When I Found Blood Lilies in Africa….

Cows, pecan trees, okra fields, rusty tin roofs and plenty of racism just weren’t for this free spirited 19-year-old boy. So I ran hard to get away from that run-down family farm. In one giant, naive leap that freaked the family out, I left South Carolina to enroll, as the only, actually the first,  American exchange student at the University of Zambia.

I landed in a different world, swooning. Everything was skewed but familiar and the combination fascinated me.

Skeletal trees, strange fruits, tin-roofed shacks and an upside down mix of races sparked a wanderlust, that would lead to decades of traveling and seeking; all centered around plants.

Besides Zambian city markets and gardens, I wanted to see the wild plants of Africa. A baking, day long bus ride through desert scrub, led to the shady forest under Victoria Falls. The sun setting, the falls thundering and tiny explosions lit the place up. Day-Glo orange giant spherical flowers popped out of rock crevices and rugged tree trunks; the blood lilies I’d long to see. I emerged from this psychedelic scene on a bridge over the falls, where a handsome Australian hiker walked directly up to me and said, “You look like a seasoned traveler, a real nomad.” Me? I was totally flattered; I hoped he was trying to pick me up. Me? I suddenly understood; I wanted to be that nomad. I was just as suddenly, confused.  Read More here in the essay call ‘How Gardening Connects the World….

— This is an excerpt from an article published in Australian conservation magazine of Wildlife Warriors.

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