Kafue 08 – Pebbles



I am not sure why I am here!

After all, if I could glance with squinted eyes into the future, to be able to see things in historical context, maybe I could understand why I find myself filled with a hollow feeling of helplessness as I hear my feet crunch on the pebbly gravel of this wide empty riverbed.

Or even better, if I could fly higher than the Martial Eagle which I see almost daily soaring overhead, I know I would look down on this flat wide portion of the world, and even without a view of history, see myself for what I am.

I would see that I am no more than a pale scab on the dark surface of Africa, a scab attempting in its diminutive, and most probably futile way, to heal some of its wounds. Now more than seven decades after the first Uhuru, I, or my peers, can hardly be blamed anymore for any unhealed, let alone for the new wounds. Instead, they are self-inflicted by the inheritors of that Uhuru.

And yet, maybe my gloom stems from those echoes of guilt, because I am still a member of the white tribe of Africa, a tribe which was so central to upsetting the ancestral way of life. It is a tribe which now, today, as a powerless minority, can be so easily identified and conveniently used as the cause of many of the continent’s present-day maladies.

Maybe, even though I bridle at the suggestion of my part in the blame, like some victim of abuse, I feel that I am still at the root of the abuse and so need to help absolve the abusers.

But also, maybe it is because I know that I am probably too late to take up the scalpel and stitches to this wound. I realize that issues needing dexterity and mental skill should most effectively be handled by hands younger and steadier than my own past-prime fists.

After all the cause I took up with such verve and valor over three decades ago, the cause I so nobly followed when I was in my prime, has been caught in the baleful glare of history and found so utterly wanting.

I don’t know why I am drawn to the people and places like this. Is it to escape the past and seek a new future? Or is it to escape even further back behind the past blighted with failed relationships and the obliteration of an identity. Or maybe it is an attempt to shape a future as a reflection of the past?

But the pebbles are crunching beneath my boots.

Reaching down, I pick one up and flick it into the pool spreading before me. The pebble is as round, smooth and nondescript as any of the others, except for its color. It is almost black, with its dimpled surface etched by a few hairline streaks of quartz that cut across its oblong shape like some distant lightning in the night sky.

As the rings of the small splash ripple outwards I remove my boots to wade through the ankle-deep water, which, like the chain of a necklace, is still sliding slowly between the scattered pools as they dot down-river.

I wonder where that single pebble came from, and how long it had lain there amongst the bed of pale and gray, brown and opal hues of the stones beneath the soles of my shoes.

I wonder how long it had taken for the aeon’s to wear its original shape to conform with that of all its peers.

But now, for the first time in its ancient existence, it had been picked up and flicked by some external destiny into a different pool, where once again it would find itself in the grind and rub of life with, and against all the others of its seeming ilk.

Then, after the soon to arrive floods of summer it would again blend with the other pebbles at the bottom of its new pool. It would shiver and tickle as the flooding waters tugged at its shape. Only the strongest of surging eddies would make it budge.

If it had remained where it originally came from, maybe hundreds or thousands of kilometers away, would I have noticed it laying as a single pebble amidst other black, quartz streaked peers. Probably not!

And me? After years of laying in the dry river bed of life, with all my edges knocked away, what destiny was it that had tossed me into this backwater of Africa, the latest shallow, murky pool of my existence.

Much of my genome arrived at Table Bay in April 1721on the Dutch East Indianman, “Raadhuis Van Vlissingen”, and the rest, almost a hundred years ago, to a coffee farm, in the highlands of Kenya.

Now, like the pebble I had tossed, I knew that only my color distinguished me from the thousands that surrounded me. But that made me different. My color and sometimes only that color, still cursed in much of Africa, singled me out

“Go, Go now, before it is too late!”

Her voice still echoed in my mind. In which of these pools would I find a crocodile lurking, waiting to burst out of the slime at the bottom to grab my leg, or arm, and drag all that awareness of history beneath the ripples of time. It would not care about color.

Would the darkness of my nature and nurture be enough to make ripples big enough to affect the surface of this wide, flat verdant pool of Eden.

This uncertainty clouded my mood with gloom. Did I still have enough energy, like the flashes of some quartz in a rock, to light up the dimness of a fading life.

It weighed on my spirit.

Some fated destiny had picked me up and tossed me here.

Unlike Moses, I am not a believer, but sometimes I wished I had his faith. His certainty that it is all ordained and has purpose.

Life would be so much easier if I felt it had some grand plan, instead of being brought here on the back of a fucking hyena.