Ode to a Cheetah

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We found you lying indolently on top of a rocky old termite mound close to the road, in an obscure corner of the dry savannah. Looking like nothing on Earth was going to make you move from your spot. Your beautiful body blazing gold in the already harsh light; unperturbed by the world going by. Lounging, recouping, recharging your energy.
Or so we imagined. Perhaps you were doing more than languishing lazily in the mid morning sun, while the crazy humans around you buzzed with excitement and shutters clicked wildly in anticipation of that perfect shot of your feline grace. Were you all the while communing in sweet serenity with your own omnipresence? Did you offer up silent prayers for the display of that stealth and deadly precision that would, a few minutes later, leave us dumbfounded and gasping for air?
How did you spot that stag on the other side of the plain? The one with the magnificent antlers. Did you see him from the vantage point that was your mound? Or did your keen sense of smell single him out first?
Whichever it may have been, shivers shot through my body watching your sleepy inertia transform in a microsecond to rapt attention, as you stood up tall in all your molten-gold glory, to zone in, unwavering, on your target.
The deliberation with which you crossed over to the field where the unsuspecting gazelle grazed, completely unaware of impending danger, made me thankful for the prime seats we had to watch the saga unfold. Stealthily you crept closer, even closer to where the stag stood, chewing steadily. It must have been his keen sense that alerted him to the cloud of death hovering overhead. Is that what made him stop and stare, stock still, straight ahead in his predator’s direction? Cleverly, you stopped too. The golden ghost, deftly camouflaged in tall grasslands of spun gold.
It felt like I had an aerial view of that endless moment of stillness. Prey facing you. You facing prey. A pregnant interlude filled to the brim with the deafening sound of silence. That moment of respectful greeting between two worthy opponents in a martial arts dojo before the start of combat.
And then he ran.
Not away from you. He ran towards you! He had not seen you then, poor, unfortunate soul. Or so he seemed to me, who understands nothing of the subliminal contract between hunter and the hunted.
He recovered from this mistake as quickly as he could on spotting you and sped away in the opposite direction, but with your proclivity for driving home the advantage, it would prove fatal only a few seconds later. A few hapless zigzags, and you seemed to know exactly where he would go. Each time you were there before he had a chance. Maybe it was a trick of the mind but you seemed to magically appear before him to cut him off and cause him to change direction before you teleported to a completely different spot.
Did you even run or did you glide?
And then you sprang.
He was wise then, to have made his contract with a creature such as you. Deft, proficient, swift like a bullet train would be hard pressed to be. He was wise not to suffer. For in picking you, he left himself no scope for fear or pain. Twenty seconds of adrenaline coursing through his veins and it was all over. Did you see something akin to awe in his eyes before they closed forever?
And what about us, silent spectators? Stupefied. Struggling to work out how you had made it look so easy. The thousand questions in our minds numbed by the splendour of the spectacle that we had been privileged to behold. We did not simply watch a chase that day. Some of us fortunate humans witnessed you harness the power of your creator. That morning you were the Universe and all the Universe was inside you.
And I learnt. From watching you in awestruck wonder. I learnt that I want to live my life in easy and knowing calmness. And in total acceptance of the universal power from which you and I both came.
My regret that I didn’t bring my wide angle to hand to capture the power and beauty of that hunt is frivolous. I know, one mistimed moment, and I’d have missed the opportunity to imprint, forever, your inner beauty on the sensor of my mind. This way I can see it all in slow motion in my mind’s eye each time I replay the scene. Like a movie with flashing sub-titles. Power. Assurance. Clarity. Instinct.
Magnificent beast. Stay by me and be my totem.