The Old Diviner





My father had a geologist friend who knew of my interest in crystals and attractive pieces of colored ore. He was happening a day's journey into the bush with an old water diviner to site a replacement mine. My father asked if I could accompany . I didn't just like the geologist, I felt that he considered me to be a burden, but I wanted to travel deep into the bush. I wanted to ascertain wild animals and find wonderful crystals. Most of all I wanted to ascertain a hyena. the beginning of the journey was exciting, it had been my sort of bush - thick forests and open vleis (seeps) - but the dense forest soon faded . Village charcoal burners had thinned the forests to form charcoal to sell across the border within the Congo. On the way there i used to be sitting straight, searching for wildlife - but I saw nothing. the world had been hunted out long before. there have been no crystals to be found either, and therefore the geologist sarcastically said, 'elephants and crystals don't grow on trees sonny - anyway this bush is dead.'

Only a prig such as you would say something like that, I thought. I had learnt the word prig from a Maugham story about an arrogant rubber plantation manager in Malaya. I liked both the sound and meaning of it. I could name a couple of prigs in Luanshya. The geologist was added to my prig list. The day was tedious and uneventful. On the way back i used to be tired. We had been out nine hours. I flopped back in my seat on the purpose of dragging my musings into a bunker - i used to be told i used to be excellent at that. The old water diviner, an Afrikaner who had been raised within the Karoo desert, the driest a part of South Africa , must have sensed my gloom for he started telling me stories.

He told me he was ready to find water with two copper rods, but that he could also divine with two green sticks. The geologist, who was actually doing the groundwork for a contemporary hydrological survey, respected the water diviner and his methods. They often yield interesting results, and had brought him along 'out of interest', so he said.

The diviner went on to inform me that contrary to what you see and think you recognize , Africa doesn't always deliver what you'd expect. albeit you had prior knowledge on what should happen - it'd not happen. He said he used this manner of thinking when he was divining for water. Underground water was never a given - Africa had many dry rivers both above and below the bottom . He then fell into a preoccupied silence as he groped for his tobacco during a canvas bag under his seat. What was this wizened old man with tobacco stains on his teeth and fingers telling me? I guessed it had been getting to be interesting. Then he checked out me, and cleared his tarred throat; it had been as if he was close to provides a wedding speech. His pupils were glistening black diamonds within the wrinkled recesses of his eye sockets as my curiosity took a robust hold.

Out of earshot of the prig steering his rattling Land Rover, the diviner told me that in Africa, physical things could suddenly appear then even as quickly disappear. 'But they did nothing of the sort' he said with a confident snort. 'It was the way we were watching them that made these strange things happen. Everything had an energy of its own which could never be lost - it merely altered its shape in time and space.' Nodding in mused self-agreement, he then kept quiet for an honest while. 'Energies are like hyenas,' he finally uttered. Wow! Now i actually was all ears. i actually wished I had a grandfather like him. With slow forceful words he continued, 'An area could haven't any hyenas - then suddenly out of nowhere, one would seem .' If someone during a remote village had been cursed; that night, without one pug mark on the sandy floor of the village clearing, a hyena would seem at his door - albeit hyenas had not been seen or heard of within the area for a really while . 'This was because the hyena had always been there,' he said with a smug air of all-weather assurance.

True to form, the prig appeared oblivious to our important conversation, his mind doggedly fixed on the bumpy road that was pulling his vehicle to pieces. once more i used to be sitting upright trying to find hyenas in what remained of once thick Miombo woodlands while the old diviner spoke. My ears were pricked, my eyes peeled and my skin bristled - my bony little bum hardly made an indent on the green canvas of the backseat. Out there within the failing forest light i used to be hyper-sensitized to everything real and imaginary. I knew that hyenas were tribal omens for vital things in Africa, that's why the Nyau and therefore the Makishi only used effigies of hyenas in their most serious rituals. There was no logical reason for a hyena to not re-appear within the 'dead' bush, within the immediate here and now of our homeward journey within the prig's rattle wagon.

The diviner continued: 'Hyenas are a mystery to their fellow beasts. they will eject an aardwolf, an aardvark, or maybe a nasty tempered ratel from its burrow in an anthill, commandeer it, and with the collusion of the termites; do the strangest of things.' Now i used to be nape hair erect and alert! My mind ran wild, throwing my thoughts everywhere the rear seat and floor of the vehicle because it trundled down that remote dirt road. the sunshine was receding fast and Mr 'Cool' the geologist put his foot on the accelerator of his 'Landy.' The diviner fell into another one among his tobacco chewing silences and that i began to ruminate over things - I took as long because it took for him to suck on nicotine: spit spent tobacco, and pick his cracked lips freed from the soggy shreds. Whatever it had been that crept through his well-seasoned mind was worth expecting .

'Lion, especially ,' he said, 'despise hyenas, and can hunt them down and kill them - sometimes heartlessly killing hyena pups within the den so on curb the amount of hyenas in their territory.' When being chased by a lion, he explained, a hyena would disappear down a burrow in an anthill and never begin . The lion would give an eerie howl of frustrated annoyance, but regardless of how long a lion waited; albeit a pride of lions took turns to get on guard for a month, the hyena would never begin - this was because the hyena was not there. 'When a hyena takes over a burrow in an anthill,' he said, 'it is his intention that his mind and body be melted down by a sea of termites.' This was very different to a animal being eaten by red ants. it had been the morphing of the hyena into an aethereal vital force that parasitically attached itself to all or any members of the termite Queendom. After an uncanny gulp of held breath he explained further; the termite mind may be a collective mind, it thinks as a 1 mind spreading and sharing its synaptic thought processes between Queendoms right across subterranean Africa. Because the hyena had slyly embedded his spirit into this endless termitine mind - their 'everywhere' and their consequent awareness of all bush goings-on had unavoidably become his for his own perverse machinations. By an equivalent willed intent, he would then coalesce his virtual spirit-being out of the termite world and back to his physical reality: to resurface wherever he felt his religious doctrine was needed - or not needed, as within the case of the lion.

And thereupon , the old diviner returned to his pouch , leaving me to digest his awesome words.

What could are a tedious journey home, flew by. The long edges of evening shadows melted into a deep velvet of forest dark; there to be sown up for the night with thin threads of wood smoke from village charcoal burners along the roadside. Soon we might be back in Luanshya with its cheery light bulb windows and warm tarmacadam roads. Once home I asked my father to supply the old diviner a beer and a lift home - which he graciously accepted; luckily the prig was during a hurry to urge back and write his report. on behalf of me it had been an unwilling quick bath with Dettol, a willing fish stick and spaghetti sauce sandwich, and bed. I didn't really object.

Hyenas danced a sly shuffle on the silver screen of my fading consciousness. I knew that that they had been there within the bush, they were everywhere, even in my bedroom, but actually , you only couldn't see them.


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