Wangari Maathai’s Freedom Corner, so alive so free
Pictures by Omwa Ombara
And what a delightful walk it was. If you do not know Wangari Maathai, then you must be the only stranger in Jerusalem. But let me introduce to you this great lady. She is the great conservationist, the great environmentalist, the great human rights activist, she of the little Hummingbird, the great Nobel Laureate from my Country Kenya. She is the mother of trees. She tends to trees in the same way a mother tends to her children…with love and warmth and tender loving care.
I met Wangari Maathai’s ghost this morning. It was a dignified, friendly ghost, kind and sweet as we walked through the lovely evergreen little forest. of Freedom Corner. Wangari Maathai’s spirit lives on. I could feel her all over the park. I could feel her in the spirit of a happy family – father, mother, four little ones, their housemaid and a picnic basket. All happily unpacking their snacks and playing under the cool breeze of Wangari Maathai’s shady tree. Wangari Maathai must be smiling with me to see such a happy family truly practising family values.
A walk with Wangari Maathai’s spirit of commitment and creativity took me to her other family of trees where a young artiste, lying on his belly on the cool grass wrote a script . Inspiring, that is what Wangari did. She inspired. Wangari would have encouraged the young man with her often positive spirit, “Plod on. Do not give up. I also started by planting a single little tree as the little Hummingbird sang in the huge forest of trees”. She did inspire the young man as he wrote on and on quite oblivious of the walk Waangari Maathai’s spirit and I took next to him. A cool breeze blew over his creative head, and yes he had encountered Wangari Maathai’s ghost too.
A young woman sat in meditation and prayer in yet another of Wangari Maathai’s Africana tree facing the Grand Hotel Serena, her favourite tree. Such a spirit of peace and quiet flowing gently from the Africana to this prayerful mother’s soul. A young lad with an old torn rucksack, probably thrown out of his house by the landlord or a relative, slept deeply under another shade. Oh Wangari Maathai, that this young man should find solace and hope and some rest under the tree planted by your own little hands. The gentle background voices of the Choir at the adjacent All Saints Cathedral soothingly joins the whispering trees, Wangari Maathai’s trees.
Daughter of Tetu, look at how happy that group of youth are. They have formed a circle under yet another shady tree. They bond as they dance, sing, hold hand and play games. Freedom Corner so cheerful and alive with Waangari Maathai’s spirit. I did not see the little Hummingbird. I hope it will be here when I visit the park again. But wonders never cease and even in the animal world there is competition. I was impressed to see over 50 Marabou Stork claiming space under four huge trees, Wangari Maathai’s trees. Yet I learnt the spirit of tolerance from them as they let me take their pictures without flying away on me.
These birds used to hang on old dusty trees along Mombasa Road as they watched football matches from a tree at Nyayo stadium when Kenyans would not attend the matches. But today I watch, astonished at the birds with their rather sharp beaks, hunt for huge fat worms from Wangari Maathai’s trees. That is just how green the trees are.
Despite the scorching heat in Nairobi right now that has seen the stark naked sun burn everything dry and colourless, Wangari Maathai’s trees defies the sun and blossoms…ever so fresh and green. The trees the women of Kenya planted only three months ago are happy and smiling. They refuse to die. Just like the spirit of Wangari Maathai lives on, so do they. Thanks friendly ghost for a very happy and inspiring Sunday.