A Photo For Wednesday

Ethiopian ShepherdIt was my first full day in Africa. I’d arrived the day before from Dubai, via Amsterdam, New York and Houston. The air in Addis Ababa was dry and the horizon leaped out in all directions forever: a dome of blue collapsing atop warm orange grasses. I was unprepared for the beauty of the Great Rift Valley.

I found a driver by noon and was on the road north by one thirty. We crawled north on the main highway–naught but a graded dirt road–through a low range of mountains passing women carrying impossible loads of wood on their backs. We went up into conifers and came down into fields of tef. Gold, green, ashen rocks, blue skies and high darting clouds. Baboons scurried across the road while the harvesters piled tef stalks into bee-hive mounds.

Two hours out of Addis we came upon this scene. North of us was a low ridge of hills, behind nothing but tef fields as far as the eye could see.

I jumped out of the car and started snapping shots. I must have taken twenty or thirty of this scene alone, from different angles, up close, far away. The light was brilliant and as I think back on my time in Ethiopia, although it wasn’t the happiest period of my life, the light, a high arcing angularity, was everywhere. Goats kicked up dust. The young shepherd twirled his staff like boys the world over, carefree in the cool elevated air of Amharaland. His whistle broke the soft silence of the bleeting goats. I thanked him and jumped back into the car. Tomas and I drove off towards Lake Tana–the true source of the Nile–secure in the knowledge that  that the morrow would be brilliant. Had I but known how right I would be.

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