Tuesday, March 5, 2013


There is a saying in the USA – “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”  The weather in the Northern Hemisphere is stormy, wild and windy at the beginning of March – a lion.  By the time the month is ending, there are flowers appearing in trees, bulbs emerging from the ground and sun peeking through the clouds – a soft lamb signifying the beginning of spring.

I live in Africa.

I woke up this morning in a sweat.   My room has a ceiling fan and no air conditioning.  March (in Africa) comes in like hovering sun with sunglasses on and goes out the same way.  The summer here never knows when it’s time to leave.

As soon as I rose I showered, drank a cup of coffee and put my dogs, Zuzu and Peaches on their leashes.  They flipped out.  Normally their walk is after lunch or in the early evening (depending on how hot it is).  

We walked a familiar path, one I’ve grown accustomed to living here in Northriding.  It is 3.7 kilometers and it circles the property where we stay.  It is breathtakingly beautiful. 

I’ll show you. 

As you exit our gate there is a wide open field with tall grass in the summer.  It’s where moles and ferrets hide and the dogs love to dart out and see if anyone is there.  It’s a wild place that is fun to run around in.  Once a large jackrabbit bounded off, scaring our dogs, the first time they haven’t chased something.

We turn the corner and walk downhill, toward the blessing tree.  Mario and I believe that every bird you see is like God saying “Look, here’s how much I love you.  This is what I created for you!”  The blessing of seeing birds reminds us that everywhere are God’s blessings, small and large.   

The blessing tree is a large willow, situated happily over a pond.  It is filled with the nests of LARGE birds – the cranes, egrets and waterfowl nest there.  Some have nests in the branches, some at the base.  There is squawking and crying coming from its branches and in the summer I stop and look at them.  How come some places are FILLED with God’s blessings like this? 

Turn the corner again and there is a creek at the bottom of the hill.  It is overgrown and wild, framed by trees that don’t belong in South Africa.  The creek sometimes has things in it like bottles or bags.  That makes me sad, but it is a shady spot and we stop and watch for frogs or lizards or something.

From there we begin a slow incline, no shade, only sun.  The dogs start to pant and move slower.  I guess I do too.  Some paths in our lives are a climb and have no shade, but they are necessary to walk through if you want to get home. 

The top of the hill is where we turn again, by the stables.  The horses are all gorgeous, and many times dressage practice is held there.  It is spectacular to watch, even though I know I’ll never be a part of that world. 

Halfway up the road are the homes to all of the ferocious dogs in Northriding.  They are big and scary looking and they get Z and P all stirred up, but I try to remain calm.  They are all fenced in and can’t hurt me. 

As I crest the hill, there is an idyllic portrait of Northriding.  It looks like a folk art painting, hills rising and falling, all in different shades of green.  It is a mountaintop moment, if the weather is good the view is stellar; if the weather is bad the view is stellar.  I pause here each time.

Our last turn takes us back to  Valley Road.   The first part is lined with gum trees and the wind (when there is one) ruffles the leaves and refreshes me.  It is shaded and easy. 
Next is the bridge with a creek that runs under it- the same creek that was wild and overgrown with shade (and sometimes polluted). 

My dogs love this side of the creek.  Freshwater crabs are just below the surface and Zuzu and Peaches growl at them.  If they ever did surface, the dogs would back away.  The crabs have nipped them before and they won’t make that mistake again.

The hill rises slowly and we approach our house.  Our neighbors have playful watch dogs and love to run up and down the fence line pretending to be disturbed by us.  They are the Mastiffs, gorgeous and playful.  I love this stretch. 

Our gate means we get to rest.  There is nothing as beautiful as coming home.  Today I fed them both a very nice meal early – their regular food mixed with good stuff that made them gobble it down.  They lap up water and look at me – they are suspicious why their treats all came before linch.  The answer pulls up to our gate in the form of a van driven by a man bearing a bill of lading. 

“Are they ready to go?” he asks me.  Why the hell is he smiling? 

Zuzu and Peaches will make the trip before us.  We packed them into little wooden boxes like they were going around the corner.  Instead they will fly over the Atlantic and arrive tomorrow in Atlanta to be poked and prodded by examiners making sure they have no fleas or worms. 
From there they will fly to Kansas City where my friend Denise and her daughter Gabrielle (good friends who Looooove our dogs) will keep them until we find a place in the USA.  Then we will “send for them” and Denise will come and deliver them to their new home. 

Theirs and ours. 

It was our last walk together today.  Our walking course has been a place for prayer, reminders of His promises and a time to think in a busy world.  I will miss it- I will miss the dogs desperately until I see them.

I put them into those crates today and said goodbye for at least a month.  They looked betrayed, as if they couldn't believe I was doing this to them.  Someone they trusted, someone they lived with closely now closing them into a tight space where they feel confined. 

It’s terrible to be put in a box you’re too big for.

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