ANSWERING THE QUESTION AND THE CALL
Every Sunday night, I bring my grandmother home after dinner at my parent's house. It's our weekly time for the two of us to talk. For the past few months the conversation has been dominated by one question. Each drive begins with a polite "so how are you doing"? As rehearsed, I tell her I'm doing well. We both seem almost relieved once this ritual icebreaker is out of the way. Now we can get on with what we really want to talk about. She will often next look at me, with excitement in her 90+ year old eyes and ask "tell me again, why are you going"?
This is THE question.
Many have asked the same since I made the decision to go, but she seems the most happy to repeatedly ask. A few months ago, I decided it was time to honor the call long howling inside. Something primal that drew me to the center of the globe, the heart of the world, the mother continent. It has always been Africa. For as long as I can remember, for as long as I could dream, who I was, called out for this land. The legendary home of adventure.
I give her a different answer every week. It isn't difficult to do. This is especially true when you have been planning this trip for nearly 25 years. It is also convenient. There is no way I could provide a full explaination in the brief 20 minutes we have together. Instead, each week, we have progressivley worked through ALL of the reasons. Like chapters, in one very big book.
She knows I have to. The family legend is I roared before I ever spoke. It's true...ask my sisters. And even when I could speak, if I were upset, I'd roar over using my words. I still get some weird looks in the office ... that's a joke, I stopped in college ... I wish that was a joke. The truth is I've never really "fit" the mold for "civilization." There has always been a part of me that was a little feral. Something wild. I have tried to meet the expectations. I have tried to fit in, but the domestic thing has always found a way to disappoint. In the wake of this, the old dream bellowed out like the twilight call of lions. The mysteries of the Zambezi would pour into my mind. It was time to go home.
Africa remains one of the last homes of a truly great adventure. A test of mental and physical fortitude. A place where you can really place the soul on the anvil and test your metal. I am going to Africa because it is in adventure, in these wild places, I am most myself. It is a truth I have long known and a truth long neglected. It has starved the soul and under an entirely new night sky, beholding new heavens and stars, I will feast on the wonders I have only been able to dream of.
When I think of Africa, I am immediately five years old again, but instead, now it is real. It is mine, to see and realize. Setting foot there will actually be living a dream. It is going home to a place I have never been but have always known. The answer could be so simple, "because I have to," but the why is where the magic is. I think this is why she asks each week. The question ignites me and once my passion soars into the reasons of the week she sits back and smiles. She knows why, I think she just likes hearing from her grandson. The one that once roared, roaring once more.
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