I take a walk in the neighbourhood, most evenings before the sun sets. The cool evening air blowing away the heat of the day, the colours in the sky changing from day to dusk, the streetlights come on in readiness to light my path back home. I put on my red zip-up hoody and black snickers and step out of the compound. I leave behind my phone or anything that might distract me. I look forward to it – one hour all for myself.
“When I allow myself to fully feel the present moment, no matter what it may encompass, and accept myself just the way I am now, I begin to feel peace coming back to me. I could choose to think about all the things I wish were different, but all that does is make me unhappy, and it certainly doesn’t facilitate the clarity of mind and heart required for changing any of those things. Often, all we need is a small shift in perspective to realize that challenges are opportunities and our greatest teachers.” ~Jacqueline Handman
During these walks I heed Jacqueline Handman’s advice. I also take the same route every time. I would like to say it is because I am a creature of habit, but it is because it is the route that has the least foot and vehicle traffic – the paths are clean and well-tended to. This means that I meet some of the same people every time. They are polite and mind their own company, but more recently we are making eye contact and gently acknowledging each other with a quick greeting, a smile or nod. I have come to look forward to seeing the regulars. Most are night watchmen reporting for duty nearby, some are on their way home from work and others are on an evening stroll like me – some alone and others accompanied by a loved one. I know this by the way they talk and look at to each other.
This ‘evening walk community’ make me feel safe as I walk knowing that if something or someone disrupted our peace I would count on a protective reaction from them. Yes…No? Is this too much to expect from the world we live in, where we have watched too many Crime movies and TV shows that make everyone resemble The Killer, where we are inundated with information not to trust our neighbours or people who don’t look like us? How then can we embrace adventure, to create, to love, to seek and find, to make, to move from fear to freedom?
This is how I came to be on the verge of yet another adventure. Following in the words of Nelson Mandela – May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.
On one of my walks, feeling safe and free to get lost in my thoughts I remembered my grandmother; now departed and some the conversations we had about life. She had a unique combination of warmth, kindness, laughter and love. She was strong willed, determined and fearless, often getting her way. She lauded my every success; she meant nothing but the world to me. My grandmother was blessed with the wisdom of a great teacher, sharp as whistle, wisely economical. She was as sincere as my truest friend, and showered unconditional love, I admired her, respected her, and loved her much. This reflection brought with it a wave of sadness because we were letting her down by neglecting the home she loved and had lived in for many years.
You see what happened was that when she passed away no one was left in the homestead. After the funeral we all got into our cars, drove off, went far away and did not look back. The homestead where the springs of life; family, love, food, connection, came from was no more. In its place an old house, neglected, dirty, looted and vandalized by passersby, grass and weeds growing in equal glory, avocado and banana trees striped of all their wares, the stove and fire-place cold and unused.
Over the following weeks I pondered, planned, plotted, consulted, organized, made budgets and became consumed by the idea of restoring my grandmother’s homestead, which was now my father’s by inheritance and then mine by assignment. On my walks I noticed how the venture made me feel; inspired and committed. I promised myself I’d do whatever it took to bring more of that feeling into my life.
But wait a minute, how can an accountant who just started dabbling in creative writing, make time to travel 260 Kilometres, a round trip for five-six hours, once a week. Then find away to connect with the local folk and seek their acceptance, get the necessary tools, workers, supplies and permits needed for this venture? Nothing in my life had prepared me for this. Never ever had I seen myself engaging in construction and farm work. Except, that I understood that you don’t create your community in one go. It starts by getting noticed, a glance here, a nod here until you become part of the environment. Then help, support, guidance comes; the community responds.
8:45 am Thursday. Hair plaited into six Bantu knots tied with a brown head scarf with a sun glasses on top. Gold loop earrings, white cotton top with brown Capri pants. Put on my black walking snickers, an over the shoulder sling purse and a dub of lip gloss – I was ready to get on the road. All my plotting and planning had paid off. The adventure was about to start and for the next few months this will be my life.
I arrive in Witima three hours later. I find several people ready and waiting for me. But before I engage I take a moment to take in the beautiful countryside, breathing in the fresh air say a quick prayer of thanks giving, when someone walks up to me and says,
“Hi my name is Peter Wajona. I am the person you talked to on the phone about timber” I recall and shake his hand happily. He continues to say,
“We are happy to finally meet you, we knew of the old lady who once lived here and we worked with her well.” I grin and say,
“Yes she was my grandmother and I am Wambui named after her, so it is Wambui making a comeback. I look forward to working with you too.”