When I was a young Giraffeses growing up in the wilds of Africa, long before I’d heard of rockets, or NASA, or even the USA, I used to gaze at the Moon and wonder what it would be like to walk around up there. Never in my wildest dreams did I entertain the notion that a dozen people had already done just that!
The Jaspa’s Journey series gets its name from one of my tribe’s oldest traditions: the Journey. Similar in some ways to the walkabout of Australian Aborigines, the Journey is a rite of passage that all members of my tribe, the Herd, must undertake when they reach a certain age. In our case, it involves accompanying the Serengeti’s Great Migration for one complete cycle and lasts almost a whole year. That’s a pretty tall order for creatures who are generally less than four inches in height.
The purpose of the Journey is to show members of the Herd that there are wonders to be seen and lessons to be learned beyond the boundaries of our small village near the Shifting Sands, on the Serengeti’s Short Grass Plain. My own Journey took an unexpected turn when I met Gravee (a tale told in Jaspa’s Journey: The Great Migration), and has since taken me to places I couldn’t have even imagined when I left home. Since that day I have visited over 30 countries on four different continents.
And yet there is a group of Journeyers whose experiences far surpass those of the rest of us. An exclusive band who have Journeyed beyond the confines of this wondrous planet and into the void of space. And among this select company are a few who have exceeded even that lofty achievement.
As soon as I learned of their existence, astronauts and cosmonauts became my instant heroes, with the moonwalkers firmly at the top of my list. After all, when it comes to Journeying beyond the boundaries of all that’s familiar, leaving your home planet behind and stepping foot on another world really takes some beating.
Like countless others, then, I was saddened to learn that Neil Armstrong died this weekend. Being the very first person to ever set foot on the Moon, even in the company of such a select band, his name always leaps to the fore. For me he embodies the spirit of the Journey. I would have dearly loved to have met him.
In remembering Armstrong, several people have described him as an ‘American Hero’, although personally I think he was far more. I consider him (and everyone involved in the Apollo Moon program) a hero worthy of every person on Earth, human or Ses, regardless of where they come from.
When I look into the night sky in future, I for one will be sure to Wink at the Moon and remember Neil Armstrong, the Ultimate Journeyer.
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