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Wildlife on the banks of the Crocodile River

Last night I mistook two hippos fighting in the Crocodile River outside our bedroom for a person snoring. In my sleepy reverie I thought, “That is the strangest snoring I’ve ever heard.” In the morning, I awoke before the sun and they were still making a ruckus. I walked along the river to…
By Seth Barnes

Last night I mistook two hippos fighting in the Crocodile River outside our bedroom for a person snoring. In my sleepy reverie I thought, “That is the strangest snoring I’ve ever heard.”

In the morning, I awoke before the sun and they were still making a ruckus. I walked along the river towards the noise. It was a deep bass roaring that echoed down the misty river banks much as the roar of dinosaurs must have echoed in prehistoric times.

Suddenly, the shape of something¬† wild loomed on the path ahead. It was a male Kudu, a large deer-like creature with horns twisting above its head, the symbol of Kruger National Park. It stared at me and we were both thinking, “Fight or flight?” I decided not to press my luck and moved off the path.

Africa is a wild place. It awakens the dormant. The wild parts of my brain – the reptilian brain I think it’s called – gradually go numb when I’m pounding out the emails and analyzing spreadsheets. I become this calculating version of myself, a blanched and tepid, domesticated risk minimizer.

Driving around Kruger this morning we came face to face with an elephant in musk (a time when they become randy and unpredictable like an adolescent). He walked toward us waving his tusks as if to say “Get out of my back yard!”

We American Jesus-followers need to rediscover our wildness. Life was never meant to be as tamed down as we’ve made it. Having met our natural need for security, we redefine what it means to be secure, so that it is now normal to have four or five different kinds of insurance policies, while some families have upwards of ten policies.

We just stopped for coffee at a restaurant along the Crocodile River. In front of me are two sand bars with about 20 crocodiles laying out on them. A herd of hippos is wading up river to lie down alongside them on the sand. This place rocks! It reeks of wildness.

I’m going to take these memories of the African wilderness home with me as a prod to keep me unsettled in my domesticated environment and committed to those parts of my life that are wild and haunted by the rumbling of hippos fighting in the distance.

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