Stillness in Sesriem.
“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen- that stillness becomes a radiance. “- Morgan Freeman
I’ve always had an issue with being still. To be still I thought was choosing to be otiose, unproductive and ineffectual, a sort of surrender to idleness that couldn’t possibly yield anything beneficial to my existence or that of others. Perhaps my uneasiness with being still can be accredited to my upbringing. Being alone, not just with my thoughts but also with my being as a whole was not something I was easily afforded growing up, especially when growing up with four siblings in a traditional African household. Personal space, in part due to the size of our apartment, was as mythical as Santa Claus, not speaking was almost always seen as a sign of disrespect or that something was wrong, and our day to day routine being factory-like- school, studies, extracurricular activities, chores, eat, sleep and repeat.
Reflecting on the aforementioned it’s easy to see how I had not only come to view stillness as a negative, but more so I realize that I inculcated those privative notions with my day to day behaviour, always feeling like I needed to move at a fast pace, that I must do, do and do, or else the day has been a waste. I remember a birthday trip to Dubai in March of 2015 where I was faced with a sandstorm blanketing the city that caused a few cancellations to some activities I wanted to do. I remember researching alternative tours I could book, even if last minute, so as to get the most out of my time there. I was stressing myself out about events out of my control – focusing and worrying about what I should be doing, instead of just appreciating and thoroughly enjoying where I was. As my friend Isaac had put it, “you’re always trying to do a million and one things. There’s nothing wrong with just sitting back and taking it easy for the day.” I ended up taking his advice, heading up to the rooftop of my hotel and just being still. I read, soaked in the pool and reflected on life and gave thanks to the universe for allowing me to celebrate another year on earth.
Years later, I would find myself on a road trip across Namibia, heading towards Sossusvlei, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert. My travel buddy, Kevin and I were in route from Solitaire by way of Walvis Bay and having spent a bit more time in Solitaire than planned, we were sort of in a hurry to get to Dune 45 in Sossusvlei for sunset. Though not the biggest of the red dunes in the desert, it’s easily one of the most photographed and visited dunes because of its proximity to the road while driving through the park. Furthermore, it’s a star dune, a radially symmetrical sand mound that resembles a pyramid. Because of this, one side of the mountain is cast in shadow during sunrise and sunset and as someone obsessed with sunrises and sunsets, I didn’t want to miss this magical display of nature.
Yet, as I was driving through Sesriem, racing towards something I had only heard and seen images of, I was ignoring the beauty of what I saw around me- an open road flanked by reddened canyons, the sun already beginning to set and the moon, words alone cannot describe how bright and full the moon was.
It seemed to be in reach, as if I all I had to do was hike to the peak of a canyon, extend my arms and touch it. So, I did something that I wouldn’t have done a few years ago and I pulled over.
In truth, to continue the journey that day into the Namib-Naukluft National Park would have meant passing this beautiful moment, in the chase for another, one that I would have only caught the tail end of while surrounded by other people also wanting to see the shadow cast on the dune. I was racing towards a “magical display of nature”, yet the universe was already presenting one to me. Come to think of it, I can see the full moon to be representative of a stop sign, one that was almost forcing me to me to stop, be still and bask in the radiance of where I currently was.
Standing there, in the open desert road I felt an indescribable peace-an immediate wave of calmness, the stress of “missing out” on Dune 45 washing away and I knew that I had made the right choice. I stretched my hand out to the sun, embracing its warmth, letting its shining brilliance radiate through me while being still. Aside from a few cars driving by, it was just Kevin and me in the arid vastness of the Sesriem roadside. We didn’t talk much; I think both realizing that this was a moment to just be as still and reflective as possible. In spaces like this, not much needs to be said anyway. I quieted my mind and being, letting nature do the talking and I listened and it was beautiful.
So I say to you, be still, be with your thoughts and be as present as possible. Be aware of what’s around you and keep in mind that sometimes there are signs that can lead us to further happiness and tranquillity that we miss in aimless pursuit of another. Truly, “the quieter you become, the more you can hear.” Be still.