A family of four aging in range from 3 to 83 observe giraffes somewhat differently from each other.
Walking wide-eyed behind the ranger through the long grass of the Umfolozi game reserve, the family Byron were mostly in high spirits. They were right in amongst a whole journey of giraffes. The giraffes were placid and in no hurry to get anywhere, and almost totally ignored the humans.
3 Year old Trish was in her push cart. the one with the big, off-road, bicycle wheels and the bright red handles. Her eyes searched out from her place of safety and she saw just grass and still taller grass. She started to scan upwards and all of a sudden a bony white leg came into view with a few brown patches on it. It alarmed her but her eyes kept tracking up the bony legs till the more definite mosaic of brown patches on the body came into view. But even yet there was more. As her head tilted back further and further, she started to see other giraffes and trees behind the giraffes and the long necks seemed to be as tall as the trees and they were all as tall as the big African sky. It was suddenly all just too much for little Trish and she rent the air with a piercing scream. The giraffes all jerked their heads up at the sudden sound and clip-clopped a couple of steps away from the humans, but then settled down and resumed browsing from the leafy tops of the trees.
Trish’s young mother, Marie picked her child up and patted her and she soon forgot her fright and gurgled as she was popped back into her push cart. Marie had been only 20 when she had mothered Trish and the world seemed a complicated place for her. She didn’t really want to be here and she found the animals rather boring. At the same time, she was fascinated at the way the big pouchy mouths of the giraffes rippled as they ruminated over their branches, and their teeth seemed to grin, or grimace maybe? Her mind was far away with a man who wasn’t there for her but should have been, with a pile of bills that couldn’t be paid, and with a house that was soon going to be taken from her. She was grateful that Granddad had invited them all to be here in the game reserve. It was a welcome distraction.
Thirteen year old Annie, younger sister by far of mother Marie, was delighted by the giraffes. They are so cool she enthused. I just love those enormous brown eyes. Annie was running through the nose high grass, arms stretched to the heavens and laughing as she weaved between the forest of giraffe legs. The animals didn’t seem to care too much and just kept on munching. “Granddaddy” she pleaded, “please can we get a giraffe at home. We can keep him on the small holding and I will feed him every single day and clean his stall and ride him and maybe I can learn to slide down his neck”. She didn’t wait for the answer that she knew would be a laughing refusal but started to climb a tree so she could see everything from higher up. The world was enormous from up there and she thought the giraffes were the funniest animals she had ever seen. At least from this vantage point in the tree, she could look down and perceive the world as the giraffes perceived it.
Old Granddad, still young at heart even though he had turned 83 on his last birthday, observed and said very little. Eventually though, when the chatter had died down a bit, he stroked his chin and spoke softly. “The giraffe is a wise old animal he said. It has survived for 2 ½ million years. It will defend itself fiercely if attacked but is otherwise a peace loving and inoffensive animal. It sees the world from a great height and knows things that other animals don’t know. It has a magic about it that everybody loves and some have worshipped. It enjoys each day without trying to impress or to take what belongs to others or to encroach on their rights. The world would be a happier place if humans behaved more like giraffes”. He looked up into the face of the nearest giraffe and winked at it – and he thought the giraffe winked back.
The sun was setting over the planes and the family lapsed into thoughtful silence as their guide led them back towards the camp. They all felt peaceful after the day, walking through the tall African grass amongst the gentle giants of nature, and even Marie felt closer to the wild and further from the harsh realities, of the world of humans.