All of us have a 'sacred combe' – a place to escape to and gather energy from, a refuge, whether in memory, in fiction or in reality. A 'sacred combe' doesn’t have to be far away. It can be closer to home – in your own back garden, in a park, on a mountain top, even in the form of a memory of a special place from childhood, or in the glimpse from a railway carriage on the way to work. Mine just happens to be in Africa.
It’s a place where your heart is stilled, where you can be at one with the world. It’s about being in an environment that makes you look twice – whether at a robin or the early light flaring against an edge of grass – catching the small glimpse of the unexpected that fires your vitality.
It’s the coming up a rise and seeing far down below, a female elephant and her calf walking across a huge expanse of open grassland towards a forest where in the eerie way of elephants, they instantly disappear without trace.
It's encountering a rhino close up, knowing they will be extinct in 10 years if the slaughter goes on. With an average of three rhino being killed every day by poachers for their horn, by the time you read this blog, we've already lost three in 2017.
It’s a secretary bird sitting on top of a thorn tree and catching the flash of orange around its eye, (for an idea of size, it has a wingspan of 2 metres) – or seeing a branch of the African Acacia with its long white thorns but soft mimosa-like flowers that light up the ‘veldt’, or finding a heron perched up on the strangely shaped euphorbia plant outside your tent, or the quiet shadow shape of a nyala crossing your path. It’s the long-lashed glance of a giraffe as it floats across the treetops.
It's in these moments of quiet observation, with a profound sense of oneness with nature, that we fill our blank page. We all have such a place – 'a sacred combe' – writers more than any. What is yours?
May 2017 be the year that defines the place that brings you the most energy, the most peace and the most creativity.
Zeraffa Giraffa, by Dianne Hofmeyr, illustrated by Jane Ray and published by Frances Lincoln, is on The Sunday Times 100 Children's Best Books.