African maiden

December 24, 2014, in Uganda:

Over the last week, I’ve dreamed about N at least 4-5 times. N is the Kiroba (Tanzanian) girl I had a major crush on from 1996-1997.

I wonder if my dreams are merely the archetypal fantasies of union with the Cosmic Feminine, of which my feelings for N were my youthful first, or if God is trying to turn my heart back toward Tanzania, or both?

May 31, 2015:

Last night I dreamed of N again. I woke up in a stupor, thick with dream-feeling. Yesterday morning, on my walk, I had a burning hole in my chest. My heart was yearning for something transcendent, something ultimately meaningful and satisfying beyond all my current circumstances. I asked God to help me channel that longing, that soul-aching loneliness, into practical avenues, avenues of loving my wife, my girls, the Ik, our interns, my work.

Once or twice a year I dream of N. It usually involves looking for her, finding her, having a chance to talk privately with her. I apologize to her and her mother for bringing embarrassment on their family for the ways I tried to show my affection. I express to N that I loved her, that she was my first love, that I care about her. I ask how she is doing, how life is, and why she hasn’t got married. And so it goes. When I wake from these dreams I am deeply affected. They haunt me for the following day. What does it mean?

I believe God is calling me to go back there, to see those people that I loved, those people through whom Africa was amorized for me. I need to make restitution with N and her family. I need to see my friend M again, and R, our housekeeper. I loved them, and they loved me. M was my African older brother. He introduced me to hunting and was there beside me during my torrid and unrequited romance with a girl. And N. She was the first love of my flesh. As I was becoming a man in my body, it was she through whom the Universal Feminine made its first powerful appeal to me. And even though nothing ever came of it, that still left an indelible mark on my soul.

June 21, 2015:

Early this morning I had another dream about talking to N. Again, it was forceful in its power and impact on my psyche. I could not go back to sleep. She is reaching out to me. She was in a house with her younger sister. They were both adults. I talked to them in Swahili. It was lighthearted, playful….

Then N said, “I think I’ll let you go now.” But I teased her saying she hadn’t even given me tea or posho yet. Then she went into another part of the house, her room, and I left. But I had the sense that our interaction wasn’t over.

And so I lay in bed rehearsing all I could or would say to her. Alas. There is a lot I want to tell her, but I’m not entirely sure what is appropriate…

At least, I want to tell her I loved her, that in my youthful infatuation I probably acted in ways that embarrassed her and her family, that I’m profoundly sorry for that, that I ask her forgiveness, that I wish her the very best in life and sincerely hope to see her in the afterlife…

I will not venture into the future without a foot firmly planted on that spot in my past, that place where the wild and feminine charms of Africa first captivated my young heart.

July 12, 2015 (Musoma):

I can hardly believe it. After nearly 18 years away, I’m back in my beloved Tanzania. The purity, freedom, and innocence of my life here – it’s starting to come back. How life in Uganda has aged me, disillusioned me. The blessing it is to be back here is more than I can describe…

I am so close now to those I loved…I don’t know how to feel or what to think…

It’s good to be back to where I fell in love with East Africa.

July 14, 2015 (Musoma):

Yesterday was very emotional for me. I got up well before sunrise, drove to Nyabange, climbed Mshandwa, and sat on that great boulder to watch the day dawn over my beloved village of Bukiroba. I felt peace but at the same time, my heart ached with a loneliness beyond description…a bizarre mixture of grace, goodness, and the cruelty of love’s mysteries…

What about N?

For three or four days last week, I had a burning desire to communicate something to her. When I got her phone number, I called her immediately because I wanted so much to finally connect with this mysterious soul who never talked much to me before. But after our conversation over the phone, I felt unsatisfied, like that a real, soulful exchange hadn’t occurred. Later I called her again, and even after that slightly longer talk, I felt the same way, as if we hadn’t spoken heart to heart.

This burning desire to connect and communicate morphed into letter-writing. I kept drafting and re-drafting a handwritten letter to her, my final words to her in this life. But whom am I really addressing? The whole four-hour drive down to Mwanza I wrestled with whether I should give her the letter or not. Prudence would say ‘no’. But my heart kept saying ‘yes’.

Mind versus heart [and body]!

Ultimately, I don’t even know N. I say I loved her, but what that means is that I loved LOVE with her as its temporary reflection. But the preciousness is in that very statement, for God loves his inter-relational godself in and through us human beings. When God loves us flawed creatures, he loves himself, he loves LOVE, and that loving of love is life and freedom and grace and truth, because who we really are is what we could and should actually become.

Is it wrong of me to convey this message to an unknown maiden of Africa?

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