I shuddered myself awake. I could see nothing in the opaque blackness of my tent, but my ears perked to the sonorous grunts of a hungry male lion just outside the entrance. My body froze. Time stopped. My eyes groped through the sheet of darkness to latch onto something familiar to calm me, but my ears beat them to it. Amidst the pride’s growls, I heard the soothing tone of my parents’ voice next door, “It’s alright girls. Just go back to sleep.” I took a deep breath, mumbled something to my sister, and closed my eyes again, this time using the grunts as a lullaby.
Fourteen years old and traveling to Kenya for a safari trip with my parents and older sister, I was placed into an exotic atmosphere with little sense of personal direction. I was at that age when I became disgruntled if called a child, too young to navigate myself through the rich wilderness of the Serengeti. And yet, I was still old enough to realize the life lessons that nature manifests each day the golden sun rises behind the Acadia trees along the horizon.
My most vivid memory of the trip was when my family and I spotted a heard of elephants alongside a dirt path. Most of them passed apathetically without even noticing our vehicle. But the matriarch, nurturing two baby elephants who cowered under her for protection, instinctively sensed danger, flapping her ears and stomping in a frenzy to defend her offspring. In a few moments, she communicated with her babies that it was safe to move along again, leaving me scratching my head with wonder. Glancing up at my mother, I felt the maternal warmth of her presence penetrate me as I mused upon the interaction of the elephants. Hours later, a native told us that the herd was seen meandering ten miles north of our original spot. The baby elephants’ home was constantly changing at a young age, but it did not matter; as long as they were safe in their mother’s protective shadow.
A few days later, we spotted a group of young baby lions frolicking as their father sat among them. He had a grand appearance, watching over them while the mother was away. His job, our guide told us, was to provide a safe environment for his children while his lionesses hunted for food. As we observed the scene for hours, I glanced back and forth between the cubs’ playful tugging at their father’s mane and my sister’s nuzzling my father beside me. It finally dawned on me; home for these animals was wherever the family might be, wherever closeness and confidence were passed down from the parents to the children so they could overcome their own life encounters. Among the vast planes of the Serengeti, it began not to matter to me where I was, or where I ever was to travel; as long as I forever carried my parents’ security that they have instilled in me for years, it did not matter where I ended up.
In a western society in which parental nurturing and guidance is becoming evermore crucial for successful child development, it is sometimes necessary to remind ourselves to look to nature for direction. Even the mother robin teaching her baby bird to fly outside the window, I believe, can teach you for what values the family should stand: direction, strength, passion, and unity.