Africa, Lost and Found and the Mystery Continues
Hovering on the Edge of a Myth
I never knew my father; his shadowy presence prowled around the edges of my consciousness. Once or twice, we met. Central to the plot of my own existence, was reconstructed truth, the mythology of my father’s life. Why would I want to write? Would I have this connection to Africa, if I hadn’t been carried away by his books? On a lazy L A Sunday, I would be lost on the shores of Lake Nyasa, plunged in the hot white sands of the Kalahari or enclosed, on a dark, clear night, in the circle of a bushman’s fire. My imagination was fed by the fierce pull of Africa. All the possibilities imagined in the mysterious, pulsating places of this continent, offered obscurity to a stranger. People in Africa could and did vanish, resurfacing years later in another place, being someone other.
Another Thorn in the Flesh or Just Another one Lost in the Bush
This describes, with dark foreboding, a continent directly suspect, full of suspicions and persistent in the mysteries of vanishing travelers. Yes, it happened, many times; the un-wary and un-careful, rich happy-go-lucky, never-make-a-plan-to-travel-type, who would fall headlong into the pit intended to trap the locals’ meat. This careless feat would somewhat anger the warriors, the chief and all the village dependents. Excited at the prospect of a feast, imagine the disappointment when your pit contains a miserable specimen of inedible man, in a safari suit.
What do they do with this stranger’s paraphernalia and supplies, now that his bearers have taken unscheduled leave, ditching the intrepid explorer? The big question, is the village, hungry and in need of supplies? Could this be an answer? Masquerading in the perfect guise of what was now lying around in their midst? Is the man alive? Or even worse, is he wounded? What morals apply in such a case? Customs would not dictate saving the stranger’s life. A bribe, would that guarantee, were he alive? Would not a pragmatic, down-to-earth majority tout, “save-him-or-leave-him to die?” The death of a thorn in the wild! Who cares?
Books, Fables, Stories
Simple survival would dictate a decision; either the tribe must find new bearers, guides, hunters, guns, ammunition, medicines and provisions for the victim, and then endure, if he lives, his long convalescence. Then when the time comes, let him leave to meet his fate in the wilderness once more, or does the misery end right now? This newly arrived windfall could simply be divided.
It is easy to meet your maker in these wild, animal-infested, traffic-heavy forests of Africa, under normal moral constraints. These and hundreds of other exploits and escapades, through time, have squeezed out wonderful writers, curious and capable enough to tell the tales, mostly truthfully – although Africa sets the stage for wonderful embellishments. Does truth matter when there’s an adventure that must be written? Who becomes the dupe, the warriors, the writer or the reader? Does it really matter when a hot tale hangs in the balance?
And all these writers, who wrote of Africa – Joseph Conrad, Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Percy Fitzpatrick, Laurens van der Post and countless others, experienced the exaggerated truths of this amazing continent, Africa. Did they ask the same questions that I have asked even now?
Rest, as Change Takes You on a Journey
Africa… how can I convey the enormous magnificence of the light, the warmth, the very hugeness of the sky overhead? The pungent, freshness in the smell of the summer rain long before it falls; the moist soft steam rising from the savannah floor as it passes. Then, as the earth collectively breathes a sigh of relief for the release from the dryness and the dust, thousands of tiny living creatures explode into song. And the lungs of the world breathe in and out while we wonder…
This is to those of you, confined in the dark cold, impenetrable gloom of the Northern winter as you wait for the spring. I’ve been there, in the soundless chill just after dawn; my footsteps silent in the new snow, seeking the comfort and warmth of some cozy shelter. Winter creeps along in an agony of cold, grey vagueness; when the amusements of the holiday seasons pass and spring seems so very far away… Take heart, it’s coming and our summer is really a promise to you, of spring’s eminent arrival.