I have just started reading a book called Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera. It is a novel set in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in the 1940’s and tells the story of a woman’s life in an African township.
As I lay in bed reading the beautifully poetic writing a few lines really struck a chord:
“The children possess nothing except an excited value placed on anything shared, and a glorious love of intimacy. They only have to look at each other to feel that they have been born not only for a healthy but for a joyous purpose.”
The above came after a short description of the children sheltering inside a rusty old drum playing with an empty matchbox.
It stirred memories of my childhood on a farm in Zimbabwe. Before I went to school my friends were the children of the farm workers who would come to the house in the mornings and wait patiently for me outside the kitchen, giggling and huddling together.
We would run through the fields together and fish in the streams. We would play with a ball, a ball made of plastic bags tied tightly together. They spoke little English and I spoke no Shona, yet we communicated just fine.
In those first few innocent years of life all that mattered was living each and every moment to the full. There was no separation, no competition or hustle.
Children know that what matters is connection. What binds us and makes us whole is community and a sense of belonging.
In today’s world we complicate life so much. We strive, push and fight for what we believe we need, but at the end of the day what do we really need? Often much less that we think.
There is a magic quality to life that as children we see and feel in every moment no matter how little we have. For some reason we forget and lose sight of it as we grow up. But it’s always there, always available, and when we see it again we can slip effortlessly back into the truth of who we really are.
Edmond poked his head up over the weeds that were growing rampantly by the fence. He was only a wee squirrel, and the weeds were mighty big in comparison to his shortness.
They were back – the odd people. Well the little girl was OK, but her mother was definitely a stranger to these parts. She talked funny. It looked they had actually moved in this time.
“Where’s they from Pops?” Edmond asked his father who had appeared next to him and was also eyeing out the newcomers with suspicion.
“I’d say that outback place – when them Haka men come from” Pops replied. “New Zealand it’s called. Can’t be too careful round them. They used to eat each other.”
Edmond felt his teeth begin to chatter “Squirrels too Pops?” He asked nervously
“Who would know with them ones” Pops replied “All I say is you can’t be too careful with foreigners”
The next day Edmond couldn’t resist doing some investigations. Squirrels are like that you see, very nosy. They like to know what’s going on.
He quietly snuck through the gap in the fence, over the road, and hopped onto the wall of the strange one’s house. It was raining, and if there’s one thing he’d learnt in his short life about humans it was that they don’t like getting wet. So the odds were on his side this morning. At least that’s what he thought.
No sooner had he crept up the steps towards the front door than the door opened. Slowly. Very slowly.
He cocked his head to one side and listened. Unlike most squirrels Edmond hadn’t been blessed with great hearing, but he made up for it with his excellent vision and sense of smell.
Silence. Not a peep.
“Whew, that was a close one” He thought to himself.
He continued up the steps, confident he was safe. But at the top he froze, for there, standing in the doorway, was the strange one, holding something big, black and altogether terrifying!
Part two to follow …
I open my journal to a crisp blank page. White, untouched, inviting me in.
I begin to write, unsure of what will emerge. I look out of the window to the woods that lie beyond, there is slight movement in the trees. A bird? A squirrel?
As I shift my focus from head to heart I catch a glimpse of a memory from days gone by. I see a small child running, carefree, laughing. Hair blowing in the wind and arms outstretched. Reaching for? I do not know; nor do I need to.
I flick back to the woods. It has started to rain. Heavy drops fall, weighing down leaves and rolling slowly to the ground. I can smell it, the scent rises as the water hits the earth.
I see the parched lands that were my home, reaching for the first rains to quench their insatiable thirst. The contrast between the images in my head and those before my eyes is extreme.
I try to grasp the memories; make the intangible tangible. No! Don’t fade so fast! Come back! They drift back into the vastness of my mind.
I see the pen, poised, waiting, and I know what I need to do. I write. For in doing so I can, but for a brief moment, hold on to the memories.
In the space between my heart and my head lies the written word and I know it is my way of making sense of who I am.