Karura Forest

Kissing the Ground in Karura Forest

I am on fire today. My running pants are tucked into black socks, which makes me look really goofy. I started tucking in two months ago after the lower edges of my trouser became occasionally entangled in my bike’s pedals while I was cycling. The first time this happened, I almost fell of the bike which left my heart racing faster than it had during cycling.

I am not on fire today because of this tucked in look. Rather, am on fire because I am cycling on a new route. I feel like am the first person ever on this route, which puts me in the same league with Christopher Columbus, who discovered America even though American Indians had lived there for centuries.

I didn’t even know that this cycling trail existed until fifteen minutes earlier. Although I was going up a rather steep hill, I was still on my bike determined to keep going for as long as I could. On my right was a dense thicket and a smattering of trees. On my left was a wall beyond which was a residential estate. A few meters ahead of me, I saw a rocky patch of the footpath.

My legs are also on fire now. And not the fire of enthusiasm that was still coursing through my veins because of this cycling trail’s discovery. No, my legs are on fire because for nearly one hundred meters, I have been cycling up the hill. It feels as if I am totally spent, with every energy reserve in my body almost gone. But I can’t stop now. I have to soldier on until am done with this ascent.

Should I get off and walk along that rocky patch though? Just the rocky patch then I continue cycling. Nope. That would mean that I didn’t cycle for the entire uphill stretch without getting off the bike. Then I would not be able to brag to her. As these thoughts race through my mind, I step harder on the pedals. Harder, but not faster. This is when I reach the rocky patch. Harder. Thump! One moment I was high, up on the bike. The next minute I was low down, kissing the ground after my bike skid on the smooth rock and fell. Pain instantly bit every inch of my body.

Bwak the Bantu poet once said of ego, ‘like thunder, it is constantly striking the hearts of men.’ Ego struck me even when I was right in the midst of pain and I shot to my feet instantly. I couldn’t imagine cyclists or joggers finding both me and my bike lying on the ground.

Are you ok? Is there anything we can do? Did you trip or something? It happened to me too.

Such are the comments that I want to avoid completely. So as soon am on my feet, I also lift the bike upright, on the edge of the trail. At that point I feel the pain slicing through my left knee so I sit on a rock besides the bike. If someone comes along at this time, they will think that am just taking a short break, not recovering from a heavy fall.

It occurred to me during those few seconds that was down on the ground that in life, we fall many times and often decide to remain down for extended periods of time. What we should do is to stand up, dust ourselves, learn from our mistakes and keep living.

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Running with Kadzo

Think of your favorite gospel musician.

Is it the timeless Don Moen, whose soothing voice has filled many living rooms and churches over the last few decades?

Or is it Travis Greene whose song, ‘He made a Way’ has become a contemporary classic? Or maybe the Hillsong worship team, whose live songs can leave you feeling like you are literally rising to heaven?

For me, it will always be Keith Green, whose CDs, purchased more than ten years ago at South Africa’s O.R Tambo International Airport, are among my most prized possessions. His song, ‘I make my life a prayer to you,’ brought tears to my eyes on numerous occasions. He was an insanely talented pianist who would bang his fingers into the piano keys as if they were drums. He would do that even as he sang with such gusto that it felt as if he was pouring his entire life into every song. He tragically died in a plane crash at only 28 years.

One day, the name Sunil Kadzo Hamisi may just be among the list of your favorite gospel musicians. This 27-year-old lady from Malindi is a cousin-friend of mine and currently one of the worship team members at Nairobi Chapel. I have been a fan of her music for more than a decade. Yes, that’s how long she has been singing.

On 12th October, 2019, the same day that Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run the marathon in less than two hours, I ran with her in Karura Forest. Well, more accurately, I cycled for ten kilometers alone then walked with her for six kilometers. She did run for the final sixth kilomter, but boy was she tired! What matters though is that she took the first step towards either running or walking regularly. As Bwak the Bantu poet always says, ‘even one small step forward takes you closer to your destination.’

sunil karuraShe was even singing to the bike!When we were commencing our cycling-walking-running, we came across a wedding procession right there in the forest. The bride was resplendent in a flowing white gown. She looked like an angel in the trees and I silently prayed that the beauty of this moment would spill over into her marriage. These days, too many beautiful weddings end up in ugly marriages.

