Although I'd always known her qualities of humor and gentleness, it wasn't until I accompanied M on our third photographic safari that I discovered her to be a woman of courage, as well.
I'd taken ill, had something of a low-grade fever, but insisted upon jeeping into the plains that day. Just the two of us and our driver Mbebe.
On sighting a Madagascar Squacco Heron in the near distance, we rolled to a halt and both got out to do some snapping. M and her Nikon 34 mm f/1.8 AF-S DX lens which might have guaranteed her a prize 'shot'.
As it turned out, the bird was in distress, one leg somehow injured. When M became aware of that, she let her camera swing down and made her way quickly to the heron. I could hear from where I was how she placated the animal, how soothing, almost musical, her voice lullabied it.
No doubt this kept nearby predators away while Mbebe called the rangers who came within an hour.
That evening, her face lit by the camp's fire, I tried to tell her that she created a small, but potent story that would become part of the local lore. She brushed the notion aside with a quiet laugh, her laugh.
Later, still unsettled by the fever I'd picked up, I could see through the tent netting the guides talking low among themselves in Swahili, a language I knew next to nothing of. I could tell by some gestures, though, that part of what they said included the tale of the 'photographer lady' who swooped down to protect her 'bird child'.
In early morning light, I again looked out and saw herons fly above, fly across the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro.