Friday, July 8, 2011

"I had a farm in Africa."

            Remember the beginning of the film Out of Africa?  Meryl Streep with that affected Danish accent in voice-over: “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”  Cue the swelling brass of John Barry's stirring soundtrack.  The sweeping overhead shot of a train slicing through the African veldt along the Great Rift Valley.  Oh, this one will make you cry—the music, the cinematography, it all promises tragedy in store.
            “I had a farm in Africa.”  What poignant memory is in these six words.  What loss. Meryl Streep's character (real-life memoirist Karen von Blixen) spent seventeen years in Kenya, from 1914-1931 struggling to run a coffee plantation.  During that time, she married, divorced, started a school for native children, and ultimately, found freedom from the repression of Victorian Denmark.
            Maybe I'm overdoing it to hear the soundtrack in my ears when I think of the past, but I had my own farm in Africa.  It was a handful of summers spent in Bedford for extended family reunions.  It was the last days of childhood running wild in the woods on the Chestnut Ridge.  Two years on a tropical island in the Philippine Sea.  A tour of the Lake Erie/Chautauqua Wine trail with a new friend.  Two weeks in Nova Scotia with a group of strangers who became friends.           
There is almost no single moment of my life during which I stop and think, “This will be a moment I’ll want to relive.  This is a moment that will make me ache with longing.  This moment will be so glorious in remembering that I won’t be able to think on it without pain.”  We never think that, do we? 
Nathaniel Hawthorne said “Our first youth is of no value: for we are never conscious of it until after it is gone.”  It's true of so much of our lives.  Is it a punishment to be so oblivious?  Or just a natural outcome of the overwhelming weight of the present? 

I cannot see the forest for the trees, but once, I had a farm in Africa. 

Reason I Didn't Write Yesterday: Bad Hair


  1. You're a jerk and you made me cry.

  2. Remember when you updated your blog? Yeah, me either.