Browsing the English titles on the bookshelf I pulled out a tattered copy of Hemingway’s ‘Green Hills of Africa’. Resting the book on the shelf I opened it near the beginning and was greeted with the sight of a small brown scorpion advancing up the margin near the spine. This struck me as singularly appropriate but heavily laced with irony: a book on big game hunting that concealed one of nature’s smallest yet deadliest creatures. With pincers raised the scorpion reached the top of the page, dropped onto the shelf and with a final burst of speed slid neatly between Raymond Chandler and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Clearly a creature with a literary bent.
There was not much else on the large rectangular verandah except for two bare beds pushed into a corner, a camping table and two red plastic chairs. Open on two sides it looked out over a wide mangrove fringed estuary to green hills on the far side. Immediately in front, when the tide was out, a long low sandbar ran smooth and uncluttered save for one lone mangrove tree. The creek in front was clear and ran off into yet more swampy mangrove. All is water and tree here. We are on a narrow peninsula within a peninsula and are thus doubly remote from the mainland and all its attractions. There isn’t a paved road, electricity or mains water for miles and precious little habitation.
The best time here is soon after dawn. A light breeze starts up just as the first rays of the sun come lancing low through the trees. The bird song begins soon after, a bewitching medley of whoops, trills and staccato calls. I like to get up at this time and, after a few gentle stretches, make my way to one of the red chairs with a book. As the pages turn the sun climbs higher moving the light and the shadow haphazardly. The wind picks up as well causing the hard fronds on the coconut palm to brush against each other and little waves to lap on the sandy shore. In spite of these natural noises, or maybe because of them, it is so wonderfully peaceful. Turning one’s head into the breeze causes that ‘wind blowing over ears noise. A vibration set up by the folds and tucks in our auditory appendages that to me seemed strangely comforting yet tinged with a note of melancholia.
More pages turn and I am more deeply involved in the story yet often take a moment to raise my head and look across the water. There are no clouds in the sky. The wind is blowing steadily now passing me in soft, comforting blasts. There is no sense of heat or cold, rather a complete absence of both and I feel held perfectly by this air which passes invisibly all round me. I inhale deeply and get no smell or taste in the breeze but imagine it to be some of the sweetest air that I have ever breathed. It is as though the new day is announcing itself by its very benign neutrality, this is a day you have not seen before, breathe me, do what you will with me, I am yours to enjoy.
Smiling with the realisation that I am intensely held by these moments and wonderfully enamoured by my location I return to the story.