the day was surprising (maybe she just needed a break to stretch her long legs)…sitting on 60 of the largest eggs in the world… at 15 cm (6 in.) long and weighing 1.5 kg (3 lb.) is no easy task…

Whoever survives the hyenas, jackals, and vultures and other predators will be born with that spiky, greyish brown down…they grow approx. 30 cm (1 ft.) each month…and in six months they will be as tall as their parents…they start wandering from the nest with their parents a few days after hatching and in four months they will start to grow feathers … reaching sexual maturity around three or four years old…which is when males grow their black-and-white feathers, and the poor colorless (my personal commentary) females continue to have their brown plumage…

Chicks are born with a spiky, greyish-brown down. They grow brown feathers after 4 months. Then around 3-4 years, ostriches reach sexual maturity. Males develop a striking black and white plumage while females continue to have a brown plumage

For millennium… dynamic and colorful bird plumage has been used for decoration…for many cultures…through time…unusual feathers were sometimes worn as a way of displaying one’s high societal rank…the more exotic the feathers…the higher one’s ranking…through the 18th century both men and women of the upper class wore feathers in their hats… “It was at this time, in England, that the figurative phrase “a feather in one’s hat” was introduced and came to mean that an individual had achieved some significant accomplishment” https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/feathers-in-regency-fashion/

As though these poor birds didn’t have enough problems with natural predators such as cheetahs, lions, leopards, hunting dogs and spotted hyenas…as early as the 16th century these wild birds were hunted throughout Africa… providing the extremely rare product for important women like Queen Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette to use in the elaborate headdresses …

Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape of South Africa in 1652 and reported see large flocks… Ostrich feathers were exported from South Africa as early as 1859…as the emigrant farmers became fully aware of the lucrative return on feathers……the farmers soon domesticated the ostriches… trekking into the karoo and the Eastern Cape to steal the wild chicks and eggs… Incubating them……During this feather boom there were more than 77 600 ostriches on farms in the area and in 1914 there were close to a million ostriches…

BETWEEN 1903 AND 1913, OSTRICH FEATHER EXPORTS TOTALED A STAGGERING £19 MILLION (25 MILLION US), TRAILING ONLY GOLD, DIAMONDS AND WOOL.

https://www.ozy.com/true-and-stories/the-rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-south-africas-ostrich-king/82169/
Woman wearing a hat with ostrich feather. Produced by the Fitzall Bandeau Company as part of their Fitzall Fashions series. (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

The farmers who were the pioneers of the ostrich industry, which commenced in the Oudtshoorn district during the middle of the 19th Century in part to the climate being almost identical to the ostrich’s original habitat…and therefore Oudtshoorn became known as the Ostrich Capital of the World… and remains to this day…where you can even take a giddy exhilarating ostrich ride…but we just bought Mr. P a beautiful ostrich leather belt and tried some biltong…

Southern Tip of Africa

“Today, ostrich farms are among the most profitable agricultural projects. They are often referred to as “the farms of the future” because of the large variety of products and hence their high profit potential. Ostriches are raised commercially for their meat, hide and feathers”… https://www.fao.org/3/v6200t/v6200t02.htm

 One of Mr. P’s and I jaunts to Cape Town…we stopped in Oudtshoorn to check it out…

Now that’s my kind of Ostrich
😏 It was a rather tasty treat…dried ostrich (jerky or biltong)

Even the ostrich, with its long neck and large eyes, cannot see what’s in the future

An African Proverb

Much love, laughter, and magic for your day❣

Top 23 Quotes and Sayings about "OSTRICHES" | inspiringquotes.us

Delightful Disappointment

“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment. ”

― Ansel Adams

Sometimes it is just best to enjoy the moments…when everything seems to be failing…falling apart and nothing seems to be cooperating with your agenda…find some pleasure in what is and let it wash away every drop of frustration…sometimes you may find what you were really needing in the space of time you are in…

