Sunday, December 24, 2006


Dear Family and Friends,

This December, for the second year in a row, my Christmas Tree has remained outside in the garden. This tree began life as a seedling amongst the firtrees behind our house on the farm. Just a couple of inches tall I planted the seedling in a black plastic bag when we were being evicted from our farm just before Christmas in 2000. Every year at Christmas time I dragged the pot inside, covered the tree with bits and pieces, starved it of water for a week and then back outside it went. As the tree grew I transplanted it into ever bigger pots and the Christmas tree has survived but not really thrived.
Two years ago my son and I planted the Christmas tree in the garden, agreeing that it would stay there until there was a change in the situation in Zimbabwe. At first when I took the tree out of its pot it stood there in the rich earth in a state of shock. For months it did nothing, did not seem to grow or lift up its branches or show any sign oflife. Then suddenly as if it finally realised it was free of the restrictions on its roots, my little Christmas tree began to grow. Now it is over six feet (two metres) tall and is alive and well and growing on the front lawn. This week, standing on tip toes I have put a small silver star on top of the Christmas tree in the garden and it stirs gently in the breeze of our hot and humid December days. Having my Christmas tree outside in the garden is symbolic of the state of affairs in Zimbabwe.
Christmas is not completely cancelled but it is not far off. All the usual traditional Christmas trappings are just not possible anymore. The traditional Christmas meal is off the menu, unaffordable by almost everyone. Most families are again separated by borders, countries and even continents as almost a quarter of our population remain in exile across the world. Christmas gifts are this year sparser than ever before - restricted almost entirely to just the children. I thought how I could best describe the atmosphere of this Christmas to people outside of the country and all week have added words to a list.

This is December in Zimbabwe:
Two inch long Msasa beetles armed with fierce nippers;
Great fat sausage flies everywhere telling us the rain is near;
Flame lilies - scarlet and yellow in the jungly green bush;
Paradise flycatchers trailing exquisite long orange tail feathers;
The bubbling call of the Coucal and the mocking warnings of the Go Away BirdsBig, orange, sticky mangoes.Towns seething with people and monstrous queues - not for presents or treats
but queues for money, for petrol and, longest of all, queues for sugar. This is Christmas in Zimbabwe in December 2006. To all my family and friends and to Zimbabweans wherever you are in the world, I send love and thanks for everything you all to do help this wonderful country. Until my next letter in 2007, have a peaceful and happy Christmas and New Year, love cathy.

Copyright, cathy buckle, 23rd December 2006. books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available


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