There! Even more mesmerising in death than it had been in life, this ancient camel thorn, towering over the surrounding shrub and grass. A piece of profound earth art. And I thought now, at the cusp of the new decade, an apt metaphor for the past and the future.
The past, because it tells with agonising clarity how the rough winds had torn it and split it and the droughts had stunted it but how it had tried again and again, and when the occasional thunderstorm had drifted over it, how it had sucked up the sparse liquid and reached and grown to this singular majesty.
The future, because now it points with such poignant eloquence to choices we can make as we go forward. The pointers start clear and strong, but then they spilt up and become more fragile until they disappear into uncertainty. Some lead down and strangely seem short and sad. Some reach far to the sides and carry others that lead up. Some simply soar gloriously and seem to point, even beckon into endless white or blue splendour.
None knew, while they were growing, exactly where fate would finally take them. They just tried and strove as best they could. Some took the wrong direction, some better and then still better ones, some just the best from the start. All had to do with choice, but also so much with fate, and luck. But all eventually stopped growing, then started losing their leaves, then, slowly, their bark, until they ended up lifeless and white-bleached by the relentless elements.
The African bushveld savanna is like a finely crafted playbook. Endlessly variable scenes roll one from the other, sometimes close and dense, at other times low and sparse, then tall and majestic, then vast and empty. But always, the variety and richness of information, even the small fraction that our poor senses are able to access, is overwhelming.
Wandering it one is awed, and seduced to seek out the dramatic and the spectacular, and it is there in abundance – fierce, majestic, vast, brutal, bloody. But often its richest stories are told quietly, by subtle hints of sound or smell on the breeze, or barely-visible signs in the soil, or marks on trees, or long-bleached skeletons, or little pathways leading, where?
Now it presents us with a metaphor not only for our personal choices, but also for the choices we make as communities, or nations, or a species.
Wise men and women of our species had created the organs for collective actions aimed at extending our collective survival and reasonable prosperity. The mechanisms are in place, but we have chosen to degrade them, to belittle them, to ignore them and finally to make them into costly and laughable talk shops. The end of our existence as a species is, I believe, as inevitable as had been that of the dinosaurs or other extinct species. This earth that we are so selfishly torturing will cast us from its surface shortly, but I think through our actions we are hastening our end and causing what little time remains of our existence into something miserable and brutal.