Speak softly and carry a big, strong stick!!!!

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In 2003, John and I hopped a jet and flew to our honeymoon destination…Africa!  Remember the days when you thought you were invincible?  We  were up for anything on this trip which is why we signed up to track rhino on foot.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  The intensity of not knowing what could happen, or what was around the next bend, was thrilling.  We arrived at the Matusadona Water Wilderness camp in Zimbabwe.  Matusadona in the Shongan tribal language means “falling dung”.  Just a conversation piece for your next happy hour.  Our guide was as tall as the Acacia trees with a very deep voice and a rifle at his side.  We walked quietly for hours in the bush hoping to get a glimpse of this very special black rhino.

After many hours of trekking through the bush trying not to spook the elephants (only a tiny bit stressful), our guide picked up a large stick.  He explained to us that although the rangers are armed they will loose their license if they were to shoot a rhino. Yes, even in self defense.  Say WHAT??? So what’s the plan, I wanted to know and why wasn’t this in the brochure?  Ok,  so I figured out the answer to the later question, but seriously, what was the plan???  In the event of a “charge“, our guide, armed with a long, large stick  would use this to hit the horn of an oncoming rhino to divert the attack.  OK not the best plan, but that’s what we get for not asking the right questions before we signed up for this adventure.

There are so many times in our lives when we feel the need to do something crazy, or we make decisions without having all the facts.  Have you ever found yourself in a situation only to realize you don’t have a backup plan or perhaps you don’t have a plan at all?  All of those life lessons came down to this one encounter with this gorgeous, endangerd species standing just a few feet from us.

So now I’m in the bush with my husband of 6 months and a large, termite eating, African man who’s only method to protect us is the large stick he picked up off the ground.   Lucky for us, the rhino eventually tired of us and we were once again safe…well as safe as you can be, on foot, in the bush.  Our guide threw the stick to the ground and it shattered in a million pieces.  That’s right, folks, we were completely unprotected the entire time.  John and I had  trusted that we were safe.  Trusted that the guide had our backs.  Trusted that he had picked the right stick.  I will always remember my feeling of shock as I saw the bits of termite ridden wood fly across the ground.

Now there is nothing worse than not learning from your mistakes or life lessons.   So when we started on our second day of rhino tracking, I had a plan. As we started our walk I picked up a super strong, termite free, “knock-the-dung-out-of-you” strong kinda stick and carried it with me for the duration of our trek.  When we came upon the second rhino I silently handed my stick to the guide.  He responded in a very deep African accent, “chakanaka” (‘thank you’ in his native language).  I knew John and I were not strong or skilled enough to use the stick, but the weapon I had chosen would protect us!  This time I was in charge of choosing the right tools for our protection.

So nine years later we find ourselves face to face with another “large beast”.  We started this trek with the first stick we could get our hands on.  We are halfway through treatment (today!) and just finding out how to best protect ourselves against its ensuing charge.  Once again we have learned that it is best to pick your own stick.  That’s right, our first stick was riddled with termites.  We have spent weeks looking for the “right” stick to protect against “the beast” –  and we are happy to say we’ve found it.  This stick is made up of the perfect mix of doctors, nurses, friends, family, food, fitness and faith.  It will protect us and we can proceed knowing we made the right decisions.

Gardening Update:

I am halfway through treatment today.  Can I have a Whooop whooop!!! I was so excited that I celebrated before treatment this morning.  How you ask??? I went for an I-feel-super-strong four mile run.  It felt so good. I felt so strong.  I was on a mental high.  This is the longest distance I have been able to run since treatment started.  I wish for all of you that you started your week off the very same way. You deserve it!  If you haven’t, there is still time…today is not over yet!

Thanks for keeping me smiling!

Sue

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4 responses »

  1. Among a million other things, you are a great story teller! Thank you for your words! Oh, and big high fives from the Talley clan for your treatment milestone!

  2. So happy to read this after hearing your story. You are a wise woman. I am inspired to hear how in control and driven you are about your journey. Helplessness would bring you down, but you have taken the reigns. Good for you!

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