When is a rhino just a rhino?

Sometimes a rhino is just a rhino.

This big fellow, bringing up the rear of a group of white rhinos as they lumbered up a rutted track to the top of a ridge before disappearing down the other side, maintained a watchful eye as we jolted along in his wake, in the open LandCruiser, last week in the Madikwe Game Reserve. Every now and then he would turn, sending stones flying, and we would stop abruptly, the ranger assessing the risk of a charge. Then he would carry on browsing, and we would advance, until at last he was silhouetted against the sky, the photograph I had wanted.

He was all rhino, that fellow, and for perhaps twenty minutes, that was all we were conscious of – the morning wind in our faces, the smells of the bush, the early light casting its shadows, the armoured behemoth ranged against the sky above us, going ploddingly about his daily business.

Looking at these photographs now, my first thoughts are simply of that moment – how extraordinary it was, how lucky we felt to be in this presence, to experience this, to be there, in the bush, under a vast sky, waiting, listening, watching. It is a wonderful thing, to be freed from that human sense of urgency, of purpose, of things needing to be done, and simply to be there, to exist and to participate, knowing that the pace, the roll-out of events, what happens next, is out of your hands and dependent on the unpredictable whims of the large irritable animal blocking the path on the hill up ahead of you.

Back in my home office, though, this Sunday morning – how many of us have got used to working from home over the past interminable months of the Covid pandemic? – that rhino takes on other meanings, is suggestive of other possibilities and perspectives. Not least of which is the relief of seeing the rear-end of 2020. Including the rear-end of Trump, for that matter, a blight every bit as debilitating as the pandemic and with effects – social, political, environmental – every bit as malignant and possibly more long-lasting.

So what of the New Year? What of 2021?

One thing that we can be pretty sure of, it seems, is that 2021 will be much like the last year, the almost miraculous speed with which a Covid-19 vaccine has been developed notwithstanding.

It’s one thing to develop the vaccine, but it is another thing entirely, as we know, and will continue to learn in more painstakingly practical detail, to manufacture, store and distribute it. And still another thing to get people to take it, and to get those needles into the arms of those who do want to take it, and need to take it.

Like Rob and me, for instance.

Government here in South Africa, to put the matter delicately, says it has a plan, though how much of this plan is magical or wishful thinking is a matter of some public controversy. Rob and I can expect, or hope, to receive the vaccine in Phase Two of the rollout, apparently. This is the good news. When Phase Two is expected to begin, and how rapidly and smoothly the rollout will occur, is rather less certain.

In any event, we hope to be vaccinated before September, in other words, before we pack up our things here and return to Canada. Meanwhile, Covid-19 will continue to block the path to any easy or rapid return to what we, rather wistfully, think of as ‘normality.’

The thing is to survive, I guess, to stay calm and positive, and steadily plod forward. Live in the moment. Appreciate what we have. Develop a thicker skin towards life’s slings and arrows. Practice patience and resilience.

A bit like a rhino.

8 thoughts on “When is a rhino just a rhino?

  1. That was terrific. Thank you Glen. One of your best I think. Practising mindfulness in the bush. What could be better?
    I do it under the shower in the sunlight. The drops sparkle and rainbow and suck me in to a peaceful place as the water cascades.
    So disappointing to think that we might not see you again.
    What chance of a zoom chat or similar some time at least before you go?
    Hugs and love to you both.
    Lynette

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    1. Thanks Lynette, so glad you enjoyed this. I have begun sorting through boxes of documents and photographs, in preparation for packing up later this year for our return to Canada, and of course there are lots of reminders of Transkei. We do go back a bit don’t we? And yes, we should definitely set up a Zoom call before Rob and I leave SA. Best to you and Alan. Take care.

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  2. Nice seeing a full blog post from you. Unless I missed something, it has been too long..

    Alas, here, in the states, it is unclear as to which end of the rhino we are getting.

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    1. Ah, nice that you are reading. And yes, it has been too long since I posted. Have made earnest resolutions to try to better. Hope you and Theresa are safe and well, and relieved at least to see one rear-end disappearing down history’s drainpipe.

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  3. Eloquently stated, Glen. Life can certainly be unpredictable at times, but there is a beacon of hope at the end coming closer. Thanks for the uplifting message of hope on the horizon.
    I especially chucked at the comparison of the Rhino’s behind to that of #45. Hopefully, that remains true!

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