Yesterday was like that…the photographic club takes a yearly outing for a Whale Dolphin and Penguin Island Cruise…last year had been my first and I had been new to the club and just relearning the new camera equipment and post processing applications after several decades of being out of the photography business…I felt exhilarated…everything was going to be perfect…well, I girl can hope and if I had come back with even one or two awesome photographs I would have been satisfied…I must not have gotten to 10,000 yet🤣…“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” ~Henri Cartier-Bresson

The weather had predicted rain…but the day was grey…but not raining…everything packed…lens, camera, extra batteries, snacks, water…and off Mr. P (with his binoculars) and I went…we met up with the other camera fanatics at the pier…there were more than the boat could take, and we split into two boats…

Off we went…the men in black leading the pack

The water was incredibly choppy…I had chosen a seat in front of the cabin…most had chosen to seat under the canopy…I wanted to photograph different viewpoints than the average…and then it started…

The front of the boat went up and then it went down, and the salt spray came up over the front of the boat and smacked me…from the top of my head to the seat of my pants…looking like a bedraggled puppy at that point…I wasn’t about to give up my prime spot for a little water…luckily I had used my coat to cover the camera…I would see something that I wanted to take a picture of and the boat went up and down again…as I tried to get my balance…I would slide the other way…back and forth…up and down as we headed for the island…giving up after the numerous time and with no respite in sight…I wrapped the camera up and enjoyed the sea air and roller coaster ride…it became rather exhilarating…not worrying about camera speed, aperture, ISO or composition…I breathed and smiled with the beauty of life…salt…sea…blue of sky and water…the most healing medicine for that frazzled feeling…

The sea was filled with diamonds…for the bride-to-be…the variegated colors of my entire world at that moment were too numerous to name…the white of foam and clouds…aqua…green to dark blue…shades of clearest turquoise reflected in the playful wild splashes of waves hitting the rock and bursting into joyful exuberance…I was beyond contented…

I did not come back with one photograph that I felt was great and none were exceptional…too much distance…too much movement…but sometimes we photographers just need to lay the camera down and breathe in the world and the creative energy that the entire world is filled with…

“Life keeps throwing me stones. And I keep finding the diamonds.” – Ana Claudia Antunes

LIFE IS FULL OF MAGICAL DIAMOND MOMENTS….hope your life today is full of them

With Life, love, lots of laughter and magic💖…Renée

Amakhala…Nature in all it’s Glory

“The beauty of Africa is not man made, it is natures gift to humanity.”
― Paul Oxton

When life becomes hectic and emotional turmoil…the panic…agitation…and confusion surrounds the soul…John Burroughs said it best…”I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

Amakhala is such a peaceful balm…nature’s delightfully restful and calming potion

Situated only about an hour (84 km) from home…a luxurious Safari Lodge is hidden in a valley of native bush…Amakhala is home to 5 of the 9 plant biomes here… the most common biome is the Albany Thicket, which is made up of dense shrubs, herbaceous plants and succulent trees…

Mixtures of Rich and Subtle hues being brushed against the canvas of the evening sky

This is a “Certificate of Excellence” award winning four star safari lodge…beginning in 1999 as a joint conservation venture between 6 families that were direct descendants of families that settled in the area in the 19th century to farm sheep and cattle…little by little the land was rehabilitated and animals that had freely roamed the area were reintroduced

One of the unfortunate consequences of Pandemic has been the loss of bookings in the tourism industry…with an unbeatable package deal we were able to book a 2 night, 3 day Safari package…a new mind boggling event in my life living here in South Africa…

I felt like I had been dropped into a magical wonderland…better than any “rabbit hole” I had gone down before…the colors of this world…the natural smells of earth and nature…the exquisite culinary tastes…the feeling of peace and calmness that can only be found in the wild…

Greeted by the most warm and amicable staff…we were immediately made to feel right at home…Norman being the most surprisingly unexpected of our welcoming committee…

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

~Henry Beston

Norman is the wrinkly grumpy old man bachelor that freely roams the park…after luggage drop off and stretching legs…we had almost gotten to the parking area and out of the bush comes one of the largest elephant that I have encountered…and I have never seen Mr. P. reverse so quickly…Norman just slowly ambled down to us…taking his sweet time to come and investigate who the new interlopers were…

