Just off the plane, I smelled the spice of the wind and knew I was some old place of my soul. Even at 5:00AM in the mid-century chrome-edged simplicity of the Durban, South Africa airport, with my head vaguely buzzing from 30 hours and more of intercontinental air travel, I could feel Her – my ancient brown round grandmother, welcoming me home.
The ocean was choppy and wild as we arrived at our overnight home in Umhlanga, north of Durban, the Teremok boutique hotel. The wind was blustering through the tropical trees, as I threw open all the windows of my Juliet suite and let the wildness blow through. I melted in the hot bath as the sun rose cantaloupe ripe over the Indian Ocean.
I watched by addicted hand reaching for my iPhone, my mind racing to find reasons to justify the impulsive habit of the device grab. No. This is the beginning of my device detox, my re-wilding, my coming home to my natural self.
I got quiet instead, and felt into my own intention for this radical journey. I know better than to walk into such an adventure without a transformation to make for myself. And although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’m going to share with you my own inner longing, and intention, and prayer, based on what’s been torturing me for years.
See, with my 50th birthday, and the associated hormonal shifting, I’ve grown fluffier than I’ve been in a while. Chubbier. Rolls at the bra line occasionally make me cringe at pictures of myself, sending a strange surge of shock and even panic through me.
What is this panic? In so many ways, I love how I feel in my body. I love how my Beloved adores me. I love that my strong body is fully able, pain-free, and insatiable for pleasure. I find myself beautiful, sumptuous, and delicious. Yet when I see my reflection, this occasional reaction of subtle disgust at my own changing body has been inwardly torturous.
It has revealed an unspoken inward demand I’ve always had with myself – the requirement that I always be arguably the “prettiest” girl in the room. Even when I was young, and my body fit the cultural ideal… even when I was modeling in my bathing suit, and fending off advances constantly… this inner brutality was there, quietly critiquing every little imperfection in my appearance. Yes, I know I’m not alone in this. 😉
Well, here I am, standing on the precipice of the second half of my life, and I am determined not to let this petty prettiness demand stand in my way any longer. I have too much to do in my coming years as a grown-ass powerhouse of womanliness. I won’t fall prey to the never-ending distraction of fighting “aging.”
I want to be natural. I want to stay wild. I choose to redefine beauty. And that is the intention I took with me to Africa. And that is the magic door I opened as I began this journey.
Now it would be my turn to watch and see and receive the lessons as they came, in the reflection of my companions and the natural world. I felt ready. And so it was time to meet the women I’d be journeying with for the next week.
Some of the other women who would attend the walking safari retreat with me were already arrived at the guesthouse hotel. And they created a perfect diverse council. The scientist advisor. The elder. The healer. The surgeon. The lonely gifted. The vixen. The innocent huntress. I knew that each of these women would reflect to me something of myself, something I needed to see. Because that’s how these transformational group things work.
And as the monkeys infiltrated the dining room to snatch sugar packets off the tables where we sat lingering over breakfast, I felt I’d truly arrived in Africa….
In the next part, I’ll describe my first day in the wilds, and what a mating lion sounds like.