My whole life I had yearned to see pandas. To be close enough to look them in the eye. Just to be in their presence. When it happened it was so far beyond my wildest dreams.
They were all so beautiful.
Each one was unique and had a clear personality – funny, naughty, kind, aloof. We saw them all.
And then this old gentleman. The oldest panda there. He had this sense of deep, unshakable calm and I was totally transfixed by him. Pandas’ big black eye patches make their eyes seem like deep, dark windows, not just into their soul but bigger than that – like falling deep into the universe somehow. This elderly chap was chewing away on his bamboo, as they do pretty much all day. I remember feeling drawn to him, sort of magnetised beyond any sense of control.
As I stood there in front of him, he looked up and stopped chewing. He put down his bamboo, as if in some old fashioned, polite way, to show me I had his attention. He sort of folded his arms and just looked at me. Or into me I could more accurately say.
I stood there, held in time by this incredible animal, locked in his intense stare
Some Japanese tourists were stood nearby and noticed the panda’s stillness and came over to try and get him to move or to look at them. The panda was impervious and just stared deep into me. The guide with us was getting agitated and saying this was really unusual behaviour for a panda, but I could barely hear him. It felt like I was melting into this stunning creature.
It felt like hours or maybe seconds. I wasn’t sure which. Millennia maybe. I am assured it was “several minutes”. And then I saw what he was seeing. Baby panda everywhere, playing rolling, multiplying. Panda in the wild. In beautiful, healthy habitats, chewing away all day on their precious bamboo. Safe, happy, undisturbed by man.
Suddenly, I found myself making promises to the panda that I would do what I could. That I would empower changemakers. That I would be there for him, be his hands and his voice in a world that couldn’t hear or see him. I felt this deep desire to create the picture that he had shown me.
Eventually, I wiped the tears from my face (I hadn’t even realised I was crying) and I nodded to him.
He nodded back, picked up his bamboo and wondered off to sit under the trees, not even having the grace to look back once at me.
I asked my guide about him. What was his name? “Oh” said the guide “His name translates as Beautiful Dream”.
When I find myself struggling, when I feel like I am not doing enough, I look to Beautiful Dream and his vision. I remember that it took me 50 years to get to meet pandas but that it was worth the wait. And that I want my granddaughter to meet pandas and for Beautiful Dream to get his vision.
There are very, very special people working on reversing the declining numbers of panda in the world. My promise is to be there supporting changemakers. Creating a network of changemakers. Encouraging them to become Gamechangers and to create a space for them to be together. Challenging them look after themselves first so that their important work is sustainable and impactful. Beautiful Dream is who inspired The Legacy Creation Clan – come and join us
So much love,