Shire is a wonderful river, one that flows out of Lake Malawi into the Zambezi River.
The river came to me this week as I thought about the idea of end of things which I discussed months ago on this column. You remember the discussion on Nelly Furtado’s song, All good things: Why do they come to an end?
The Shire starts in Mangochi. It flows out of Lake Malawi somewhere after the well-known lodges and resorts. The river flows on past Mangochi Township to the benefit of all residents, especially those of M’baluku, a densely populated village whose people leave taps and boreholes to do domestic chores on the river.
After the township, the Shire River flows down, like a giant elephant and suddenly it swells into a lake: big, vast body of water.
The river that was small turns into a lake, a source of livelihood for thousands who patronise fishing centres of Chimwala, Mtanga and others. Just after Lake Malombe, the Shire River gets back to its old-self, just a river and the troubles start. Namasupuni chokes the river from upland Mpale down to Liwonde.
This part of the Shire is a sorry story. It is the part that receives fertile silt from upland where erosion is rampant because of deforestation. This part is also the source of trouble for power generation. We all know what namasupuni is doing or undoing to power generation in Malawi.
But the Shire—and this is the beauty of rivers—flows on. It does not stop. Never. The Shire flows on and on and on down through Matope and Zalewa in this middle part of the river that turns small through the hills of Shire Highlands.
The mighty Shire that swells into Lake Malombe turns into a small body of water, falling over high ground. Gorges are also present on this part.
After the hills and the gorges and the turns over rocks, the Shire River turns wide in an area called Shire Valley (not the mistaken Lower Shire which has bad connotations). The Shire meanders and turns into a number of streams that form fishing grounds. This lazy part of the Shire is also a source of fish, a source of potatoes and vegetables.
Finally, the Shire River flows down, slowly, gently and lazily with some hopelessness. But it ends into a larger body of water: the Zambezi River.
This is a great lesson of life. Life, every life, is like a river. It ends into some body of water, larger than the river itself. The lesson is that no matter where a river passes through, no matter what life sails through, it shall end in something big. This is the nature of life.
The stones, the rocks, the bends, the falls, the namasupuni and everything else are all part of the journey into something big. Hold on onto your vision.
Of course, I am mindful that there is a river in Botswana which ends into sand of a desert, just like that, a whole river disaapearing into sand. Call it a sea of sand.
When the Zambezi flows into the Indian Ocean we know we shall have rains in Malawi because the winds that bring rains here come from the same ocean. So, the same water that came from the Shire comes back to Malawi as rain and flows down again into Zambezi and into the Indian Shire.
Perhaps the idea of an end sung by Nelly Furtado is an illusion. Perhaps the graveyard is an illusion of the end. The river does not exactly end in a sea, and that is why it never ceases flowing on its long journey from the mountains: the river will always return to the mountains after its rest in the sea.
The sun goes to another world beyond sunset, we sleep because the day has ended but the same sun wakes us up. We always return. But I cannot count the whole wisdom of nature.
Water is wise. It knows where to go. It is never told which direction to flow into, no. It is like wind. It blows into the direction of its choice. Wind goes high and comes down. Water climbs mountains and flows down. This, too, is the wisdom of life.
My plain view is that something called an event is about to happen. My other plain view is that it is better to come down naturally like wind or water than to be pulled down shamefully. I have spoken.