Cathy Buckle: Under the spreading arms of the Musasa tree

Dear Family and Friends,

When I received the news of the death of an old family friend this
week I felt drawn to the cemetery. It had been a swelteringly hot week
and even at six in the morning the thermometer was in the mid 20’s
and heading upwards. After just a short walk my arms and face were
clammy and I was brushing flies away. Despite the early hour, people
were already working on roadside cultivation plots, uprooting the last
of the reeds, bullrushes, red hot pokers and sedges that once grew in
abundance here. Apparently the diplomatically correct term for this is
‘self apportioned, peri-urban agriculture,’ in reality it’s the
illegal, uncontrolled eradication of precious wetlands that has gone
unchecked for the last decade.

I deliberately turned my gaze away from the asbestos waste, oil
filters, drink cans, broken glass and litter that has been dumped in
piles all along the roadside on the way to the cemetery. My feet
should have been walking on tar but in many places this has been
covered by sand and colonised by grass because there have been no road
repairs or storm drain clearing here since 2007. I passed street
lights we pay for every month in our utilities accounts but which
haven’t worked since 2004.

Arriving at the cemetery I forced myself not to look at the sweet
potato beds that have been dug up and planted inside the cemetery
boundary wire. I forced myself to walk around and not over the diamond
mesh fence that lies rusting in the grass where it has been for over
three years since it was pulled down but never put back by municipal
workers when they cut down the pine trees that lined the cemetery.

Under the spreading arms of an old Musasa tree are the graves of the
family of Margaret Tredgold. I had hoped to be able to sit on the
small bench near the graves but it has collapsed completely, so I just
stood quietly for a few minutes, remembering. Margaret passed away
last week, in England, on the 1st November, aged 102. Lady Margaret
Tredgold lived most of her life in Zimbabwe and was known to so many
people for her botanical paintings, stamp designs, children’s books
and her well loved and often consulted books on wild flowers and food
plants of Zimbabwe. Margaret made the most exquisite ‘paper- cut’
cards, inked silhouette drawings, hand-made paper butterflies and
illustrated letters that will always be treasured by those that
received them. More than this, Margaret loved Zimbabwe and its people,
especially the children. Weeding around the edges of the graves I
noticed the new stem of a single flame lily. It couldn’t have been
more appropriate as it is two beautiful flame lilies, painted by
Margaret that adorn the front cover of her book on wild flowers.

Walking home from the cemetery I didn’t see the squalor of half an
hour before, this time I saw the first wild flowers of the new season
at my feet. All are flowers that are so beautifully portrayed in
Margaret’s books and paintings: creeping pink Stud thorns; snowball
Sedges; red dwarf Combretums, early blue Thunbergias and a single,
bright orange Lions eye. What a tribute to a lady who always saw the
beauty in Zimbabwe and the gave it back in her words and art. The new
summer wild flowers gave hope, the same kind of hope described by
Barack Obama in his victory speech this week: “Hope is the stubborn
faith inside us that something better exists so long as we have the
courage to keep reaching.” Fambai zvakanaka Margaret.

Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

10th November 2012

(To see pictures of images described in this letter go to:

Copyright Cathy Buckle.

For information on my new book “IMIRE”, about Norman Travers and
Imire Game Park, or my other books about Zimbabwe: “Innocent
Victims,” African Tears,” “Beyond Tears;” and “History of
the Mukuvisi Woodlands 1910-2010”, or to subscribe to
Cathy’s letter, please visit the  website or contact [email protected]

See other recent posts from Cathy Buckle

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