The Old Fieldhand

Empty spacesBW

When I was younger, I regularly visited my father’s homestead in Kenya’s western Nyanza province. Green and wet hills wrapped voluptuously around the clusters of single-roomed thatched huts. The land was rich with oaks, figs, euphoria, sadry and blue gum trees. The baobab, known across Africa for its medicinal and life healing properties, called mirembe, spread its canopy to cool the land.

Now, in many places, it is different. Cut and cleared, lofty boughs have been turned into charcoal or cheap furniture. Where once there were mango trees, birds now dart through empty spaces.

My friends and I would take a dustbin lid, and prop it up with a stick attached to a long string. We would place some bread or ugali inside. After long minutes of hiding and waiting, we would pull the string, trapping a hungry bird. However,  unlike my country friends,  I wouldn’t eat it. High above, the magnificent African sky looked down with indifference.


荷筱衰翁似有情,  hè;hé xiǎo shuāi;cuī wēng sì  yǒu qíng,

相逢携手绕村行。  xiāng féng  xié shǒu rào cūn xíng;háng;xìng。

烧畬晓映远山色,  shāo shē;yú xiǎo yìng yuǎn shān sè,

伐树暝传深谷声。  fá shù míng zhuàn;chuán  shēn gǔ shēng。

鸥鸟忘机翻浃洽,  ōu niǎo  wàng jī fān jiā qià,

交亲得路昧平生。  jiāo qīn;qìng dé;děi;de lù mèi  píng shēng。

抚躬道地诚感激,  fǔ gōng  dào dì chéng  gǎn jī,

在野无贤心自惊。  zài yě wú xián xīn zì jīng。


The old man and his long picker make a sentimental scene

Would that we could link hands and circle the village green

At break of day, light from razed fields bounces off far mountains

From deep gulleys, one hears the echoes of chopping trees

The gull soars, twisting serenely in the breeze

We discuss kin and travelling, how strange it all seems

How grateful I am to know myself through his pure and honest ways

How astounding to hear “The countryside has nothing to offer,’ as some say!


Calligraphy Caption:

Empty Spaces by Mark Obama Ndesandjo:那是曾在密林中飞翔的鸟儿如今见到的是空曠的原野 (Where once there were trees, birds now dart through empty spaces). This Chinese calligraphy work comprises 23 Characters I wrote using the freeform Cao script. The phrase is modified from a passage in my first book, Nairobi to Shenzhen. Let us help raise awareness of the beauty and uniqueness of the trees that surround us.

Featured Image Credit

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