Like a crotchety old geezer…didn’t care that his lunch crumbs were still stuck on his truck…he continued to snack while he contemplated whether we should be allowed to stay…finally deciding that we were harmless…he slowly sauntered off in search of more twigs and leaves to fill the never ending elephant pit of a stomach…an elephant’s life…eat…sleep…and poop…eating about 16 hours out of the day…sleep 4 to 6 hours and producing lots and lots of manure…200 to 250 pounds per day… oh, and produce enough methane gas – LOTS AND LOTS OF GAS😂…Properly equipped, a car could travel 20 miles on the amount of methane produced by one elephant in a single day https://elephantconservation.org/elephants/just-for-kids

Quotes about Elephants (182 quotes)

I just adored the time worn gnarled and tuskless Norman…he made the entire stay specially entertaining and we missed him when he left to wander far from the camp…

A refreshing chilled glass of lemonade while checking in and then we were escorted down a path winding through native brush…escorted to our tranquil suite…tented and thatched…the perfect combination for me…I think it was what I’ve heard described as “Glamping”…the experience of the “Great Out Doors” with the essentials of mattress, indoor toilet and running water…this was the epitome of elegance and good taste…wrapped with the wonderous sight, smell and energy of nature in all of her abundant splendor…

After a deliciously scrumptious dinner…warmed by the fire and conversation with new friends….we were escorted back to our hideaway…with all the fresh air and excitement we fell into an exhausted sleep….dreaming of all the wonders that the next day might hold…

“A well spent day brings happy sleep.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Focus your intention on your dreams, you can wave magic when you set your heart and mind to it – Author: Miranda Kerr

Umbulo the Dung Beetle Extordinaire…Part II

Lately the world seems like a heaping pile of poo with the ongoing Covid pandemic, riots, insurrections, political infighting and unrest, the climate crisis, unrelenting conflict and…and on and on and on…we often become numb to the magic that is at our finger tips…yet there is still wonder and amazement to be found in a every day moment…mysteries to marvel at…gifts that God hands to us in our human existence for us to open…

“traveling on the edge of a vast, floating whirlpool of stars”, alive and conscious, walking and talking on a big rock circling a bigger burning ball of gas…nearly fourteen billion years after the cosmos bubbled into being”

(Rick Hanson, Ph.D.)

In honor to the small gifts of life, and Mr. P’s request…here is the “rest of the story”…

A outstanding planetary citizen preforming a vital function…heads down…bottom ups

Umbolo climbs to the opening of his burrow squinting in the early morning spring sun…It’s October and winter has decided to bid adieu for the season…catching the “bok-bok-mak-kik” of the shy and skulking large yellow Bokmakierie with his black collar…off somewhere pecking for his breakfast of insects, small lizards, snakes, small birds and frogs….uggggg….gross and nauseating to Umbolo….shrugging…but to each his own…

Precious green thickets of spekboom with its small, star-shaped dusty pink buds doing its job of helping the environment by sponging up the carbon dioxide…and surreptitiously providing an ingredient to his own nutritious meals served by the elephants…the Acacia thorns with its conspicuous paired white long thorns 10-25 cm (4″ -10″) that would soon to a mass of sweetly-scented golden-yellow puff balls…

The karoo was definitely in nursery mode…and romance was in the air💕… Spring was here!!!!

Grumbling…his stomach reminds him that the first order of the day is nutrition…there is always such fierce competition between all his friends, relatives and competitors at the self-service take out…sometimes hundreds congregating…❓don’t know why❓…after all one elephant shares up to 150kg (330 lbs.) of poo every day…and with 600+ elephants…well, you do the math…that’s a lot of food…but like all buffets…the best parts are dried up or gone quickly if you arrive too late…

Raising his antenna with its incredible sensitive sense of smell….awww there it is…the delicious smell of fresh gourmet poo…after all he was a very fussy eater…he needed and craved the tiniest particles of the protein-rich nitrogen source needed to keep his muscles strong💪…clicking it up a notch for fast mode to the elephant provided buffet…he’s off…🏁

Yes, Umbolo arrived early enough…food still warm and fresh…but no time to slow down…he was at risk of being assaulted by Isela or one of his gang of thieves…they were relentless…although Umbolo was quite a strong defender of his poo balls…he had lost his prize several times before…..and had been relieved of his precious haul…he had to head off again to find a new fresh source of his edibles and gifts for a potential girlfriend…and just maybe a “baby” nest💞…hopefully not this time…

All hail the underdog!

Umbolo’s long, thin, outwardly bowed hind legs were well suited for running and wrapping around the accumulation of the poo…clinging to the ball as he was forming it…he was able to maneuver a ball 50x his weight…Hercules of the dung beetles..

“Like a bag of money dropped in the street, “everyone would grab as much as they could, get it somewhere safe, and then come back for more.”

Max Barclay

Umbolo quickly gripped the ground with his mid and hind legs and cut into the warm buffet with his front legs. He began then patting bits of food on his new ball with the rakelike extensions on his front legs…definitely not a day for creating the most magnificent of balls today…too much competition…pushing against the buffet table with his head, Umbolo separated his takeaway…and started rolling…quickly…before it was stolen by his rivals…

Beating a hasty retreat…in the most expeditious and efficient way possible…in the most direct route…a straight line…head down…butt up…propelling his meal with his hind legs, he moves backwards with his head pointed to the ground…Off to the races…navigating away from the fray…

No GPS or Google Maps needed here…not confused where to go at all…he has celestial powers too…an internal celestial compass for orientation and skylight cues…he stops, climbing on top of his booty and rotated around to orient himself…detecting the symmetrical patterns of polarized light…climbing back down and pushing his treasure again…the reference point of the sun giving him the way to beat a hasty retreat home…

He had made it to safety away from the scrimmage safely this time…digging in the soft soil under his precious ball…he pushed the dirt up around it until it sank into the ground…no need to bury it too deep…the nursery ball would definitely need to be buried deeper….he was in a hurry…his hormones were kicking in and the girls were waiting…

Uswiti was so incredibly frustrated…MEN…they were all alike…the handsome beetle Indoda had duped her that very morning…enticing her with his strong masculine essence…she had fallen for it and followed him into his burrow…the thrill was short lived…nothing to see there…no brood ball in sight…a lazy one… must be part of the gang run by Isela…feeling a little full of himself, he tried a little funny business…the full wrath of Uswiti ensued…kung foo expert…she left him in in the most most vulnerable position…upside down on the floor of his burrow…

She was not giving up…she had spent a lot of time rounding out her curves…getting ready to find a nice man and have a family…after all, that’s all this girl really wanted..in the meantime…curves to be maintained…off to find lunch…

She had wasted a good part of the morning with the scamp…lunch was going to be a quick pick up and go…being around noon now…packed up with all the nutrition needed…she was quickly out of the rowdy crowd…the sun being at its zenith…it was unreliable to discern East from West…no time to wait for afternoon sun guidance…she toggled on her internal wind compass and off she went…headed toward home…to dine in peace…

The late morning fiasco had caused an additional complication… hot…hot…hot…the unrelenting sun searing the surface of the ground…at this time of the day, even the trees were seeking shade…the waves of the afternoon heat were blistering the soles of her feet…she felt herself starting to overheat…a few minutes reprieve…Uswiti climbed on top of her food packet to cool her feet…

Times like this made her extremely jealous of her relatives…the Scarabaeus satyrus family…they took to the air (no walking for them) at dusk…working in the cool of the evening…no need to contend with the heat of the African sun to find the straightest way home…out and about at night…navigating and orienting themselves using the beautiful stars of the Milky way…picking up the polarized light they used this as a map to keep themselves on course…oh, well…that was not her lot in life…back to hot-footing it…

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde

Umbolo’s breathing was getting a quicker and his heart was beating just a little faster…his anxiety level had increased with each beat of his heart…the gift of a brood ball was all of completed…the lovely romantic gift was unwrapped so it could be seen and all his work fully appreciated…would he be accepted today…

Well, here goes…another headstand…supporting his body with his head and four front legs…he rubbed his belly with the brush on his back legs…first one leg and then the other…back and forth…his enticing manly essence was released with a puff of fine white powder…the pungent order that hopefully enticed the ladies…he had a juicy prize to give…

