Far, far away beyond the horizon, as the sun inexorably slid closer to its collision with the empty expanses of the Kalahari, its rays filtered through the haze of desert dust blown in from even further west, from the Namib at the edge of Africa.
This evening dust burnished the suns halo an even richer gold, causing its last light to sink and spread out like the unfurling of immense wings, stretching both north and southwards beneath the thin layer of alto-stratus clouds, which slivered across the horizon in pale ceramic mauve like the wing feathers of a goose which had just laid its golden egg.
Fifteen minutes earlier, I could still see how the lazy tendrils of smoke rose up from the fire at my feet. These unfurlings filtered the light of the setting sun into faint shadows on my bare legs. From there the light began to fade into the dapples of dusk as it crept through the leaves of the trees forming the bush line across from our camp-site.
But now, after the orb of orange light had settled out of sight, it was as if all the light of day had been drawn into the vortex of the globes disappearance as it tugged its brightness even further away, out over the Atlantic.
Night comes quickly here in the tropics.
This sudden plunge into darkness often takes the uninitiated by surprise. Visitors from the higher latitudes of Europe and North America, assuming that there is still time to prepare for nightfall, suddenly find themselves without flashlights to light their way in the darkness.
From the flickering licks of the flames at its center, the branches that fed our small fire spiked out from the embers of this hub like the spokes of an old wagon wheel.
The glowing stubs which formed the hub slowly receded outwards as the embers feeding the flames dropped away as ash. Every now and again a small pocket of moisture trapped in the seemingly dry timber, would give a sharp snap as its steam burst the cell of its cloister, and a sprinkle of sparks would cascade almost to where our sandal clad feet stretched towards the warmth of the fire.
We had been sitting together at the periphery of this fire for some time. There was no longer any pressing need to talk. Most of our catching up had been done.
We simply sat and let our minds move at their own pace, or even not move at all.
As anyone who has been camping will know, even a few moments spent looking at a fire will work its mesmerizing magic and hypnotic effect on our minds.
The slightly erratic and yet repetitive flicker of the flames seems to slowlly brush away our cognitive contemplation, which empties our minds of the logic of reason. It leaves us aware only of our emotions, and the basic stimuli of our bing alive, with things such as; the image of the flames dancing, its warmth on the shins of our bare legs , the faint chill of the air on our arms, the pressure of our bodies in their camp chairs, and of course the sounds of the night creatures.
I often wondered if the state was as close as my mind could get to that of one of the wild animals, like that of the Black-backed Jackal that we could hear yipping intermittently, and excitedly, almost hysterically, a short distance away. Obviously this little dog found itself motivated by its emotions and not words. Food? a bitch in heat? I wondered. Lucky devil I pondered if it was the latter, and emmediately examined myself to realize that my mental words had been motivated by emotions surfacing out of the depths of my subconscious. Words, which if I examined them portended an hint of excitement no less profound than that of the Jackals yips. Afterall it had been six weeks since I had been back to Lusaka and some time with Claudia, the mulatto mistress I shared with Muhammed.
Every now and again when the overlap of the branches at the center had been burnt back to leave a slightly wider hub of
ash one of us would stretch out a leg to nudge or kick one of the spokes slightly forward into the center of our fire, or if the branch was stubborn, it would require us to lean forward and manually push it a few inches into the embers.
And we would continue to sit mezmerized as we watched the small flames lick resurgent and higher like the Jackals yips.
None of this required verbal cognizance or coordination, it was just the yips of our soul.
(to be continued….)