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Mellow yellow
February 2, 2013, 8:34 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

Yellow might be the colour of cowardice but as January came to an end, it would be more appropriate to describe yellow as the colour of foreboding in Zimbabwe. After a month of almost daily rain in which many places received  half of their annual rainfall in less than thirty days,  it was with considerable trepidation that the view from the window was contemplated when the heavens finally dried up.

In urban areas roadside maize planted illegally in any and every open space is a contradictory hotchpotch of disaster and bonanza. People who had built up contours around their little self apportioned plots and added compost, fertilizer and mulch are smiling all over their faces. Their maize is towering, the leaves dark, glossy green and cobs full and ripening.

‘Help yourself,’ a man said when I complimented him on his crop. One cob was selected and snapped off, not too big that it would be tough, not too small that the kernels wouldn’t be sufficiently formed. It took only a couple of minutes to cook, the leaves getting paler and thinner as they were peeled back to the centre. The mouth watered and fingers burned as the fine, soft yellow silks that lie between the lines of plump, juicy kernels were picked out; a few smears with the butter knife, salt, pepper: heaven.

Right next to this bounty are the little plots of people who planted and ignored: no compost or fertilizer, no cultivating and worst of all this year, no contours to save the soil. Incessant rains have left these squares heavily washed, any goodness long gone, the plants yellow and scrawny, some trying to promise a cob or two, but most failing and flailing in the breeze.

Then there’s the view from the country window, the roadside farms. Oh my word what a fearful foreboding this sight gives for our country in the coming months. Almost everything looks to be too late. People were still planting maize after Christmas and into early January, too late in the best of seasons. Then the heavens opened and the rains didn’t stop for three or more weeks. Instead of being head high and with their flowers waving in the wind, the maize plants are barely calf high, in some places ankle high, and almost everywhere it is pale, sickly yellow, you can almost hear it pleading for a few handfuls of fertilizer but it’s too late.

Away from the depressing little squares of yellow and trying not think where our broke government will find the money to import food needed to replace these failed crops, spirits lift at the glorious natural yellow everywhere else. In the wild open spaces that we collectively call ‘the bush,’ there’s an explosion of yellow in the carpets of wild flowers. In some places it’s a bright, dazzling yellow and in others it’s a  quiet, soothing, ‘mellow yellow,’ as hypnotic as the song of the sixties. And for those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, there are exquisite pure yellow flame lilies trailing in the grass, climbing up the rocks, waiting to be discovered and admired, just breathtaking . Until next time, thanks for reading. Love cathy.



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