Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Hot Earth



As a boy I was raised in Kenya, and our first home was way up country in a place called Koru. My father’s work took him away from home on extended hunting trips. During one of these absences my mother had a bout of malaria, and we went to stay at a mission station run by the Röetikinen sisters. I believe they were Lutheran missionaries. At mid-day when the day was hottest, they always rested, and they wanted us children to stay in our room and be still. They confined us there by taking away our shoes.

When ever I touch the ground that’s hot
With the sole of my foot that’s bare,
I never fail to recall a time,
And the memories lingering there,
Of a day when I was just a boy,
Beneath equatorial skies,
And the tactic used to keep me indoors
While the missionaries rested their eyes.

My mother was sick with malaria
The curse of the tropic zone,
And while my dad was away on the hunt
Their station became our home.
And after lunch when the sky was hot
And the morning’s work was done
They took my shoes away from me
To keep me out of the sun.

The veranda air was still as a grave,
Not a sound to could be heard outside
Save the click-click-click from the beetles
And the grasshoppers jumping to hide.
Or the scratching scaly slither,
Of a snake on the flowerbed verge,
Or the distant cry of the crested crane,
These are the sounds that merge.

The sight of the distant Koru hills
Shimmering in the haze
Beyond the frangipani trees
Return once more to my gaze,
And the prickly spiky Crown of Thorns
That lined the garden ways,
These are the sights that ribbon back
From my early Kenyan days.

The smell of the room was a mixture
Of scents on the garden air,
And creosote coming up through the floor
From the pilings under there,
And paraffin from the pressure lamps
Which hissed as they gave us light.
With the hint of oil of pyrethrum
Sprayed round the eves at night.

The step to my door should I venture
At noon was as hot as a stove,
The soil on the paths and driveway
Would burn if ever I strove.
And the thorns in the earth would prick me
As I cautiously picked my way through
To the shade of the frangipani tree,
From there I took in the view.

So, when ever I touch the ground that’s hot
With the sole of my foot that’s bare,
I never fail to recall a time,
And the memory lingering there,
Of a day when I was just a boy,
Where the images I find,
Set smells and sights and sounds of
Africa sizzling in my mind.


Written on July 4th 2005 in
Redding, California, temperature 105° Fahrenheit

1 comment:

runningman said...

Very nice Blog Doc. Enjoyed the Kenya stories.
Fletcher Christian Bowhay