“They love the soil which makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay.” (Thoreau. Walden)
Would you say that my life consists of extraordinary encounters and experiences? Really, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.
I feel I am a extremely lucky man to have these encounters in Africa, but I myself feel so incredibly unremarkable. The adage is true, “Wherever you go, YOU are still you, there.”
I’d say that I’ve been on both ends of the extreme, from the routine (nothing unexpected ever happened) to extreme daily curve balls.
“Well, go on then. You don’t want to be late. He doesn’t approve of being late. Not that I ever was; in those days I was always on time. I was entirely respectable, and nothing unexpected ever happened.”
(Bilbo Baggins- The Hobbit)
I’ve encountered some amazing people in West Africa, people who taught me much about myself, this world, and life in general. My only regret is that in the early days, the first days, I wish I had realized that I was a learner, and not a teacher. Thank God I finally got around to that place.
I see some amazing things in the Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa. But I never get to just wander, look, see.
I read about people wandering the Dogon region for weeks, seeing the hippos or elephants (I’ve seen real wild elephants an hippos, not in a protected reserve), and all the major travel guide attractions of Africa.
I work in the drought season in Mali, so my time there is so precious; every single day counts. I arrive at my location and work my heart out. The cost of time to wander, explore, or to see the travel guide attractions is a luxury I have never had in Africa. I envy anyone who is able to come and travel around, to just experience the place.
I thoroughly enjoy this, but the best I get is sunset evenings sitting on the roadside with some friends, watching things and peoole pass…. and that is a very interesting safari in itself….
We have been busy since the end of lobster season. The last three weeks consisted of repairing lobster gear, tuning the boat, etc. Been weeks of hot, sweaty, heavy lifting, to finalize one fishing season, and to prepare for the next. Then, my son’s well went dry, and we had to have a new well drilled and a submersible pump installed. Ouch!
I took the propeller off the boat to repair a few dings, and for rebalancing, with the promise it would be ready this week…but now it will be four days late.
However, finally, I have had time to think about Mali again. Not much time, but even now we are cramming in drip irrigation project planning, filling in each week with our needed activities beginning in November.
Unfortunately, the Dogon region, a Niger River cruise, or the Djenne mud mosque did not make the list …again.
We work the seas, and the soils that make our grave, but where is the time for the soul that animates the clay? Thoreau, you must have been a sassy punk.
I have a motorcycle trip planned with my buddy Milton. “The Scrappy Piglets” wanted to “ride again” to the Cape Breton Highlands for the weekend.
Frankly, right now my mind and heart are half at sea, and half in the West African Sahel of Mali right now. I feel my equilibrium going slightly out of whack.
Two diametrically opposed realities are overwhelming me a little today, as every few minutes my mind keeps shifting gears between Prince Edward Island and Mali.
I am an ordinary man, who is invisibly trying to make a living, while helping some people in West Africa.
I need some of that soul time, to animate my clay.
So, I will go pack the Yamaha Majesty anyway, and have that adventure while I can. Because, the next thing you know, we will be back to Mali, West Africa.
But I do like the thoughts of that too. But soul, please animate this clay.