I’ve had the good fortune to take two trips to Kenya, one in 1999 and the second in 2004. It really is the greatest animal show on earth. What is happening there now is terribly disheartening. The Kenyan people have never known what it is like to have an honest, competent government and they deserve better. But when you have a young, educated population (most Kenyans finish high school and many have university educations), a lack of good jobs, a majority of the population that stills thinks more in terms of what tribe they belong to than being Kenyans and a one of the three most corrupt governments in the world, the stage is set for the situation that is occurring now. Kenya is very dependent on tourist income and when things exploded, I could hear the sound of safaris being cancelled. I don’t think that it would dangerously unsafe to travel there right now, since visitors have been wisked from the airport to the heavily guarded hotels and then out into the parks and reserves, also guarded, for a very long time due to the serious crime problem in Nairobi, but I wouldn’t take the chance myself until things calm down. The frustration level is clearly very, very high.
On a happier note from happier days for the country, I was fortunate enough to go on an art workshop safari with the late Simon Combes and nine other artists in October of 2004. (I plan to share some of my travel stories and the paintings that came out of them in this blog.) Afterwards, I flew back down to the Masai Mara and stayed a few days at a fantastic tented camp, Kekero, which in on the Talek River. Close enough that hippos woke me up at night with their grunting and roaring. Boo hoo. The routine, either on safari or at a tented camp, is to be awakened before dawn, which, with Kenya being on the equator, is always around 6am. Coffee and some cookies are delivered and you have 15-30 minutes to pull it together, get dressed and be out at the vehicles. So, every morning, you get to see the very light of the day, which suggested the title of this painting, “First Light”
He was a beautiful big boy, still resting after a night of feasting. It was magical to sit there as little by little the sun illuminated him in warm morning light. We had him all to ourselves and hung around until he got up and wandered off.
On the domestic front, I would like to introduce Persephone, who will be seven this year. We had gone to look at a puppy and the woman mentioned a cat she had rescued. Short version: the kitten wouldn’t get down off a fake ficus tree when ordered (!?) to do so, so was grabbed and thrown across the room into a wall. Grandson calls Grandma, who rushes over and takes the cat. Too many dogs in house, so cat ends up in the back carriage house of her small Victorian where we saw her, liked her, adopted her (puppy went to someone else). I watched for neurological damage, but she seemed fine (I know, some would say, with cats who can tell). We did have to take her to the vet for the removal of a front canine that had split vertically into three pieces after we noticed her jaw was swollen, undoubtedly an impact injury, but other than that she’s been fine. This is one of my favorite pictures from when she was about a year old.
She has ended up being not exactly a svelte cat, despite a weight management diet. She’s just an endomorph and has nicknames like The Princess, the Bon Bon and The Plush Princess. She is lightning fast though. I saw her catch a gopher once. Strike, pull it out of the hole in a split instance and then carry it off to eat the whole thing. Here’s a more recent photo. She really is a beautiful cat, but, boy, is she a princess.