02 November, 2012

The barren aunt

A holiday* should be a time when the everyday issues of life are forgotten, and we can enjoy just “being” and/or “doing” – whether we are lying on a beach, climbing a mountain, or stalking animals with my camera.

And much of my holiday was.  Whereas on a beach or touring holiday we keep to ourselves, this is pretty impossible on a safari.  You eat communally sometimes, and you spend 6-7 hours a day together with a ranger, tracker, and other guests in one vehicle.  We met some lovely people, and – apart from some casual mentions by one couple about their children – we all just enjoyed “being.”  After several days together, we still had little idea what they did for a living, and they also had little idea about us.  It was fantastic.  We were all equals, there because of our love of animals and nature.  We talked and laughed and joked and enjoyed the environment, and each other, without reference to our other, everyday lives, and the roles we played there.  It was a breath of fresh air.

But there were reminders, both positive and negative.  We viewed a lion pride.  Here they are once they got to know us, posing for a family photo.  

The pride comprised a dominant male, three lionesses, and three cubs.  One of the lionesses was, in the words of the ranger, barren.  She had been pregnant once (they thought), but had never had any cubs.  He had a theory that her infertility was due to the fact she had too much testosterone.  She was a very large lioness.  He was convinced that this supported his theory.

Now, I don’t know anything about the reproductive systems of lions.  This might have been just a theory, or might have been based in fact.  But it made me, by far the largest female in the group and (as far as I knew) the only barren one, feel very uncomfortable. It reminded me of who I was in the real world. And I felt for this beautiful creature.

But that said, it was charming to watch the cubs gather arround their barren aunt, play with her, lie next to her, show tactile affection.  She had a very comfortable place in this family, a place perhaps that some of us (the human barren aunts) don’t always find.

*vacation (for my north American readers)


  1. dear Mali,
    welcome back!
    Thank you for sharing the photos. They are beautiful.
    The photo of barren lioness with three nephews/nieces is just lovely!

    Your post made me think - what I already knew. We can go on another side of this planet, but there will still be reminders of our infertility.

    Auntie lioness found her peace... at least it seems this way. I hope I will find mine one day too...


  2. Awwwww...I feel emotional reading about this post. LOVE the pics and the cubs are SO cute!!!!

  3. Beautiful pictures (& story!) - can't wait to hear (& see) more about your adventure.

  4. Loved the photo of the lion being one with her family/clan/community. Wish I had more of a place like that in my world. I could if I moved 'home' but I kind of have this sense that if I have no family to raise, why not live all over the world?! :)

    love the photos! I am so curious about Africa...

  5. Amazing photos...and I hope you shared your observations about the lioness' place in the family with the ranger.

    1. I didn't need to. He was the one pointing it out - that lionesses together raise cubs, regardless of whose they are.

  6. I haven't been able to articulate why (I mean beyond the fact that the pictures are straight out cool) I love this post so much, but I do.

  7. I have two childless aunts who were close to me and very influential in my life. They told me things they told no one else and I told them things I could not tell my own mother. They were very much part of our family, very much like this lioness. :P Thanks for sharing this pic. I love that you got to go to Africa and do this!!

  8. What an amazing vacation - a safari is really one of those things I'd really love to do, but due to my slight fear of traveling (want to, then get all OCD about leaving the country and doing something stupid or getting lost...sigh) I may never be able to talk myself into actually doing it.

    The lions. Oh my. Just speechless... love the pictures.

    And I agree with Kiara: no matter where you go or what you do, there will always be something there to remind us of children/fertility issues. I love the fact that the lovely lioness has such a close family unit and this is the way things SHOULD be - family/friends that embrace you, accept you and have a need and place for you in the grand workings... and again, I'm also very sorry that this isn't the way it is in the people world.

  9. Wonderful post and amazing photos!

  10. I love the photos & that last one especially. : )

    For various reasons, it had been a few weeks since we'd seen BIL & family, and BIL told dh one of the nephews said, "Are we EVER going to see Sam & Lori again??" (And he's in his 20s!) Truly an "awww!" moment for me. ; )

    If these pictures are any indication, you must have had a fabulous time. : )

  11. Beautiful post and beautiful photos.

    Interesting observations by this ranger (who knows of the truth of them).

    And yes, despite when we think we should be free of worries and burdens someone can say something that brings it all back.

  12. Chiming in with everybody else that the post and the pic are so beautiful. Yours posts always speak volumes to me. I too hope to find my peace and become the serene lion aunt. (My horoscope is Leo btw :) )

  13. It's interesting to see that animals experience IF, too. And, yet, they have better community relationships than many humans. Thanks for the perspective.

    I'm here from Mel's weekly round-up.

  14. Love the photos,and this post.

  15. Bet she was the best hunter of the group.

  16. This experience is very touching and speaks volumes about the way humans treat each other... I love the pic with the 'aunt' surrounded by the rest of the pride. Lovely!