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Mother Nature’s no lady

Daily Prompt: Safety First

Share the story of a time you felt unsafe.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us SAFETY.

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Safe but insecure, as the night burned on, we kept our distance, dully ashamed of our inability to do anything but watch from our tents. It was a nagging toothache of a fear — not for our own safety, but for the animals that were affected. The owners of Kalizo Lodge know how to fight veld fires. If the need arises they do take action, but most of these bush fires are left to burn themselves out. One trigger would have been to protect the unique colony of carmine breasted bee-eaters nearby. Over 5000 birds now nest in holes in the ground since their river bank was washed away by floods. Earlier that afternoon we’d watched them darting about and taking spiralling dives into the river. Even then the sky was grey with ash as the fire grew in intensity. By the following morning all that remained was a vast expanse of smouldering ashes, where once there had been thick bush and tall trees. It took days for the sky to regain its colour.

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Best friends

Daily Prompt: Love to Love You

What do you love most about yourself? What do you love most about your favorite person? Are the two connected?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us LOVE.

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I love that I am little
because you lift me up
I love that you are wiser
because you show me the way
Perhaps one day you’ll need me
as I now depend on you
to keep shadows at bay

Leafy layers

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My book Upside Down is ready for publication on Smashwords. I have my cover, the editing’s done. But like this robin chat I can’t resist turning over a few more leaves just in case. The trouble is, there are so many layers to our lives. My book is fiction, but it is based on historical events. When is the research done? When is enough enough? My editor says the time has come. She even edited out some extraneous detail. I couldn’t agree more. But when someone sends an sms to say he’s got more to say … I’m tempted. And when I read another book, one that contradicts earlier facts … I wonder.

I’ve told myself that a work of fiction is just that. I am not obligated to get every detail right. My characters are allowed to be fallible too. Their opinions are not the last word. But still, I feel compelled to look, to dig beneath those layers of leaves and scrabble through the dirt.

Search and rescue

Daily Prompt: Google and Rescue Operation

What was the last thing you searched for online? Why were you looking for it?

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Google does not have all the answers. After scouring the ether fruitlessly trying to identify a bird, I finally resorted to the old-fashioned method. I looked it up in a book.

Guma Lagoon in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, is a bird lover’s paradise. But because I prefer binoculars to a camera, I missed a wonderful opportunity to capture an unusual bird on film. Instead I observed it as carefully as I could.

It looked like a crested barbet, shape, size and behaviour, but was quite the wrong colour. I walked round and round his tree. He was in full midday sun so there was no mistaking his dark eye, barred tail, black bib and wing feathers, but he had no black crest or red feathers on his head. The crest was there, but it was pale yellow. In fact his whole head was yellow and the rest of him was so pale I’d call it cream. He watched me curiously as I studied him for at least half an hour.

Back in camp I searched our handbooks without success. There was no bird remotely like the black and white “ghost” I’d seen. We’ve had barbets nesting in our garden for thirty years. I know them well. But we’ve never had one like that. For the rest of our stay I haunted the pool area, camera in hand, hoping to see him again, but nope.

Google had to wait until I got home because connections were too slow for doing anything more than the absolute minimum online. But even then, I had no luck. I left queries with various birding associations and clubs, without success. Then finally I hauled out our gigantic Roberts Birds of Southern Africa (VIIth edition) and found my answer under “Crested Barbet”:
“Confusing species: None. [Full and partial albinism recorded, birds generally white or cream-white, with pinkish on upper tail and red streaking on forecrown and base of bill.]” (Ref: Kemp & Kemp 1972)

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Weekly photo challenge: Habit

Weekly photo challenge: Habit

Button is addicted. The scent of vinyl drives him wild. A squeak excites him to the point of lunacy. He’s a killer whale playing with his prey. He pushes a ball under the furniture just to get us to pull it out. His habit has become ours. The house and garden are littered with obsolete toys. Not a day goes by without a game, or two, or three, or more… until at last he passes out, snoring gently like a cellphone vibrating on silent. His paws twitch as he dreams of tomorrow when it will all begin again.

My ducks in a row

On the 15th of November last year I wrote a post about yellow-billed ducks that landed on our pool. Well, today they came back – almost a year later.

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MRS DUCK: Hmmm, November 5th. Isn’t it time for our annual visit to the Sly family?
MR DRAKE: ……. [Yes dear]

Unfortunately, despite the new camera, the photography course and three months of practice, I’m no better at getting the shot than I was a year ago. Taking photos through glass is not my thing. So this is the same snap you saw last year. But I have a new picture in my head: two ducks taking off vertically, dripping with water, Mrs Duck quacking away:

MRS DUCK: You might have mentioned, it was the 15th, we’re a week early!
MR DRAKE: SSSSSSSSssso we are [snide hiss]

Today’s prompt was to imagine a conversation with a character from literature or film. I was going to write about Scarlett O’Hara. Gone with the Wind is one of few films where the girl manages to break the heart of the handsome “hero” rather than the other way round. I first saw it when I was at school and had just read the book, so I was critical of all the ways in which the film departed from the “true” story. Since then I’ve seen the film so many times that I’ve forgotten where the book differs, but Vivien Leigh just blows me away every time.

Terry Coleman’s biography Olivier describes the tempestuous relationship between Vivling and Larry. Their lifestyle rivalled Tara for sheer splendour, but the relationship still ended in tragedy. Vivien did not have her ducks in a row, anymore than Scarlett.

And if I did do some time travel and confront Scarlett/Vivien in her living room at any point in her life, I know she’d still come off best. There is no way I could ever persuade her to change her mind about anything. So I might as well just go back to my own ducks. (Thank God.)

Locking tusks

Locking tusks
Today we locked tusks, the matriarch and I.
Conflicted whether to fight or fly,
I gathered my courage, looked into her eye …
then ran away … with trunk held high.