Day Two: Tuesday 1 March 2016
This afternoon, I asked my guide Steve to help me choose an Acacia tree out on the savannah, to leave some of Chris’s ashes under. “Certainly,” he said. “We will find one with a good view.” I thought for a while that he might have forgotten as we spent a couple of hours looking at lions, cheetahs, hippopotamus, and two enormous crocodiles basking on the river bank.
I needn’t have worried because later on, as he drove the Landcruiser up a long shallow incline, he nodded at a lone tree ahead of us. “I was thinking this one might be good. Do you like it?” The tree was strong and tall; grassland stretched out for miles in every direction; at the bottom of the hill we had just come up was an area of scrub where lions take their ease. “It’s perfect,” I said.
Steve pulled the vehicle to a halt near the tree and scanned the area for potential danger. “You can get out,” he said. I walked over to the tree and picked up an ancient, bleached Wildebeest horn that was lying there and used it to loosen the soil surrounding the base of the tree.
I unscrewed the lid of the container I’d been using to carry Chris’s ashes and emptied them onto the ground. I used my hands to mix them with the dry soil, taking pleasure in handling her mortal remains so intimately. Then I took her ‘blank twins’ doll that I’d brought with me and tucked it into a crevice in the bole of the tree. I decided to leave it there, wondering who or what would see it next and what they might do with it. It seemed fitting to leave an artful curiosity as a marker.
I bowed my head to say farewell to Chris the adventurous traveller and lover of the more-than-human world. Here, I thought, as her soul makes its own safari, her ashes could enjoy forever the peace of wild things, an experience that she longed for during her lifetime.
“Kwaheri ya kuonana,” I said in borrowed and mispronounced Swahili.
“Goodbye. Until we meet again.”