Year by year, and taking its time to perhaps admit that things can’t ever bear the same certainty again, I learnt to like those transitional days, the moments between those perfect ever-changing dry and rain seasons, that define the face of our native human African land, in which I couldn’t make up my mind, as feeling I was being fooled, led about in a circle, with my eyes fixed on something that turns out to be a moving point in an incommensurable curvature. I learnt to like those days when the intermittent nature of the vlei, then just cracked mud, dry and paler as a melted stone in the heat of the midday sun, suddenly turned wet and green and warm, and the new grass was a clash of sounds, perhaps music. When the deafening crickets, curmudgeons that scramble to find solitude and cover from the light, spread the rumor of change as they felt it was their duty to warn everybody that drought, as everything, cannot last for ever. When the crack and the rumble of the thunders, lashed by startling lightning, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope. When the noises of the streets began to change, diminish, voices became fewer, the music sparse. When blocks and blocks of children, then baked in the warmth of the sunshine, were spirited away by the falling drops, without love or pity. When elders with only the vaguest ideas of who they were becoming and what came next, retreated from the streets into the decrepit dwellings, duping themselves with the ancient songs in which darkness always ends. When noisy and cheerful adolescents moved from the sidewalk to the stoop to the hallway to the stairs, now demure and irritable, and rooftops were abandoned. When the dark came sooner, inched in closer, fell with a greater weight, despite the rarely visible high plump and pale, as a peeled apple, moon, and the dim and scarce multicolored bulbs glinting endlessly in puddles and soggy sidewalks. When the houses put on their rainy faces staring down the acerbic new landscape, seeming, not without bitterness, to have resolved to endure another year. When the sensuous memories of sunlight past moments to be stoic and solitary, sleeping alone on a wooden board with mud cloth sheets and splinters that scratch the skin, give way to mad lust, the untamed delicious and privy wild thing.
Somewhere I’d heard, or invented perhaps, that time cannot be spent. It only can be squandered. For the circle consists of nothing but such transitional points without any extent whatever. There is no duration of motion, and eternity turns out to be not ‘straight ahead’ but ‘merry-go-round.’ Yet, time can be slowed if you live deliberately. If you stop and watch the rain. If you spend time sitting on porches listening to the woods. If you give in to the reality of the seasons. They know not life, who know not this.
In my own shire today, as I am sad, I feel nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land.
In the “Diula” language in Mali, the term « dugutigui » (chief of the village), literally translated, means: «owner of the village»; «dugu» means village and «tigui», owner. Probably the term is the result of the contraction of «dugu kuntigui» (literally: chief of the village).