Posted in Africa, Nature, Photography, Travel

Waking up in Africa

photograph by Cheryl Merrill
photograph by Cheryl Merrill


An excerpt from my book: Larger than Life, Living in the Shadows of Elephants

We wake up together, the birds and I.  The sound of rustling tissue paper surrounds my tent – footfalls of francolins crushing bits of dry leaves.  Small as quail and stooped as old men, the birds flip leaf litter with their beaks, searching for beetles, cackling to themselves.

I stretch stiff muscles – amazed I slept at all.  During the night the roar of a lion woke me several times as he passed by.  I learned on my first trip to Africa that contrary to myth, and even though they roared with great regularity each night, lions really don’t consider tents as flimsy wraps for tasty humans.  Now all I hear are foraging birds.

I pull on a sweater, unzip the tent flaps, and take a single step outside.   Alarmed, the francolins squawk loudly and scatter into the bush.  I inhale deeply.  The crisp air carries just a hint of sage and smoke, along with the slight scent of a dusty barnyard.  On my way to the kitchen shelter, leaves crackle underfoot.

The sun rises  – radiating spokes on her crown like the Statue of Liberty – rises into an immense lemon sky that almost turns green before it turns blue.  Next to the shelter bare, wood-muscular branches on the Jackalberry tree blaze with light.


Cheryl Merrill’s essays have been published in Fourth Genre, Pilgrimage, Brevity, Seems, South Loop Review, Ghoti, Alaska Quarterly Review, Adventum and Isotope. “Singing Like Yma Sumac” was selected for the Best of Brevity 2005 and Creative Nonfiction #27. It was also included in the anthology Short Takes: Model Essays for Composition, 10th Edition. Another essay, “Trunk,” was chosen for Special Mention in Pushcart 2008. She is currently working on a book about elephants: Larger than Life: Living in the Shadows of Elephants.

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