The photograph above, this blog’s new header, was taken by my friend E several years ago.
We were walking the dogs on the farm I lived on when I began writing this blog. A farm I loved and probably shouldn’t have done – we ought to have avoided it as everybody had warned us to – because in the end we lost it.
But whilst I was there, and despite the perpetual niggling of I-ought-to-know-betters, I did love it. And I loved walking it. Which I did almost daily. Always with my dogs. Sometimes with my children (one at a time when they had something to confide, some small childish worry that had slunk into and spoiled their school day) and occassionally with a friend. Sometimes one armed with a camera; like E.
The views and the space were stupendous. I could see Kilimanjaro – and on a clear day (like this one) both its peaks, Kibo and Mawenzi. I could see Meru, right into its big-yawn crater. I could see far to the south and the Masai Steppe where the sky seemed at last to clutch hands with the horizon it had been chasing. I could see big, bold, brave Africa spilling carelessly all around me.
I miss that. I miss it like one might miss an old boyfriend who you’d been urged not to fall for because in the end he did what everybody said he’d do: go and break your heart. Because he was a good-for-nothing rogue. Albeit a very beautiful and eminently lovable one.
My company, when I walked alone, with just the dogs, so that all I could hear was their excited barking and the subsequent indignant cackling of hadada ibis or guinea fowl as they hefted their fat bodies to the safety of tree-tops, were the words which began to clamour cheerfully for my attention. New stories knitting themselves together. Because they found their way in – the words – whilst I emptied my head of all the superfluous clutter that had collected: the worries, the small-town-suburban nitpicking, my ever-growing To Do list.
By the time I got home, with the dogs trailing now, exhausted and panting and smiling despite being laughed at by resident bird life, the moutains would be almost invisible; they’d have ducked beneath the eiderdowns of nightfall and turned on the stars as reading lamps. By the time I got home I’d have forgotten what it was I was fretting about.
Africa is so huge she can do that: reduce the small even further, so that you can hardly see it anymore.