Uswiti felt herself being enticed toward another tempting manly smell…maybe this one would be a more suitable partner…and she headed off to check it out…one never knows…she spotted Umbolo’s beautiful brood ball…such a homey and roomy nursery…she came a little closer and Umbolo relinquished his headstand and raised his forelegs in greeting…his dream come true…advancing on Uswiti he extends his antennae…would she accept him…

Dung beetles prefer human faeces to those of wild animals | The Economist

Hesitantly…Uswati lowers her front legs…Yes!!!!!!…letting him know that she thinks he’s a mighty fine dung beetle with his exquisite offering…she climbs a top his gift and clings to the ball as Umbolo starts to roll the ball away as quickly as he can…now he needs to get her home before Isela or one of his thieves tries to steal both his woman and his brood ball again…

No, such luck…there he comes…thinking he’s the cat’s meow…not this time…Umbolo knew Isela would be relentless…determined to roll off his prize…being bulky had it’s disadvantages…and ground warfare was the only option with no wings…his strength in the battle was his strength and this was a matter of survival…he had experience in all the techniques to viciously fight for his claimed prize…

Umbolo is on the top, now he’s on the ground…now Isela is on the top…Umbolo comes back…not giving up and much like a wrestler flings that would-be thief right off…it’s a big fight…each trying to throw the other off…one more time…Umbolo throws Isela off…Isela is temporarily helpless upside down…deciding that this time perhaps it might be easier to find a less determined target…

Victorious…Umbolo starts off again with Uswiti until they come to an acceptable location for the nursery…Umbolo crawls underneath the ball and starts removing the soil underneath while Uswiti clings to the top…gradually the ball sinks lower and lower into the ground until the nursery is hidden from view…and Uswati lays one egg inside of the soft ball and the ball hardens making a protective layer for the baby…the inside is softer and provides all the food that their babies will need to grow and thrive..

The next generation will emerge from the soil after the first summer rain when the temperatures are warm enough and the soil is moist enough to break free…Umbolo prevailed and future generations of exemplary planetary citizens…he is truly a Dung Beetle Extraordinaire…

***Although this is a work of fiction, I tried to stick as close to the facts as possible. The information as to the behavior of dung beetles was taken from scientific articles mentioned below…

Evan Nicole Brown ‘When the Sun is High, Dung Beetles Navigate with the Wind’ Atlas Obscura

Matt McGrath “Dancing dung beetles navigate with ‘sky snapshot” BBC News

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/beetles-fight-over-dung-ball

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-humble-dung-beetle-180967781/

Sunday Morning at the Watering Hole…

“Nature itself is the best physician.” 

Hippocrates 

Double C’s…not that🤣…where is your mind at….Cancer and Covid…each on their own are incredibly stressful circumstances to walk with…together, they can become an overwhelming daily event…

To find a place of peace and calmness to breathe in…Mr. P and I headed into nature…we are lucky that Addo Elephant park is only about a 45 minute drive…a place of solace from the current “norm”…

I think I have gone over the edge a tad…for every photo that I came across…seemed to have a conversation with me…but I wanted to share and hope that you might find a respite from your own place of chaos and turmoil or just a laugh…btw…it did work…both of our resting heart rates did come down…❤

Did you hear what’s happening down at the watering hole today?

Oh…OK, Mabel…nothing’s happening here…let’s go check it out…

Hey, Wait for me…I can hear everything…if you let me go too…I’ll tell you everything

…There’s the boy’s again…fighting over that prissy girl…won’t they every learn?

There goes George…all in a huff…I guess he didn’t get the girl this time…

Yup…the party is starting…you better hurry, girls…

There’s Bertha…definitely hasn’t lost all the “pregnancy fat” yet…and that child of her’s…so spoilt and noisy…

And there’s Secretary Martha…always looking for her lost bugs…and that outdated feathered cap!!!!… really needs to go…

Quite eating, Ziggy…we’re going to miss all the fun…

Let’s keep going, Pumba…it looks a little crowded here…

…Psst,,,those nosy girls are on the way….want me to head them off at the pass…I’ll take them both on…you know I will!….

