Last week, I visited the white highlands which are now more crowded unlike in the past when Britons and Afrikaaners (Boers) owned thousands of acres growing wheat and rearing sheep, cattle and horses while playing golf and polo.
Some like the inhabitants of Happy Valley went beyond farming into moral decadence espoused by wife swapping, drugs and alcohol.
Big colonial houses, many in need of repair and preservation dot the once playground of British aristocrats.
We must add, that other nationalities were well represented. From Australians to Americans, Norwegians, and Jews, among others.
Some have suggested that the reason Nyandarua County is so religious is to try to exorcise the ghosts of Happy Valley.
Despite its checkered history including hosting one of legendary American mobsters Al Capone’s bodyguards Davo Davidson, the Valley is amazingly scenic with a lake and mountains to the east. And only about 150 km from Nairobi.
What fascinated me this time was not history but nature and its great cycles. Beyond flowering potatoes and dairying, white highlands could produce lots of fruits.
I have two in my mind - pears and plums. Other fruits include apples, pepino and many others which have not been tested. Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KARLO)?
This time, pears were starting to shed their leaves and turning brown. The other is the plum tree, which has completely shed its leaves. You could easily cut it off for firewood!
Soon pears will be “naked” like plums. The fruits are harvested at different times. Pears around March-April and plums in December- January. Global warming is real with these fruits ripening either earlier or later than in the past.
One of the great fascinations either living or visiting Europe, the US, Russia, South Africa, Australia or any temperate region is not great highways or skyscrapers, it’s the great cycles of life, the seasons.
Long after leaving the US Deep South, where snow was rare, I am still fascinated by seasons. I went seeking snow in the north living among the Amish in Indiana and searching for the Mayflower in Massachusetts.
There is something magical about seeing trees change colour in autumn (fall), shed their leaves then appear dead. Then snow in winter and it's long nights. The sun sets at around 4 pm. Spring then follows with plants sprouting back to life. That includes some animals that hibernate.
Summers follow with long days. It felt awkward to leave class at 5 pm and go for a round of golf with the sun setting at 9:30 pm. In some places in the far north, it never sets. That cycle is repeated annually.
You don’t need to leave Kenya to admire and appreciate the great cycles of life. But that will not happen in the city where life is defined by social activities not seasons.
The key features of the city are “dead” buildings and roads. Open spaces, trees and vegetation are seen as “unmodern.”
We prefer paved front yards and backyards to grass. And leafy suburbs are becoming rare.
The once leafy Nairobi suburbs are under assault from capitalists and their money. In whispers what’s the difference between Githurai and Lavington –beyond the names?
Artificial lights at night distract us from nature.
Yet, it’s in the rural areas, despised as backwards where life remains. You can admire the heavens at night, with its moon, the stars, the constellations and even insects that produce light!
Why not get time to admire life and its great cycles espoused by seasons and plants?
On seasons, we are restricted by our endless summer. The only saving grace is plants and animals, flora and fauna.
We have looked at fruits. What of other crops, from planting to harvesting? Think of maize or sunflowers. Every crop has something to admire from planting to harvesting.
Did anyone reading this story stop by Nakuru-Marigat road to admire the yellow curtain of sunflowers on a farm near Kabarak University last month?
Have you noted how trees have made Koinange Street lively? Livening the expressway is a bold experiment.
We can’t leave our domestic animals; from calving to milking. Think of the cockerel and how it keeps time.
What of the great birds' choir at daybreak or the hyrax at night?
A visit to our national parks is another avenue to admire nature and its cycles and have a glimpse of the creation day.
The place to admire nature is in the rural areas. There is something to fascinate you from the going up to the going down of the sun.
The rural folks are also more attuned to nature. Cows must be milked and fed, and crops tended and harvested at the right time.
In the cities, everything is in season. Is that why urbanites think they are better off than men and women who feed them? Few urbanites are fascinated by nature, we prefer movies, video games and endless politics. Or a sports bar.
Perhaps we find solace in escaping from reality. Maybe we have interfered with our planet so much that there is nothing to admire naturally.
Is visiting the countryside not seen as boring despite being so therapeutic? Why has Nairobi City for 100 years got only one Uhuru Park?
Noted how Kenyans use overpasses and roundabouts as “parks”? Visit Mlolongo, Uthiru or Ruiru junction to Kamakis over the weekend. When shall we dedicate more land to parks where citizens can sit and exhale? When shall we stop using concrete as a parameter of economic growth?
I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist but our distraction from nature may have silently affected our mental health. Noted how angry we are irrespective of our educational, economic or social status?
Wake up today and admire the stars and the heavens, listen to the birds at sunrise, and watch the sunset over a lake or hill. And next time you visit the countryside don’t wish rural folks were urbanites, take time to admire nature and its great cycles.
You will thank me later. After all, we are all part of that great cycle of life from birth to death.