Lithe the leopard is woken by the gentle warmth of sunlight on her back. A glorious new day greets her. A cacophony of birdsong heralding the arrival of a new season, Acacia budding yellow flowers, the sky a forever blue waiting for windblown clouds bringing rain. The wonderful hopefulness when spring comes calling.  She is excited too, it is powwow day. Time to meet the rest of the Big Five at the watering hole.

Sporting her new leopard-print bikini, Lithe is greeted with an amazing sight at the waterhole. Spring is really in the air and all around the gathering place colourful posters flutter in the acacia trees.  Bill Buffalo and Rambo Rhino are using their horns to attach posters to the thorn trees.

Zion is lazing in the sun, admiring brightly painted nails on her giant paws. Tusk is sporting a bright red ribbon on her tail and splashing water at anyone in proximity. The cackle of hyena skulk behind the fallen tree as always.  Zebra, Impala and warthogs stand out of harms way, watching the cavorting Big Five.

“Eish, spring fever,” a giraffe mumbles with a mouth full of leaves.

Lithe jumps into the tree closest to her.  She reads the poster: “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” Lithe wonders who Brené Brown is. Such wisdom. She jumps to the next tree, and the next, words of connection, authenticity, acceptance and tolerance dance in the breeze.

Zion and Tusk laugh at Rambo and Bill entangled  in a colourful banner reading “Not everyone has to ‘get’ you.” The two rumbustious friends have a difficult time untangling themselves. Lithe claws at the poster and hooks it to some thorns. “Really, I cannot leave the pair of you to your own devices,” she laughs, tears rolling over her cheeks.

“Ag, Lithe, the posters are so beautiful with so many truths, we could not wait for you to hang them,” Rambo rumbles shaking  her horn, and sporting a yellow ribbon.

The three saunter to where Zion and Tusk are basking in the sun.

“Jo, Zion, I like the nail polish is pretty bright. Where are my sunglasses,”Bill snorts.

“Ag, Bill, ” Zion quips, “You can be glad I like you, I was just wondering what to have for lunch.”

The others laugh.

“Sies man, Zion. I am not your lunch, I am your friend. Remember the words of Lizz Fosslien, ‘Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice and belonging is having that voice heard.’ Nothing about having friends for lunch,” Bill says anxiously.

Zion roars with laughter. “We have a special bond, Bill. I know, I was just joking. I love that quote and that one even more,” and points a bright red nail to where the banner flutters in the wind.

Tusk reads aloud: “Life is good when you are happy; but is much better when others are happy because of you.”

“Mm,” Rambo says, “especially when no-one here lives vicariously.

“Vicar,what,” Bill snorts.

“Nee man, Bill. V-I-C-A-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y, nothing church there. Living vicariously is “experienced in the imagination through the feelings or actions of another person,” the dictionary says.  You need to live a life you would not trade with anyone else. Live your best life as authentically as it is supposed to be,” Tusk explains.

“Phew, thought I had to get a dog collar like a priest,” Bill laughs.

A spray of water splashes over Bill who nearly does a bollemakiesie. (somersault)

“You are way to flawsome for that, no need to change,” Tusk trumpets.

“Flawsome? You are all wordy today,” Bill says.

“You know who you are, flaws and all, and you are okay with it,” Rambo explains.

Rambo and Lithe start singing: “We are all flawsome, the Big Five flawsomes, awesome but flawsome.

“Friends, order.” Zion clears her throat. “Today we are supposed to powwow about diversity and belonging and …”

Her train of thought is broken when a southern ground hornbill comes walking by.

Shoulders hunched, red throat all crumpled like yesterdays’ laundry. Eyes downcast, lashes sweeping dust.

“Ag, shame,” says Tusk and approached the bird.

“Hallo I’m Tusk. These are my friends We are the Big Five.”

A low voice answers. “I am Bucorvus Leadbeateri the Threehundredth…sniff.”

The huge black bird with bright red throat and beautiful eyes, shakes with hurt.

Zion embraces the crying bird.

“Why so heartbroken,” she asks.

“Sniff, my family is in some parts associated with death, disaster and misfortune, and in other places revered for being the announcers of the rainy season. Some love us, others fear us, others hate us. It is like living  split lives. One place they rejoice, at another it is as if the gates of Hades swing open when we approach. And now, because people believe we call the rain, it has become a royal mess.  Thanks to climate change the seasons have changed, and now people are blaming us for that too,” Buco says, tears streaming  his baby blues.

Copyright Erna Maré 2014

Come, come sit here and let the Big 5 teach you some truths, then you can be flawsome awesome too. Don’t take everything personally,” says Zion and leads Buco to where the rest of the gang stand staring over the water.

Tusk smiles and starts listing things:

  • Hurt people, hurt people;
  • You cannot please all people all the time, you will lose you soul. Bob Dylan said that and he won a Nobel Prize, so take it to heart;
  • If you have to walk on eggshells with the company you keep, they are not your tribe;
  • Sometimes the filter you look through is smeared with hurt and pain and expectations. All just dust, you need to wash the filter clean. Your good cry has done some of the job. Here are some new glasses, you will see better now, new things.

With his new glasses Buco looks around. “O, this is a beautiful place,” he sighs as he notices  birds, flowers and animals around the watering hole.

Lithe goes on,  “We have also learnt that the only continuous character in the drama called our life is ourselves. So you choose if  you are the hero or villain in your life. You are the common denominator of all that you experience. You are permanently present in your story, no-one else has that power, unless you live vicariously.

Rambo adds, “Live a story worthy of telling. Share your experiences, joys and hurt, through them wisdom worth remembering will be your legacy.”

Zion interjects. “Anais Nin said:’ We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.’ Unless you live authentically, this can be very dangerous and muddy your outlook and approach to life and influence how you react to events.”

Bill snorts. “Sometimes life gives you a snotklap, but then your remember there will always be more snot tomorrow, and you shake your head back on straight and go on.  Not m y words, but  Cass Abrahams, on RSG and Lidi de Waal in one of her poems. ”

Tusk, Lithe and Rambo and Zion erupt in a loud affirmative, “Hallelujer.”

Buco stops crying.

“Phew, you have given me lots to think about. Can I linger a while,” he asks.

“You are welcome. Let us go and look at all the posters, Enough talking for today, and Tusk wraps her trunk around the birds’ shoulders and they join the others among the acacia trees.

Another powwow at the watering hole, full of surprises, don’t you think?