One of the amazing things about the African bush is the symphony of sounds that are carried on the warm breezes during the course of the day and the night. The bush is never truly silent. Each insect, bird or animal has a distinctive musical signature. To those who have had the privilege of spending extended periods of time in the bush, quickly learn to recognize the “music of the heart of Africa” and the can identify its source. The bird calls are prolific, each one with a unique call. Animals both large and small have vocalization among themselves which communicate a variety of emotions that they are experiencing; from fear to contentment.
Throughout the uninhabited bush there are areas where pools of water collect during the rainy season and slowly shrink, eventually drying up at the height of the dry season. These areas are known as “salt pans” and the animals instinctively know how to find them to quench their thirst. It is not uncommon to see a whole spectrum of wild life mingle together around a salt pan as they satiate their thirst.
We have sat in the dubious security of a vehicle or up in a man-made viewing platform near a salt pan for many a pleasant hour. Our presence is not hidden from the animals as they all have a keen sense of smell. As long as we are still and quiet all is well as we do not pose a threat to them. We would sit drinking in the picturesque scene unfolding before us, listening to the distinguishing vocalization of the animals as they intermingled at the water’s edge. In a tree close by the call of the Grey Lourie; more commonly known as the “Go-away bird”; sounded the alarm of our presence. This bird’s call sounds as though he or she is saying “go-away”; to the hearer it instantly symbolizes the wonders of the Rhodesian bush.
A small herd of Impala hesitantly stepped out from the shelter of the scraggy bush and walked carefully to the water’s edge; ever alert even while drinking. Next a mother Warthog with 5 noisy squealing piglets came scampering across the dry sandy approach to the water. Across the salt pan two giraffe made quite the comical site with their front legs spread wide so their long neck could reach the water. Lurking under the surface of the muddy water was a veracious killer; a crocodile, just waiting for an opportunity to grab an animal that was not vigilant. Life in the bush can be cruel, survival of the fittest was lived out daily; but this was very much part of the natural rhythms of life.
Something to the side of our position caught our attention which caused us to hold our breath. As silently as the falling of the morning dew, a herd of elephant had moved within a few yards of where we were seated. It was mind boggling that such large animals could approach us so quietly that we were totally unaware of their presence until they moved into our line of vision. No wonder we love to call them “gentle giants”! They made their way confidently to the salt pan, they feared no enemies. The young elephants entertained us with their antics splashing with gay abandon as they played in the cooling water. Mothers would corral their little ones which strayed too far with gentle rumblings and nudges with their trunks.
Suddenly an eerie silence invaded the scene before us, not even the smallest bird was chirping. What had happened to change the tranquil scene that we were soaking in?
The animals showed their apprehension with every muscle ready for flight, except the elephants. The matriarch of the herd spun around with agility belying her bulk, letting out a powerful shriek while shaking her head. Instantly the herd closed ranks behind her putting the young ones in the center and out of harm’s way. The subject of her ire was the arrival of four lionesses either on the hunt or simply wanting a drink! Smaller animals took the opportunity to flee to the safety of the bush while the elephant Matriarch challenged the lionesses’ right to the salt pan. There was a few minutes of a stand-off but in this case “might was right” and the lions turned and sauntered back into the bush leaving the elephants the victors.
The haunting call of a fish eagle echoing across the valley reminded us that the sun was soon going to be setting; so reluctantly we headed back to “our world” carrying the sights and sounds of the unspoiled Rhodesian veld, at its best. We had a rich heritage that we carry in our hearts no matter where our feet take us!
The refreshment of the life giving waters of the salt pans in Rhodesia reminds me of the account in John 4 of the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at the well. Now I am sure my readers are scratching their heads and thinking this a quantum leap on my part! Hold steady and follow my line of thinking!
In this passage of scripture we read the account of a Samaritan woman if questionable repute arriving at the well to draw water. To her chagrin she finds a Jewish man sitting at the well that breaks all cultural rules and asks her to draw some water for him to drink. This request from Jesus engages the woman in a conversation and this is where my picture of the Salt Pan comes into play!
You see thirsty animals had to make daily trips to the Salt Pan to drink from its quenching water. They needed that water so survive but it required returning daily.
So too, this Samaritan woman had to make daily trips to the well to draw water as its ability to quench her thirst was limited; it did not last forever.
Jesus explained this principal to the woman and then went on to give her an amazing promise:
John 4:13-14 (NKJV) Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The animals visiting the Salt Pan would never have the opportunity that the woman of Samaria had offered to her. Jesus was going beyond satisfying the physical thirst and offering the woman an eternal spring that would quench her spiritual thirst and lead her to everlasting life!
Are you tired of the chaos of life and THIRSTY for peace and security? Then drink deeply from the spring that the Lord makes freely available to weary mankind. That divine spring leads to everlasting life and peace.