It’s been 21 years since I started writing this Letter From Zimbabwe, telling the story of events in our country week by week from my perspective, never knowing that so many people in so many places around the world would want to read it.
This letter today is for you, the thousands of faithful, long time readers who have stood by me, communicated with me, cried and laughed with me and given me strength and courage to keep on telling the story.
It’s especially for people in lockdown or for those locked in at boarding schools in Zimbabwe or for the countless thousands who could not travel to be with their families over Easter.
This one is not about the uglies of life in Zimbabwe: the politics, greed, corruption and oppression.
It’s about the essence and beauty of our country, the things that give us solace and comfort in these times when freedoms shrink and controls grow ever tighter. Close your eyes, feel the warm breeze, walk with me ….
Under a beautiful blue sky stretching clear and bright to every horizon I went walking in the bush with a friend over Easter. The dew was thick on the grass, decorated everywhere with scores of spider webs glistening with beads of moisture, perfectly outlined in the early morning sunlight.
In the vlei (wetland) where a little stream crosses the path, a pool of water still flows gently, ankle deep and alive with movement.
On the surface water striders skate from edge to edge, while water boatmen and their babies zoom round and round in circles, their shiny boat-shaped bodies propelled by long front legs, their own built-in paddles.
The books tell me that water boatmen don’t bite people, they have an envelope of air around their bodies which enables them to dive for prey and feed on the bottom. But for those of us who’ve been bitten by them many painful times, we have another version to tell – or perhaps they’re just an annoyed Zimbabwean species that likes to bite.
In the clear water in the pool half a dozen tiny striped fish swim and you wonder how long these little bream will survive as the water recedes and the predators wait to pounce: hammerkops, herons, otters, leguaans (water monitors). It wasn’t that long ago when we had to take our shoes and socks off and walk through the cool water further downstream to get across the stream but now it’s an easy crossing as the water slows and seeps back into the dark black, spongy soil.
On the other side of the pool along the marshy wetland, the red hot pokers are in flower, they are coming to an end now and everywhere you can see the sap falling in the grasses, the bright green fading and yellow appearing. In the open valleys the grasses are covered in flowering seed heads: gold, yellow and russet and the stunning undulating waves of red, pink and cream of the Natal Red Top grass sways in the warm breeze.
Always my friend and I look for signs in the sand, to see what walked this way before us, round tracks of zebra, sharp, pointy heart shaped tracks of antelope, the obvious five toes and long back pad of baboons, the webbed back feet of an otter, or the four clawed toes of a jackal.
And if we’re really lucky we see the distinct cat track in the wet mud, a predator came this way, and we look over our shoulders into the tall waving grass and rocks in the distance and wonder who’s watching who.
In the kopjes squirrels run vertically up and down steep rock faces and fat dassies (hyrax) lie in the sun, absorbing the heat from the rocks below and the sun above. In the woodland a fawn antelope is spotted, it’s a baby sable and then the parents come into view, striking black fur and long sweeping horns.
Then we hear the eland before we see it, the distinct loud clicking as is strides through the bush, apparently caused by the tendon slipping over a bone in the knee, vibrating like a taut string, the sound getting deeper as the eland gets older and its tendon grows longer.
The rivers are still flowing but much slower and the kopjes have mostly stopped seeping; nature is gathering its moisture underground, preparing for the six or seven months without rain when our beautiful Zimbabwe will reveal all her winter treasures.
Cathy Buckle is a Zimbabwean writer and blogger living in Marondera, Zimbabwe.
Copyright © Cathy Buckle