Wild Work. Being, Sensing, Experiencing.

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Paulina Slater

Wild Work. Being, Sensing, Experiencing.

Posted by Paulina Slater 174 Days Ago

A Day in the iMfolosi Wilderness, KwaZuluNatal, South Africa

Waking with the earth, I stir deliciously slowly. The still cool air reverberates with promise. I feel gentle excitement. Lapping and plopping, the river carries the message that regular visitors are refreshing themselves in its it soft shallow water: five years of drought have left scars. I feel the coarse grass in my hands as I half turn on my sleeping mat and push my fingers hard onto the burned reddish earth and drink in the pungency of the bush.

Quiet and slow I rise- ngivuka in the language of those this land was once home to. I feel serene, a serenity born of being in this moment wild-heart, part of nature, seeking to thrive and respond, not control and exploit.

Tuning in to human murmurs I mosey over to the fire at the centre of our intimate group. Peacefully we stoke the flames with sweet camphor and other wood, take our early morning teas and coffees, making contact with each other and the bush.

A rhythmic thudding startles us still as rock. A lone impala runs for her life down the narrow trail towards the river, a wild dog at her heels, bright lit in the rising sun. A snap-shot image lingers, her muscles taut, her upright posture straining for life, head neck and eyes stiff with fear. The dog vibrant with colour and life, easy with the pace.

As sudden as our shocked stillness, we four turn and dash through scrub to the rocks overlooking the river, oblivious to thorns. Transfixed, one with the rock, we assimilate only slowly the breaking of flesh, the simultaneous taking and relinquishing of life. Each of us trance like in our own thoughts.


Ambivalent about missing the instant of capture, I experience inner tussle. Wanting to face the truth, the killing, the death, and yet feeling softness and sorrow for a life taken violently and after sustained fear. Simultaneously feeling grateful that the wild dog has nourishment for his day, and revelling in his wildness, his freedom to be. The same freedom that allowed the death of the impala. I absorb the contradictions and  feel eternally grateful for this wilderness for offering up her lessons so richly.

Like gentle water drops in the moment they form a puddle, the realisation seems to form in us at one time: the others! They will want to be a part of this. We gather the seven of us and quieten; yet the trance has gone and we are every-day again.

A movement in the bush to the right fast shows us its maker- a lone hyena homes in on the kill and in seconds the wild dog has been run off, the hyena takes her fill. Hardly have I begun to marvel at her strength, the beauty of her spots and her coat in excellent condition ( I am an admirer of hyena, and have a soft-spot for this intelligent hunter and scavenger) than I am aware of whispers and tension at my side. Mandla, our leader, and the three fit young lads of our group sprint down the scrubby hillside guided by the wisdom and instinctual intelligence born of a lifetime in the bush (this is something I wouldn’t normally recommend!)  and chase off the lone hyena to become scavengers in their turn. Cutting just enough flesh for our dinner, the four return, maybe following in the footsteps of our ancestors who surely scavenged as well as hunted. The hyena, lurking nearby, slopped back to reclaim her spoils.

The warm flesh and bloody hands are salutary, and as we stash the meat safely for the day we are thoughtful.

Walking quietly, we move through the day, the bush communing with us through heat, smells and experience, the little sequence playing in our minds and hearts.

According to the rhythm of the day, at dusk, the fire warming the cooling air, we come together to prepare our meal. Mandla knows well how to season the impala flesh: old meat needs tenderising.

I don’t want to take a share but I do. I eat meat and I feel a need to be prepared to kill for my supper. This is as near as I have got so far. Full of conflicting emotion and  ethical questions, I eat. The meat is tough and strong. I don’t like it, but out of respect for the inpala I eat it all.

COPYRIGHT Paulina Slater 2009 Experience 2007

Paulina Slater

Article written by Paulina Slater - Crowborough

30 years of experience of working initially in psychotherapy, and now as a coaching psychologist, and of using psychology in various ways to help people of all ages, together with on going learning, gives my work depth and breadth. A humanistic psychotherapy training grounds my work. I work humanistically, creatively and... [read more]

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