I remember these colors from my childhood, as the heat of the African sun dissipated into the cool relief of night. My friends and I would often gather in the evening at an old swing set. It had been there when we first arrived, on the western side of our house at the Arthurseat Mission. Someone had thoughtfully added a second swing. Two of us would swing, while the others hovered around waiting for a turn. We would swing and sing as loudly as we could:
“Thula, thula sizwe, ungabokhala…”
For some reason we almost always faced east and towards those muted colors. Perhaps it was because it was toward the house and we knew Mom would call us in at any time. I remember watching the great, golden disk of a full moon rise from behind the house. It was unbelievably large and as it cast its dull light in the early evening, the shadows and light distorted the trees and bushes around us. The old cactus on the far side of the yard would transform itself mysteriously into a hunched up, watchful little Tokoloshe, the little goblin of African folklore. We would dare ourselves to stay at the swing. Sometimes we managed, but more often than not, the Tokoloshe would unnerve us so that we would scatter… scampering to home and light and safety.
These memories revisit me time and again. So years later and miles away, I stand on a crowded train leaving Boston, gazing out the window, with my back to the sunset, facing those familiar colors. It occurs to me that my memories are in fact much like those colors – soft and pleasant. They lack the vividness and sometimes unbearable brightness of the colors of sunset, but they are beautiful and familiar.
May they linger long.