Pack that life you lead back home and bring it here, to Africa. Wrap the sharp edges of it in soft clothes, pull in the straps and close the lid. Fly it a thousand miles, and a thousand thousand more, over deserts wide as oceans and oceans deep as a human heart. Let it spill out into a room, a little, into the space that lies between strangers well met under a burning sun. We are all seekers here. Some seek lions, some birds, some moments of light and inspiration. Some come to find friendship, purpose, change, courage or peace. From different countries, different tribes, different pasts, we wanderers gather. We make of it what we can and, as we do, we find that the life we lead back home shrinks from lack of food, water, attention. What was great seems small when feet away from a lioness and cub, a herd of elephants, a starling the colour of oil on water, or of standing beside a lunch queue of 500 African children, plates in hand.
I was often taught that to wander is a lost thing, something idle, time-wasting. Forward motion, I was told, is purposeful, marching like boots on parade and yet in wandering I move slowly enough to connect with the air around me, I wear it like a garment, I feel the soft folds of it gentle on my skin; I hear the sound of it settle in my ears and taste of it on my tongue, its sweetness unworldly. Wandering, I can see the colour of raindrops, watch their journey’s end around my feet, see them become the earth that holds me up.
It might be possible, you could say, to do this wandering thing at weekends or on holidays, but not inside that trajectory of commuting tension that is my life, where it’s all fire and firings, fears and deadlines, meetings and paperwork, junk lunches and yawning afternoons; where I get so tired I can barely manage a civil word to my spouse, my kids; where every evening is a rush to Brownies or Tai Jitsu or practice for a swimming badge, and supper is just something to eat before bed.
I sincerely hope that it is possible to wander whilst young, however many demands are made. I remember it as a complete impossibility for me, even living in one of the most peaceful wanderley places on earth. Everyone else went for afternoons on the beach, or for picnics, but not me. Looking back now, I don’t believe it was because there was too much to do, which there undoubtedly was. for everyone has too much to do, not just I. There are wisdoms fleeing about like wasps that tell us what to do to become wanderley, but nobody can give us the How. How do I, when I can’t even think straight, when the demands on me are so overwhelming?
Sadly I have no answer, but what I do know is that nowadays there is a greater understanding of the What of living a fulfilled life. We know we must attend to our physical, spiritual, social,financial and cultural needs. Stress management therapy is attending to a wound way too late, but it is still better than internally combusting on the way to the school sports day. And, let’s be honest, who really never suffers from stress? We are pushed and squeezed and contained and controlled and yet we expect ourselves to behave perfectly, no swearing in front of the kids or in the post office queue. We demand too much of ourselves.
I am learning to be imperfect and I recommend it. If I could go back and do it all again I would tell myself to lower the standard. Half mast is high enough. I would let myself be tired and to call for rest. I would let myself walk to the shore and sit there, not in rebellion as I did (a rebel without a cause) but because I allowed me just to ‘be’. No need to explain, nor justify, no plan of action, no wisdoms learned, lining up to be listed by rote, just me not judging me.
If you have an apple seed, plant it and wait for the rains and the sun to give it life.
Watch it bloom in spring sending fragrance out like a song, to call in the bees.
See the rich sweet apples in Autumn.
Rise, for it is time now.
Pick the low-hanging fruit first and sell some by the roadway.
When there is enough silver in your hand
Buy a ladder.