Monday, May 16, 2005

Home (part 1): Inkosi-Inkosikazi

Home is a favorite passage from a favorite book, dog-eared and underlined from multiple readings. It is the familiarity of the text, images released by words, the story resonating with a particular part of your life.

I first came across "The Power of One" by chance about 10 years ago while on a layover in the Denver airport. I blindly picked it out of the shelf, figuring I several hours to kill and nothing to lose. It turned out to be an enormously significant book in my life, often the only book I'd take with me on my travels.

One of the images from "The Power of One" is of particular importance to me, serving as a focal point for meditation and a tool to overcome fear. The passage describes the night when Inkosi-Inkosikazi, the great African medicine man, visits Peekay, the book's 5-year old protagonist, to cure him of chronic bedwetting.

Inkosi-Inkosikazi's eyes, sharp pins of light in his incredibly wrinkled face, seemed to look right into me. "I visited you in your dreams, and we came to a place of three waterfalls and ten stones across the river. The shinbones of the great white ox say I must take you back so that you can jump the three waterfalls and cross the river, stepping from stone to stone without falling into the rushing torrent. If you can do this, then the unfortunate business of the night water will be over...Watch the tail of the horse." My eyes followed the switch as it moved to and fro. "It is time to close your eyes but not your ears. You must listen well, for the roaring of water is great."
A sudden roar of water filled my head and then I saw the three waterfalls. I was standing on an outcrop of rock directly above the highest one. Far below me the river rushed away, tumbling and boiling into a narrow gorge. Just before the water entered the gorge and churned white, I noted the ten stepping stones, like ten anthracite teeth strung across its mouth.
Inkosi-Inkosikazi spoke to me, his voice soft, almost gentle. "It is late. The bush doves, anticipating nightfall, are already silent. It is the time of day when the white waters roar most mightily, as water does when it is cast in shadow.
"You are standing on a rock above the highest waterfall, a young warrior who has killed his first lion and is worthy now to fight in the legion of Dingaan, the great impi that destroys all before it. Worthy even to fight the impi of Shaka, the greatest warrior king of all.
"You are wearing the skirt of lion tail as you face into the setting sun. Now the sun has passed beyond Zululand, even past the land of the Swazi, and now it leaves the Shangaan and the royal kraal of Modjadji, the rain queen, to be cooled in the great, dark water beyond. You can see the moon rising over Africa and you are at peace with the night..."
As I stood on the great rock waiting to jump into the water, I could see the new moon rising, bright as a new florin above the thundering falls.
"You must take a deep breath and say the number three to yourself as you leap. Then, when you surface, you must take another breath and say the number two as you are washed across the rim of the second waterfall, then again a deep breath as you rise and are carried over the third. Now you must swim to the first stone, counting backwards from ten to one. Then count each stone as you leap from it to the next to cross the rushing river...You must jump now, little warrior of the king."
I tok a deep breath and launched myself into the night. The cool air mixed with spray rushed past my face and then I hit the water below, sank briefly, rose to the surface, and expelled the deep breath I had taken. With scarcely enough time to take a second breath, I was swept over the second waterfall and then again I fell down the third roaring cascade to be plunged into a deep pool at the base of the third waterfall. I swam strongly and with great confidence to the first of the great stones glistening black and wet in the moonlight. Jumping from stone to stone I crossed the river, counting down from ten to one, then leaping to the pebbly beach on the far side..."
Inkosi-Inkosikazi brought me back from the dreamtime and I looked about me, a little surprised to see the familiar farmyard. "When you need me you may come to the night country and I will be waiting. I will always be there. You can find me if you go to the place of the three waterfalls and the ten stones across the river."

I have been to visit Inkosi-Inkosikazi many times at the waterfalls in the heart of Africa. The image of the waterfalls and the great stepping stones has gotten me through many a night of tears, long hikes where I thought my body would give out, and even a surgery.

This place of dreamtime is home.


Leticia said...

Bora animar ae!! To te sentindo meio down nesses ultimos posts!!
Ja falou com a Flavia? Ela ja chegou ai!
Sabado rolou festa de aniversario no Fred! Teve ate banda tocando sambao! Foi muito bom! Pena que vc nao tava aqui!

Tomas said...

it took me a long time to read the quote and semi understand it cause i was stoned... but in the end it was worth it. a tip of the hat/