Ours was the only vehicle on the remote dirt track when Kathryn stopped to pull out her binoculars. I searched the empty landscape, having already learned that where I saw an expanse of parched grasslands, she saw life.
All was silent save the ping of the diesel engine. I closed my eyes and pulled my neck scarf close. There was still a chill in the early November morning.
Kathryn killed the engine. I opened my eyes to the shimmering mirage of the vast Etosha salt pan as it emptied into the wide grasslands and followed her line of vision to a singular figure. Patterning the golden scrub grass, a spotted head, barely discernible, turned our way.
Cheetah, Kathryn said, confirming my unspoken hope.
The word alone hardly attested to the magnificence of the moment nor conveyed the excitement it produced as one solitary figure morphed into two, then three, four and five.
Cubs, Kathryn whispered, her voice tinged with anticipation and delight as the wild cat and her young cautiously approached and closed the distance to within a few feet of the Land Cruiser.
The sight generated an urge I struggled to make sense of. How could I communicate nature’s camouflaged brilliance, the elegance of movement, or the providence that had delivered the moment?
My photographer’s instinct kicked in as I attempted to capture the scene. But as time passed, I came to experience a different desire, a cameraless one that required more awareness than documentation. My flurry of shutter clicks soon dissipated into an elaborate sense of awe and wonder.