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Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

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October 8th, 2007

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

"I had a farm in Africa..."

Well, no. I'm not Karen Blixen.

But every now and then the nostalgia bites, oh, how it bites...

We just got done watching the pilot for a new TV show called "Life is Wild". It's... kind of... feeble, really. The storyline ranges from the improbable to the patronizing to fake-pathetic. I've looked the thing up on the internets, later, and it's been described as an African edition of "7th Heaven", which is the sort of saccharine syrupy preachy nonsense that rdeck and I were almost literally tearing our eyes out with rusty farm implements rather than watch - and yes, there is a lot of that in it. Take a nice but dysfunctional family from "civilization" - Papa the vet who wants to Do Good; Second-Wife-Mama who used to be a high-powered Manhattan divorce lawyer but is now gung ho to restore and run a run-down safari lodge operation; Sainted Late Lamented First Wife Mama whose family's "ancestral" lodge this is, and whose borderline alcoholic father still snoozes his afternoons away on the falling-down porch; mix'n'match kids from two marriages, "his and hers and ours" - a pretty blonde teen queen who bemoans the lack of MySpace, a rebel without a cause bad boy who wanted to get his lip pierced back home in good old New York and who is the cause they are all there (and much angst is hung thereon), a precious and sensitive younger brother who is also idiot enough to wander off into the bush by himself causing the entire family to scare off after him, and a younger girl who is precious enough to be afraid of bears and tigers and monsters outside when the animals howl (and who is reassured that there aren't any bears or tigers in Africa, but then says, "but you didn't say anything about the monsters!"

Throw in the Big White Boss who is running the hugely successful lodge next door (and is slated to be the villain of the piece, you just know it), his two perfect children who seem to have stepped straight out of the casting pool at MGM Starlets Incorporated, and a couple of black characters who appear to be poised for a career as Token Native Sidekick and/or Temporary Romantic Interest (at least as long as the AMerican teens are there anyway and to be tearfully waved goodbye to, no doubt, in the final episode after a year of living dangerously, as it were).

Oh, it's a soapie. A YA soapie, at that.

But, oh. Africa.

I sat there watching the spreading acacia trees over the waving golden grasses; I watched vivid sunsets paint themselves over the sky; I listened to the orphaned lion cub's incessant chatter and remembered the one that I was once deeply privileged to be able to hold in my lap (and yes they DO talk all the time). And I'm suddenly missing it, the wide skies, the veldt, the beasts of woods and plains, the great herds of impalas, the stately elephants, the giraffes, the cheetahs, the lions.

It gets under your skin, Africa does. And stays there. And every now and then that part of itself that it leaves within you makes you strain to hear distant drums, or a lion grunting in the purple twilight, or the rain coming down in tropical sheets from the sky. The smell of it, the smell of dust and sweat and animal musk and raw red earth and the delicate scent of the acacias. The colours of it, the purple jacaranda trees and the scarlet flame trees and the brittle golden yellow of the savannah and the crimsons and molten golds of the sunsets. The sounds of it, the whisper of wind in the dry grass, the scream of an animal, the laughter and chatter from the marketplaces where the women gather, carrying half the world in a massively unbalanced bales of stuff on their heads, often apparently packed with a degree of slipshod carelessness that makes you want to run behind them with a safety net to catch escaping items which somehow all stay put in their place.

I didn't have a farm in Africa. But I had three houses there, lived in them, grew up in them, left them all behind. And sometimes I still miss them and the beautiful, powerful, wounded, astonishing, brave, corrupt, wide-horizon'd continent on which they still crouch, giving other families, other children, a sheltering roof.

Forgive me while I go and dream of drums tonight.