It was visible from some way off, this ancient camel thorn. It demanded to be viewed in its full glory, with nothing of the shrub-land obscuring it. Even in death it still towered over its surroundings, more mesmerising than in life. A piece of sublime earth art.
It tells, with agonising clarity, of hundreds of years of life in its brutal world. How it had hopefully pushed out its new growth. How the rough winds and the eland bull’s horns had torn at it and split it, how the long droughts had slowed it, then stopped it, and its hope and its life had slowly died back until survival hung from a desperately thin thread. It tells of the few thunderstorm that had drifted over the Kalahari; how it had sucked up the sparse liquid from deep down in the sandy soil for months afterwards and had re-kindled its life and its hope and summoned the strength to try again, and again.
Each time the new life broke out clear and strong and full of faith and courage. Giraffes ambled up and picked out the green shoots from among the thorns with their agile tongues. A few times the new life lasted long enough to produce the hard pods, and the animals came and got nourishment from them and spread the seeds in their dung.
But each time of hope and growth was followed by a time of death and despair, and over hundreds of cycles they formed the sculpture to this singular beauty that, now lifeless and bleached by the elements, embodies it all with such eloquent simplicity.
It is a metaphor for our lives, our personal choices, each starting as fresh, as hopeful, as fragile. They progress but they are impacted by the winds and droughts of life and how we re-act to them. Often they split into new choices. Some branches disappear into uncertainty. Some lead down and come to a sad end. 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 and blue. 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, others were better choices. 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. Would it that, at that stage, I had built a sculpture as simple, as honest, as beautify as the camel thorn did.