When I first went to Africa, I headed straight to the home of Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa and one of the world’s better storytellers. Daisy Rothschild (seen here at the Giraffe Manor) became a neighbor, as did Beryl Markham, author of West With the Night.
My good luck was to see this terrain in the company of local experts. I searched for fossils alongside Richard and Meave Leakey On location with filmmakers Alan and Joan Root, I learned the patience required to capture wildlife behavior. One Christmas was spent with Cynthia Moss at her Amboseli Research Camp near Mt. Kilimanjaro. Elephants came into focus again with Iain and Oria Douglas-Hamilton. Kuki Gallmann who wrote I Dreamed of Africa was my guide to Laikipia. Roland Purcell and Richard Bonham welcomed me to their camps in Katavi, Ruaha and the Selous. Dr. Laurie Marker introduced me to her world of cheetahs in Namibia. Likewise I introduced Africans to my New York network, including Paula Kahumbu who was welcomed at the 2013 Elephant Action Summit at the Clinton Global Initiative.
After 40 journeys to Africa, I decided to live where my heart has been for a long time. In 2014, I relinquished my New York apartment and became a digital nomad, living out of one suitcase on what began as a Senior Gap Year. The adventure began in Tuscany, took me to Paris, the Pyrenees, London, and Liverpool, but I landed in Kenya, with giraffes as my neighbors. I was named to the editorial board for Swara magazine, the journal of The East African Wildlife Society. Invited to join a local book club with exceptional members, my safari journeys increased when members of the club invited us to join them. Romi Grammaticus invited us for 3 mights at Governor’s Private Camp in the Mara, and Cynthia Moss to watch the elephants of Amboseli.
I write from my office verandah, with a splendid view of the Ngong Hills. Since 2017 I have lived in Kenya on the edge of the AFEW giraffe sanctuary, a perch on nature that helps me endure a December 2020 diagnosis of a rare cancer. Surrounded by colorful birds: red Fire finches, yellow Weaver birds, and the occasional flyover of Hautlaub’s turaco flashing brilliant scarlet wings, I feel lucky to be alive. I recently endured my 15th chemo. This poison, like the arsenic Karen Blixen took, gives me hope despite my bad odds. Given a 50/50 chance, the author of Out of Africa lived on to be an old woman.
Put off by euphemistic “Celebration of Life” funerals, I organized my own wake on April 1, 2022. Through the grace of non-broadcast rights, Bette Midler sang “Delta Dawn,” Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton “Something” from their tribute to George Harrison, and my book club and friends from university, a rendition of “Hello Delta” backed by Midler. Photos of my life were edited by me, and my address to the audience of 58 included my famous last words, “Lighten Up.” The black-tie gathering capped a safari with college friends to see elephants in Amboseli, and glide on ancient wooden dhow boats off the Indian Ocean coast of Lamu.