For My Children
Sitting on the back of an open landy, swaying slowly across an open African plain, it was one of those moments, a truly perfect blend of the right people, setting and atmosphere. A large herd of Wildebeest had taken flight beside us in that odd rocking horse motion of theirs. The sunset was another impossible haemorrhage of colour on the western horizon and the first drinks were already vanquishing the dust from parched throats. My Swedish friend and safari client of many years, Caj Lindblom turned around and beamed. Michael, my son, his features backlit by the soft African light of dusk, a pensive smile playing at the corners of his mouth sat beside me. I was in heaven, exploring the veld with two of my favourite people. My universe had reached perfect synchronicity, my planets were aligned and everything was right with the world. These moments are rare and precious and are indelibly woven into the tapestry of my mind. This is the heritage I will leave my children.
Caj and I had been talking earlier about our children and how they may or may not choose to follow in our paternal footsteps and I had made a somewhat flippant comment to Michael about the legacy I was leaving him. I told him that I had little to give except the pleasure and privilege of living and growing up in the African wilds. I have pondered that statement since and I realized that it is the absolute truth. There is an intangible spirit to this place, not unlike the vestiges of a dream as one emerges from the secret realms of sleep. It is this dream that I wish, more than any worldly procurement, to pass on to my family.
My children have been born and raised in wild places and have known a freedom few other children ever will. They have walked the game paths and played in the golden fields of an incomparable wilderness. This place has shaped my life and thoughts and continues to do so every day. It will do the same for them if they choose to let it. One must listen to it often. It speaks to us on the wind and in the storm. It is evident in the birdsong and the call of the jackal, the dust and the grass and it resounds in rhythmic splendour all around us. It is fascinating, harsh and unforgiving, often kind, sometimes cruel but it nurtures me and teaches me and is a balm as I look inward and face my own savage soul. It will be all this for my beloved children if they cherish and respect this Africa of ours, spend time with her rural people, learn their language, eat their food and listen to their wisdom. They have a formula for happiness that we have long forgotten. My tribal mentors have taught me more about life than any college professor could have. I have found my true self here. I have stood at the edge of a thicket and stared at the buffalo tracks entering it and I have been sorely afraid. My entire cosmos, my very existence has telescoped into three basic elements…me, my rifle and those infernal tracks. I knew I was going to follow them and the stark simplicity of that moment defined who I became.
May my children never forget, that they are Africans, be proud and tell of their love for their country, its people and wild places. I am so proud of Michael, my golden boy, Angela, so easily moved by beauty and wonder and Jess, our poet and entertainer. I have watched them with my beloved veld as the backdrop to their lives and I have been moved beyond words at the depth of my love for them. They have taught me so much about myself and my place in this world. It is through them and as a result of knowing them that I have come closest to touching the face of God.
I ask only that we look after this wilderness of ours. Stand steadfast, open our hearts and minds to her voice and never forget her.
I love you, my African children of the sun.