Lions out of Focus

Focus is the central point of attention or activity. Of course there are other meanings for specific areas such as optics, geometry and geology. But in a general sence, we may agree that it’s important to focus on whatever you want to get done. My tiny lesson is on the how we focus on something we want to accomplish.

I learned this lesson many years ago in the early evening hours of a beautiful day in Zambia (there are many lessons I learned in that country, will come back to some of those in future posts). We had embarked on our first safari ever. Not driving ourselves like we used to do later, but actually buying a “package”. That meant flying from Lusaka to Chipata, a small town in eastern Zambia close to the Malawi border, in a small plane with huge windows reaching almost to the floor. And then taking a four-seater to the smallest grassy air strip you can imagine (seen “Out of Africa”, that kind) in Mwufe National Park.

We had arrived at the lodge and gotten settled in our room by five in the afternoon. Having two hours to spear before the camp dinner, we opted for a “sunset drive” in the park. Maybe we would spot some animals, with a bit of good luck even one of the “big five” on our first ever safari night? So we settled in a typical “safari jeep”, you know one that’s completely open and has a couple of seat rows behind the driver, each set a bit higher up than the one in front of it. My husband sat in the front passenger seat on the left with his RCA camcorder (they were huge then!) ready to capture the sights and any wild animals we might encounter. I sat in the next row with our son, who was about three at the time. Our guide drove us around in the park and we saw many different types of antelopes, zebras and water buffaloes. It was very exciting!

About an hour into the drive, our guide told us that before we’d return to the lodge for dinner, he would drive us down to the river to see the sunset. It was spectacular, he said, and there was a good chance we would spot animals who came there to drink in the early evening hours.   A few minutes later we approached the river banks. Already from afar, we could see a huge herd of elephants crossing the river.  My husband rigged his camcorder. Can you picture the long line of elephants against the orange-red sky, moving rhythmically in the shallow water?  The sight was almost magical. They were of all sizes: large adults, youngsters, teens and babies. The babies were hanging onto their mothers while trying to hold their heads over the water. They were adorable. My husband was filming them against the gorgeous sunset. We stopped on the high river bank and the driver left the engine running (we were in the wild).

Just at that moment we spotted 22 (I counted) lionesses! They were laying on the driver’s side of the vehicle, basking themselves in the last rays of the setting sun and strategizing, I imagined, about the upcoming hunt. They were close and very calm.  We watched them breathlessly from the relative safety of our vehicle (and the driver of course had a rifle, just in case). Suddenly my hubby moved. He stepped down onto the ground from the open jeep – to get a better shot of the sunset over the river! He was so focused on filming the herd crossing the river and the huge red ball going down that he had not seen what we saw, the lions. He had also not heard the driver’s whisper warning us about the lions (quiet, don’t move!). His focus was solely on what he wanted to capture. In an instant, he was the easy catch, a free meal, so to speak. I was about to scream, but the driver was faster. In a fraction of a second, or so it felt, and without a word he grabbed my husband’s shoulder and pulled him back into the vehicle. Then he backed out of there, slowly and calmly.

That was a close call. My tiny (my hubby’s big) lesson was on the how we focus on something. It actually matters. We should focus on what needs to get done, but not so narrowly that we lose sight of what is going on around us. Things can change fast.

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