A Forgotten Photo Found ~ Tsavo West

This wasn’t supposed to happen. I was on a mission to declutter the house, which led me inevitably to the old seaman’s chest – that personal cess pit of file dumps; the place where all the research notes, photocopies, story drafts that won’t fit in the three office filing cabinets end up. In truth, this excess stuff weighs heavily on my psyche – my mental albatross.

Many times I have lifted out the boxes of Kenyan newspaper cuttings with a view to swift despatch. They date from 1992 to 2000, and are sorted into topics such as ‘forced marriage’, ‘female genital mutilation’, ‘street children’, ‘colonial residue’, ‘wildlife conservation’. There are articles on politics, land grabbing, the Kakamega gold rush, Maasai customs, Akamba myths, shape-shifting and witch finding. The period covered is one of great political change in Kenya – the World Bank impositions of structural adjustment and international pressure on the single party Moi regime to adopt multi-party politics Western-style. And there’s the catch. I can tell myself this cuttings file is of some historical importance. Is this not reason enough to keep it?

And the other reason? Well, it’s my source material, isn’t it? All the stories I have yet to write or finish off. How can I possibly throw out all this valuable stuff?

But still there’s the secret doubt. Quite a big niggle actually. Haven’t I hung on to it all because I doubt my own capacity to remember, and if I don’t remember, isn’t it too late to go back and mine this doggedly accumulated reference collection. Might I not function better without it? Liberate myself from the psychic albatross?

And so it was – in the midst of this endlessly circular argument, stacks of yellowing papers all over the floor that I opened a box and found this photograph. I don’t know how it missed being put in the album. It must have been taken in the mid-90s on a day’s safari to Tsavo West National Park. And now I see it, I remember taking the photograph. The waterholes are at the safari lodge, the red soil caught in the full flush of midday sunlight. You can just make out a herd of zebra. And in the background are the Chyulu Hills, still deemed volcanically active after a million and half years of eruptions.

However you look at it, this is a breathtaking vista – elemental Kenya. Priceless then?

The argument goes on. What is priceless, what is not. Doubtless the files will go back in the chest for another day of writerly self abuse. I’m glad I found the photo though.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell


Daily Prompt: Priceless

50 thoughts on “A Forgotten Photo Found ~ Tsavo West

  1. It’s priceless now as well. Oh, Tish, I completely identify with you. I have saved things that I begin to go through, tell myself I haven’t looked at them in years, etc., etc….but I can’t get rid of them. Some of them weigh heavily on me and I have made some progress, but not as much as I’d like. Some would say to scan them, but what an investment of time that would take! Books are, for me, the worst. I don’t have room to do anything but keep most of them in boxes, but when I try to get rid of them (and I have gotten rid of some, great victories), they adhere to my fingers and somehow end up back in those boxes. Not much help here, just empathy and sympathy.


      1. Every time I take a box or bag to the thrift store or get rid of lots of things, I tell my husband, who thinks I should just be able to get rid of things without stress. 🙂 Makes us both happy.

  2. Great image, Tish…. And apropos doubting one’s ability to remember stuff…I have recently posted a couple of images that have no place attached, because I no longer remember….and am currently trying to work out where a ruined monastery was in Germany…..I chucked the stuff that would have told me some time ago….

  3. What a find. This is a fantastic post….I can imagine you doing a big declutter and being stopped in your tracks by this treasure trove. It happens to me all the time. This really is an amazing image…thank you. Today one can definitely feel autumn in the air 🙂

  4. What a fantastic photograph it is too. I went to Africa many moons ago and I can still the bird in my head that I heard every morning. I think it was something like the ‘Kudu’ bird. Anyway, great post and I love your use of words like psychic albatross!!

    1. Thanks for those kind words, Trev. African birds do have a way of staying in one’s head – rainbirds, and oriels and waterbottle birds. Perhaps that last was your bird – a coucal – it sounds like an emptying flask -doo-doo-dooo???

      1. I think you’re right, Tish. What a way you have describing that sound. I can hear it, but there’s no way I could put it into words. Thanks.

  5. This sorting out to find a bit of treasure is something I’ve been doing too. Part of the process is facing the hard truth that certain projects just aren’t going to happen. For me this weekend I sorted through craft projects. Two bags to go to the op shop but a pile of stuff still on the work table. It’s a very slow process that involves a lot of hard questions and introspection.

  6. It’s a magnificent photo. As for the rest perhaps there’s something there for you yet, or you’d simply throw it all away. Maybe it’s just not the right time to make use of all that reference material, but it’s still needed.

    1. Thank you for those encouraging words, Alison. I have come to compromise with it, and given it a good prune. What I need to do is go through it systematically, and see what surfaces. It’s a notion anyway 🙂

  7. The photograph IS priceless, especially since that place probably no longer looks anything like that. And it’s great that you got it up on the web where it will probably survive in cyber-space for eternity. It was a GOOD thing, right?

    1. Yes, a good find indeed. I was wondering whether that view had changed, and was glad to find that it really hasn’t. In fact the Chyulu Hills seem to a National Park now. Can’t imagine anything lovelier than riding through them on horseback which seems to be on offer there now.

  8. Fabulous photo. There doesn’t seem to be any completely satisfactory way to declutter. I try to declutter at least twice a year but I still feel as though I am drowning in stuff, particularly stuff which I may want sometime in the future. 😀

  9. A nice find. Funny the things we keep thinking one day we might do something with them. I am quite good at decluttering, have had to be given the number of times I have moved house, but still hold on to some things for purely sentimental reasons, including a load of postcards. One day I shall use them on the blog. But I’m not sure I can use the actual image for copyright reasons.

  10. Quit beating yourself up for saving treasure. So rich. No one else has these pictures. I can relate to your urge to declutter but I’m such a Non deleter and you need your resources.

  11. Elemental my dear Tish. I thought it might be Kilaguni? 🙂
    Save the clippings. They are a testimony. And will start the fund for the Tish Farrell Library you will leave once you are gone. 🙂
    This picture made me wonder whether the Africa us wazungu have come to cherish really exists? I odn’t think Africans (anywhere) have the same vision. Bu then it is probably true of other places: the France most foreigners see, is not the same country French people have in mind…
    Enough rambling. And asante sana na picha. A very good shot. I’de never actually seen the hills in the background.

    1. Kilaguni was the spot indeed, Brian. And you raised some thoughts that I often mull over. We wazungu did/do romance about Africa. I suppose to most traditional African communities land or cattle or both are both sacred in a deep sense AND sources of livelihood. It’s more about meaning than beauty observed. And many thanks for the advice about the archive. Rather than dispose of it, I perhaps need to read it 🙂

      1. You’re totally right. About land and cattle. Wildlife is a nuisance. But then if you think traditional garb, Masai, and others, beauty and elegance are definitely sought. Just different perspectives. And, yes, do read the archives and partake some. Kwaheri sassa.

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