Which way….come on, guys…which way….this is not funny…you know I can’t see which way to go….

The Gang’s all here…

Sending love, laughter, and some magic for your day!!!! ~Renée

Fermented Fruit of the Ancient “Elephant Tree”…

There is a phrase…”curiosity killed the cat…but satisfaction brought him back”…and that is how we got in wonderful trouble…

…After reading about how the animals so enjoyed the fruit…my curiosity about this aromatic, juicy plum-sized fruit rapidly grew…so I had to ask Mr. P if he had tasted the fruit…he HAD tasted the exquisite Amarula cream Liqueur… and of course I just had to give it a try…

Anything that has withstood the test of thousands of years…it must be exceptional…yes, believe it or not archaeological evidence shows the marula tree was a source of nutrition as long as ago as 10,000 years B.C….

It is a botanical treasure…nearly every part of the tree can be used in one way or another…from the bark which can be chewed for stomach issues…the nuts can roasted and are considered to be a delicacy…the leaves used as a spice…and then there is the fruit…raw, cooked, made into jam, a home-made beer called Buganu, in Mozambique the fermented marula fruit is used to produce a wine called Ucanhe…and of course Amarula Cream…

This magical tree is also dioecious trees….what in the world does “dioecios” mean…it means that the tree has a specific sex…and of course, it is the female ones that bear flowers and fruit…the males only “look pretty” by blooming…

I tried it and it is extraordinarily delicious…and Mr. P said it gave him psychedelic dreams…and as I said in the beginning…”satisfaction brought him back”…it is now in our stash of alcohol…just in case we forget why the elephants (and all the rest of the African animals) love it so much…

https://youtu.be/hBzqy5a–WE

*Beautiful Feature Image by Jabulani-Keith-Ladzinski

Drunk and Not-So-Drunk Elephants…

I believe that I can hear you say..,”Really?”…the truth has been debated…but I tend to lean towards the probability that it is true…

Drunk elephants or for that matter…or drunken antics by any animals was never even near to being within the scope of things that I might have given a passing hmmmm…🤔

In research for my novel, I am in the process of reading a translation of Adulphe Delegotgue’s two-volume Voyage dans l’Afrique Australe produced originally in 1848…a young 24 year old aristocratic Frenchman, whose lust for adventure and scientific curiosity provoked him to take an incredulous 5 year journey of exploration in southern Africa…BTW…it is a most delightful read…

Delegorgue considered the biological aspects the most interesting part of his travel memoir and devotes a significant portion of his writing to the majestic elephant…

“The elephant has in common with man predilection for a gentle warming of the brain induced by fruit which has been fermented by the action of the sun: the omkouschlouane and the makano of the Amazoulous”

Travels in Southern Africa,1990

Enjoy a little laughter today….

Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing. John Donne

A few days after starting this blog…Mr. P & I took a needed day in nature…an excursion to Addo Elephant Park only few hours drive from home…although we didn’t see any drunk elephants…the ones we saw were incredibly interesting and humorous…reminding me of my own family get-togathers…a tribe with 5 brothers and sisters…all the accompanying nieces and nephews…and added friends…each holiday was just a noisy and raucous as this herd that we found around a waterhole in the park…

Did you know that you can identify the African Elephant from all their Asian cousins by the fact that they are larger and their ears are larger and bear a resemblence to the continent of Africa…

“One cannot resist the lure of Africa.” ~Rudyard Kipling

Their trunks have over 40,000 muscles and 2 fingerlike features at the end of their trunk that they use to grab things…Their Asian cousins have only 1…

“It was the wildest, untouched Africa, and it was magic.” ~Jane Goodall

“Of all African animals, the elephant is the most difficult for man to live with, yet its passing ― if this must come ― seems the most tragic of all. I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange such as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.” – Peter Matthiessen

https://everydaypower.com/elephant-quotes/

“The strange rhythm seemed now to be coming from behind me, from the land, so I turned to look across the gorge … where my heart stopped … Standing there in the shade of the tree was an elephant … – Carl Safina

Purest Little Part of Me | African bush elephant, African animals, African  elephant