“Does this wedding procession remind you of your own wedding?” I asked Sunil. Her wedding had been almost one year earlier in Malindi.

“The wedding dress does,” she said with nostalgia.

Thankfully, her marriage to Lenny has remained incomparably more beautiful than the wedding. As it should be.

What causes the dance of a marriage to stop? When the music of love goes silent.

But what exactly do we mean by the ‘music of love?’ Food for thought. Sometimes this music is exultant, lifting you off your feet into each other’s’ arms. Sometimes, it’s serene like a mountain stream, filling you with a peace that leaves your hearts smiling. But other times, it seems to disappear altogether, causing the dance to stop. Why? How can you find that music again? This anonymous quote sheds some insights into this, ‘Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship and there won’t be an end.’

Back to literal music, I am listening to Keith Green’s, ‘Oh Lord you are beautiful’ as I write this. His piano skills were epic, only second to his overflowing passion for God.

Am thinking that the music never departs from the river of passion. So we have to dive back into this river if we want to recapture the music.

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The Ugandan Greenheart and Kenyan Bushbuck

Who would have thought that I would find Uganda in this forest at this early hour of 6.47AM?

Yet there it was. Not the country itself but Warburgia Ugandensis, the tree is that is commonly known as Ugandan Greenheart. Known in the Kikuyu language as muthiga, this is the tree that the upmarket leafy suburb of Muthaiga is named after. I smiled at its pale green scaly bark as I raced my bike past it. Then I saw several other similar trees in front of me, to my right. It was 6.17AM and I was all alone with the Ugandan greenheart trees. Just me, and my sweetheart tree.

After cycling for ten minutes, I hadn’t met any other fellow human being. I felt like an island of humanity in an ocean of trees. It felt good. My heart always dances when am alone in the forest.

I rounded a corner and saw a bushbuck antelope lingering on the edge of the forest just a meter away from the footpath. It’s ears were alert, its legs poised to flee, which is exactly what it did when it saw me from the corner of its small eyes. In the twinkling of an eye, only its long, pale grey horns were visible, then disappeared into the forest undergrowth. Talk of fleeting beauty!

Thankfully to my feasting eyes, another bushbuck came into view a few meters ahead. This one didn’t have horns, which meant that it was a female since the females don’t have horns. Can you imagine if humans were like that! I would be tugging at my right horn as I write this. Thank God He saw it fit to deny Adam a pair of horns even as He bestowed them on bushbuck males. This is fun, I thought. Just me, the Ugandan Greenheart trees, plus other trees whose names I didn’t know yet and two bushbuck antelopes. I am in great company, I said to myself as I pedaled on, faster and faster. Ride slowly. Slowly. The trees whispered, reminding me of.. Forget it. There may be children reading this.

Those bushbucks are simply lovely. The word lovely doesn’t do them full justice. They are like a blooming, gently radiant brown flower with four legs. But because they come and go in a flash, you will be lucky to get a good view of more than a few seconds. It’s just me. I had wanted to tell those two that fled. We are family.

The first time that you see a bushbuck, you will imagine that its a brown goat. But upon closer scrutiny, you will notice that it has more grace and mystery than a good old goat. You will also notice that their bodies are plastered with geometrically shaped white patches or spots.  

With those two bushbucks lingering in my mind, I arrived at the slope that leads down to the waterfalls and alighted from my bike. A minute later, I was at the small wooden bridge that crosses over Karura River. I should probably call Neza so that she can hear the sound of the river, I thought of my Rwandan friend. Like me, she likes the sound of rivers; the match of ants across a footpath; a lone dew on a lone dry leaf; the jolly chirp of an unseen bird plus all the sights and sounds of nature that can be found in Karura Forest.

As Bwak the Bantu poet said in one of his poems about the forest, ‘even the dry leaves on the footpath will leave your soul wet with joy.’