I love reading Hemingway. He never strays. He never babbles. Every word is relevant – precise and concise writing. His prose is eloquent with a natural progression that makes the reader feel the story inside the book they hold could have been their own journey in a different lifetime. He lures his reader this/close to his stories.
I can’t write everything I feel about Hemingway in one blog. I can zero in on one or two aspects of his writing, or his life, that inspires me, but not all at once.
I just finished reading At First Light, a fictional memoir based on Hemingway’s time spent in Africa in a safari camp, with his fourth, and last wife, Mary. She is obsessed with hunting a very elusive and intelligent lion. Everyone in camp is aware how badly she wants to kill this lion. She tells her husband she loves the lion and that’s why she has to kill him.
Hemingway and his wife talk about never wanting to leave Africa because they have both fallen in love with the culture and the hunting. Being one of the greatest writers that ever lived had afforded Hemingway the luxury of living whatever lifestyle he chose. Hemingway refers to himself as a rich man and he was. He could travel anywhere he wanted.
At one part of the story, towards the end, Mary talks about all the places she still wants to see, despite having already seen all of Tanganyika and the Bohoro flats and the Great Ruaha. She’d been to Mbeya and the Souhthern Highland. She lived everywhere from the hills, to the foot of a mountain, and in the bottom of the Rift Valley.
Yet, Mary asks her husband if he knows what she wants for Christmas.
“I wish I did.”
“I don’t know whether I should tell you. Maybe it’s too expensive.”
“Not if we have the money.”
“I want to go and really see something of Africa. We’ll be going home and we haven’t seen anything. I want to see the Belgian Congo.”
“You have no ambition. You’d just as soon stay in one place.”
“Have you ever been to a better place?”
“No. But there’s everything we haven’t seen.”
“I’d rather live in a place and have an actual part in the life of it than just see new strange things.”
The last line stopped me and I reflected on its simple truth. In a quest to see everything, sometimes we see nothing. I do want to travel, but my traveling doesn’t include beaches, resorts, selfies in front historical landmarks, or the rush to visit eighteen countries in thirty days.
I was about twenty-three years old and on a first date when I was asked, “What is the one thing you really want to do?”
I told my date, with some reservation, that I want to go to all the small, run-down, dinky towns in the middle of nowhere, and stay there for a while and get to know the people, and their lives, because I was (and still am) sure there are big stories in those little towns, and probably a lot of secrets, too.
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