Gift of the Present
Jheri St. James
“This historic rock, situated within Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary,
is traditionally where Swaziland’s criminals were executed.
Once they were marched to the top, they could choose to either
jump from its summit with dignity or be helped along with
spears. Its African name is Nyonyane which means ‘little
bird’ and poetically describes with horrifying beauty
how these poor souls appeared as they plummeted to their
“The rhythmic beat of drumming from the settlement
below took on a sinister overtone as we reached the top.
Absorbing the 360° panorama of the valley, we thought
about the fact that this was the last sight that many people
“The experience reminded us of an old Chinese proverb
about a monk who was chased by a hungry tiger to the edge of
a cliff. He managed to escape over the side using a vine but
when he looked down he saw another tiger at the bottom licking
its chops and waiting for him to fall. Just when the monk thought
that things couldn’t get any worse some mice began nibbling
at the vine.
It was then that the monk spotted a strawberry plant growing
on the cliff face. He reached out, plucked a red fruit and
put it in to his mouth. “How sweet!” he exclaimed.
The hungry tigers represent our past and future, the mice are
everyday niggling worries and the strawberry symbolizes the
present moment. All we truly have is the present moment and
it is up to us whether we choose to find and savor its beauty
* * *
In the journal entries written about the
many countries from which soil was collected in Africa,
a sad number of the stories focus on places of horrific
experiences by slaves, tribes and other human beings.
Execution Rock is no different in its past.
The present of Execution Rock, however, is a testimony
to the evolution of the earth and mankind. Now, rather
than the jumping off point for losing life, it is the
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, revering and harboring life.
Surely this is what our Great Mother Earth and all her
inhabitants are meant to do.
Our collector for this sample was Bronwyn Tanner, resident
of Scottburgh, KwaZuluNatal, South Africa who, with her
husband Peter, was guided at this site by Chief Roy Bele
now in charge of this land. These are her photo contributions.
Big Common Ground 191 thanks to Bronwyn for taking the
time to add this important soil to our collection.