THE WINDS OF MARA by Colin Fletcher
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The Man Who Walked Through Time (1967) -- guide, hiker and amateur naturalist -- returns to Africa, specifically the Mara animal preserve in southern Kenya. There among magnificent ""unknowing"" animals, a complex topography, and a human population no less intricate in its crosscurrents and purposes, Fletcher searches for connections and scrutinizes his own ability to observe creatures and objects. ""Unless you're one of the people born with your eyes open, you have to learn down the years, scene by scene."" His own past surfaces here and there via peak illuminations -- a bleak universe of bus station asphalt or a sudden uncurtained scene in a night city. Day after day Fletcher roams back and forth through Mara and its environs -- a silent but enjoyable breakfast with a young Masai, pleasant to enervating run-ins with edgy Kenya officials, rangers and tourists. But mainly he confronts animals: a rhino (""A bright green leaf on a shiny black, bulging shoulder. A nervous lip""); an ant army on the march (""Up from the column came a low rustle, a sort of subclinical buzzing, so faint that it took me a moment or two to penetrate my own picket line of disbelief""); an eland ""standing calm and close"" in the moonlight. There is a raw, coherent universe of varied contours, vegetation, animals, birds and insects. In Fletcher's sociopolitical commentary particularly pertaining to preservation, he notes the ""unawareness"" with which delicate ecosystems are upset but he also realizes that he too is part of a destructive ""humanness."" He knows that holier-than-thou preachments will produce an anti-preservation backlash -- in the end ""they"" includes ""you."" Among people and animals and landscape there is discord -- it has been there all along -- and he leaves Kenya with sad resignation. This book should have some of the decided appeal of the first -- a disciplined and striking testimony.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1972
Publisher: Knopf