I see them walking home through the sultry shadows of the ghommos at the end of a long day;
it’s the end of winter, the grass is ripe. Ready.
Measuring their paces like someone documenting a long journey,
they head home.
Thick thatch, bundled burdens, carried on their heads, supported by proud necks and elegant shoulders.
They move graciously like their own shadows, holding their heads high.
In spite of the load, there is a lightness in their hearts,
carrying it with dignity and carrying it with pride.
It will bring warmth on cold winter nights
and it will be cool on hot summer days.
Simple thatch. Twined together like vibrant families into larger communities.
Labour of love.
They sing and cut and sing and measure and then,
all at once, stamp them into shape.
All the edges aligned: from grass to thatch.
Labour of duty.
On their straight backs and proud shoulders they carry, and they sing,
and they sweat,
and they ache
and they laugh
A baby is born, and the golden thatch will proclaim their joy;
a bright new life
a new hut,
a new place.
With him the thatch will fade, its colour lost.
Its purpose may remain for many seasons and many harvests
but at the end it will be, like the old life, replaced.
Amongst the songs and dances the young and fresh will replace the old and the wise.
Dexterous hands will merge branches into poles and grass into thatch
to weave a roof as strong as a nation.
Grass to thatch to roof. Sheltering life, and transitioning nature into homes;
from the earth the mud will rise into walls structured by poles to strengthen
and carry the heavy loads being brought in on proud necks and elegant shoulders.
A calf is born and stands for the first time in the moonlit night.
The young heifer will lick him, love him, support him
and the life of the herd bull will begin here and now, on this cloudless night.
Somewhere distant a dog barks and a lonely drum measures the journey of life.
A fresh bucket of water is brought to the surface by the tender muscles of adolescent girls,
laughing and spilling water in the sand; their shy smiles offer me some,
and I wash my sunburnt face in the cool of the water and think of the thatch:
a similar coolness, the rich smell of water from the earth.
Through the water in my eyes, I see the oxen harnessed to a plough,
and soon the soil will be turned and its rich smell will announce its receptiveness.
Ripe. Ready. For the seeds to germinate.
It will harbour and nourish a crop, if the rains are good.
They duck down into thick grass where no bold man will go, where leopards and snakes may linger
in the shade of the tall grass.
Labour of love. Labour of duty;
to provide shade and warmth, protection from the sun.
They sing and they cut and measure and they stamp grass into thatch.
And they smile and they wave, as we drive past
into our future, leaving them in our past.
They are memories, etched in my mind forever.