Saturday, April 29, 2006

My Africa

Last weekend, I attended my friends’ wedding in Fort McPherson. It was a few hours’ drive away from Inuvik, and the day was brilliant. On the way down, some of the trees that stood on the top of the little hills looked like spires of a medieval cathedral. We had Neil Diamond blaring from the stereo in the car – not exactly my taste in music, but somehow, the perfect soundtrack for the drive. I don’t think that there will ever be a time when I won’t think of Inuvik when I hear “Sweet Caroline.”

The wedding was simple and tasteful. The bride was gorgeous, while the groom was beaming from ear to ear during the entire proceedings. Someone had painted fireweed bursting upward from the bottom hem of the bride’s gown; it was such a charmingly perfect touch, bringing the landscape of the north into the union. After all, the north has been the setting of my friends’ fairy-tale romance. It was here that their happily-ever-after began.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been obsessed over Africa. Let me rephrase that – I’ve always been obsessed about Africa, but I had allowed that flame to die, and it wasn’t until recently that the passion was rekindled. I remember the book that made me love and yearn for the African wild: Elspeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika. Even though I was still a child when I read the memoir, I already knew instinctively that the Africa in the book no longer existed. This knowledge has in part inhibited me from travelling to Kenya to find those flame trees. This past week, I read a couple of books lent to me by a friend: They’re two books from Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. The stories take place in modern-day Botswana, and although they describe none of Huxley’s colonial wilderness (an oxymoron!), they have sparked something in me again. My friends and I watched The Constant Gardener last night, and I was overcome with such sadness and yearning, seeing the harshness and endurance of both the people and the land in Africa. I’ve been researching online for tours to Africa, Kenya in particular. I think it could be a trip that would change my life and give me a whole new perspective.

Last weekend, on the way down to McPherson, we stopped by Tsiigehtchic, a tiny community sitting atop a cliff where the Mackenzie and Arctic Red rivers converge. We caught part of their jamboree, and saw a few dog teams take off up the river. In many ways, the North is my Africa. It is my wilderness, with its history of injustice and colonization, with its unforgiving harshness and breathtaking beauty, and its people and communities propelled forward inevitably by time, hope, and inner strength.

1 comment:

  1. Don't start listening to Neil Diamond, please! Kenya sounds like a splendid idea. Too bad I won't be able to go with you. If I have the time and money, I would love to visit you and see "your Africa" up there!