The Gift of the Present

By 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 deaths.

“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 saw.

“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 (”

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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.






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