As we settle into the New Year, Samantha du Toit wonders why we like to think of it as ‘new’. Out in the bush, from the zebras on the plains to the hyenas whooping near the tents, today is just another day.
The time has come to reset the calendar, make some resolutions for the next year and take stock of 2019. It seems we call it a ‘new’ year, but this time, as we sipped tea and watched the sunrise over the unusually green, grassy plains behind camp, I found myself wondering why we like to think of it as ‘new’. What is ‘new’ and how does it apply to the things that surround us?
To much of the immediate world around us, from the zebras on the plains to the hyenas whooping near our tent, and the Egyptian Goose who has recently appointed himself our early morning wake-up call, today is just another day. Yes, it might be a warmer day or a cooler day, or a day where food is plentiful, or indeed a day when it is not, but ultimately it is just another day. And to some things, like the thousands of different types of caterpillars which have appeared as a result of the rains, their lifetime is not even close to a year, and a single day is a significant portion of their lives.
When discussing this with the children it gave me the opportunity to explore what a year really is, and why it is the length it is. Delving into the world of our solar system for the first time since leaving school, it was fun to share with the children the story of our planet earth in relation to the stars and planets they see in the sky every night. At the moment, Venus shines brightly down on us from the west as we sit by the evening campfire. Their eyes grew wide with amazement at the idea that our earth and other planets orbit the sun, and how some very clever humans a long time ago worked out that it is possible to calculate the length of these cycles, and that is how we have arrived at the length of our year.
Despite all of this though, I have found myself thinking about what is ‘new’ and looking at the months ahead with fresh eyes. To appreciate the cyclical nature of things is reassuring, and to be able to press pause every now and again to re-assess things is refreshing. So what is new? Well, there is new life everywhere thanks to the incredible amount of rain we have experienced over the past few months. Grass species not seen in years have sprouted, and caterpillars in shapes, colours and sizes that I have never seen before are munching away on all the bushes. We also invented a new solution to our internet struggles – a phone ‘hotspot’ in a plastic bottle which we hoist up the thorn tree next to our office tent much like hoisting a flag. It works surprisingly well for a low-tech solution. And perhaps this will form some of the resolutions for this year. Keep everything as simple as possible, and keep remembering that every day is a new day but at the same time, it is just another day.
Samantha du Toit is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai land trust. She lives with her husband, Johann, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy.