When people talk of the exquisite quiet of the African bush at night, it’s not an actual silence they’re talking about. It’s a peacefulness, a calmness, a joyous dark solitude, for sure. Uninterrupted by streetlights or the white noise of the city, the night gets to flap its cape about, turning everything to a deep blue, flecked with a gazillion stars. The bushes wiggle and dance in your eye’s periphery, as the night creatures wake.
It’s not really quiet, though. In truth, it’s incredibly loud, a night in the wilds of Africa. At Leopard Walk Lodge, in northern KZN, I sat on the huge stoep of the main lodge, privileged to be the only one there at the time, looking over to the waterhole as shy buck came down to drink in the deepening dusk. And listening, to that raucous silence. As the sun set, prehistoric hadedas shouted their day’s news at each other flapping heavily across the sky, returning to their roosts after a hard day of hadeda-ing about.
The sky turned deep blue (that shade so startling that it squeezes my heart tight each time I see it), the full moon rose above the thorn tree in front and the Evening Star showed herself. The insects whirred and cackled, hissed and giggled, as I made my wish on that first star I saw. The same wish I’ve been making since March, each time I see the first star light up in the night sky. A plea to the universe.
And then the crickets start up, ‘n groot geraas, and the frogs begin their croaking chorus, as the full fat moon climbs higher in the darkening sky. A slight movement on the sidelines as more buck pass by, a buffalo, so quietly they could be tip-toeing. Maybe they are. They’re quiet, for sure, those creatures (and, probably, hopefully, a leopard or two, silently hidden in a tree nearby, watching me not seeing them), but the African night itself is the most silent, soothing, cacophony one could wish for.
Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. Wish I may, wish I might, wish upon this star tonight.