Animal skulls are part of the rhythm of the African wilderness, signs of past dramas, and they become part of the cycles of the seasons, through heat and rain. These short essays were written over the years in several locations.
In the darkness a scream, then silence permeates the night. In the silence you can hear the blood seeping back into the earth, a purveyor of the dramas to come where the bones will dry and the time will advance.
The impala died giving birth, the signs of its futile struggle etched on the ground. All around us the wilderness moved on. A fly settled on the eye, the first sign that other creatures were taking notice. In time there will be a skull.
There is a skull lying in the middle of a clay pan. The pan is dry. There was a sense of finality in the dry cracked mud and the hollow-eyed stare. Then a starling, amidst its activity, perched briefly on one of the horns. Then the rains came and the scene was transformed. The skull was nearly submerged. There was life and continuity.
A skull lay in the short grass of a treeline, white and black against the greens. With the shedding of leaves, greens were touched by reds and browns and the seasons passed into shades of brown and back to greens. The skull lay in black and white.
A wildebeest skull lay on the side of the road for months. One day the new grass had grown around it - and later in the season a fire burned the horns and smudged the white. It held my imagination each time I passed it by.
There is a skull lying in the grass, the green grass of the new season
The skull was there before the new grass grew
A victim of seasons past
The grass will grow and fade, but the skull will remain
No longer a victim but a part
In death, as in life, through the seasons, through floods, heat, borer beetle and time. I once saw the sun break the clouds in a gentle light, delicately brushing the skull, a surreal beauty far from the drama of its being.by Leigh Kemp