25 August 2017

My brief sojourn of silence and solitude; enjoying God's great out-of-doors at Mabira Forest

Since 1992, Kenya has had a history of tribal clashes surrounding their elections. They are a young nation and learning this foreign concept of democracy has not been easy. During my almost 16 years living here, there have been four elections - 2002, 2007, 2013, and this year, 2017.

You may remember how bad things got following the 2007 election. It's referred to as Post-Election Violence and was the top world news for weeks on end. When the disputed winner was announced, chaos and mayhem broke out. Close to 1,500 people were brutally killed and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes. Businesses, homes, and churches were looted and burned to the ground. This political, humanitarian, and economic crisis put the nation at a stand-still for a full two months. It was not a pleasant time!

And so, like so many others - foreigners and locals - I decided to get away from Kenya during the days surrounding this year's election on August 8th. During the 2013 election, I opted to take a little vacation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; this time I crossed the border to Uganda spending some time in both Jinja and Kampala.

I arrived at Mabira Forest on the 7th and didn't leave until the 10th. There was zero internet reception the entire time I was in the forest. It was wonderful to not be engrossed in what was going on!

Mabira is a rainforest about an hour from Jinja. I stayed at a small cottage in a place called Griffin Falls Campsite and thoroughly enjoyed myself! I met and chatted with folks from around the world: Japan, Poland, Hungary, etc. Some came for the forest itself, some for bird-watching, and some for the zip-line. Some stayed for a night or two, and others came just for the day.

I did one long hike with Hussein, our guide, plus several short ones on my own. I was always on the alert for spotting the Red-Tail monkeys, as they jumped from tree to tree high up on the forest canopy. I reveled in the variety and colors of the many, many butterflies - so lovely. One day, I ventured out for a two-hour hike alone.... in this place where the trails are not marked! Luckily I found my way back.

In the afternoons, ah... I sipped chai and listened to the rain; there's nothing better than that! Each evening and into the night, I built and stoked a campfire, all-the-while listening to the sounds coming from within the forest: monkeys, Turaco birds, owls, tree hyrax, etc.

Please join me now, on a short excursion into the forest!

I think I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray. 

Poems are made by fools like me 
But only God can make a tree.

~ Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), American poet
[excerpts from her poem titled, Trees]

This fern, as small as my finger and on the floor of the forest, was so amazingly delicate

The sudden appearance of mushrooms after a summer rain
is one of the more impressive spectacles of the plant world.
~ John Tyler Bonner, 
biology professor at Princeton University

If I am united with Jesus Christ,
I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing.
A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey God’s message to me.
What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things.
~ Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest

Come to the woods, for there is rest.
There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.
~ John Muir (1838-1914), 
Scottish-American environmental philosopher

It's good to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment,
to tune in to the smells, textures, tastes, and sights of the forest. 
Today, most people spend much of their lives indoors, tethered to devices.
It takes a while to clear out the clutter in our brains and tune in to the natural world.
The environment of a forest can boost our immunity and mood, plus lower our stress.
~ An article on "Forest Bathing", 
National Public Radio

There were many, many butterflies in the forest - SO fun to watch as they frolicked in the air.
Many were prettier than this one, but they weren't still long enough to get a photo.

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.
~ John Muir (1838-1914), 
Scottish-American environmental philosopher

Hussein was our very able guide on a two-hour hike in the forest.
The four of us stopped often to crouch low and look at the variety of mushrooms and red ground flowers,
or to gaze at the butterflies fluttering around us and the beautiful wildflowers. We were in awe of our surroundings.
Here we are at a rare clearing in the forest, near the waterfall, where we had enough light for a good photo of us.

[Note: I took 68 photos plus a few videos during my three days in the forest. I managed to reduce it down to these 10 photos for this blog post.]

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