Blogs by Hilary Hopkins


African Circle

January 09, 2015 / African Circle

From the African Circle journal of June 2001:


Suddenly, with no warning, as we walk in Zambia this morning, I am stunned to feel that I have come straight into a place of my childhood, a thicket of low curving-over shrubs, making a secret tiny glen, where with my little friend Chloe I used to hide and play at Saturday winter church camp at the farm.  

I am emotionally felled by the strength of what seems somehow the old memory of this place.  I stop and take pictures quickly, tears coming.  I have to step out of this magic circle of bushes, this safe place, this rounded little safe place where perhaps in some way so long ago I played at being somewhere wonderful.  I turn and take a picture of it, to keep, and begin to cry. 

Oh, why do I cry?  For the feeling of endings I am having here, nearing endings, the feeling of circling around now back to Africa from so long ago, from the first time I came here, and understood for the first time my place in creation—an understanding that has formed and filled with delight all of my life since then. 

The circle closing and me in its center, me leading the line of the circle, making it big, yes, but it’s a circle nevertheless, and when it is complete, my life will--will end.  Instead of before, at the beginning of the circle, when it was a feeling of longing for something that had not yet happened, and then making it happen, now it is a feeling of approaching completion. 

In that little circle of shrubs, I played as a child, with Chloe, who came to Africa with her missionary parents not long after we played there in that cold but safe place, there on the farm on a Saturday winter's morning.  I set out from that safe circle in making my own, and I am still drawing it, but I have come round to the back side of it, and here I am in Africa once again.

So we come to the end of our morning's walk, amid a grass forest studded with tiny nests, Bishop birds’ nests, says Jason our guide.  I must look that up.   But really I do not care, about the name or who makes them, I just want to see them.  Worship them, delight in them, delight in this whole creation of wondrous things of which I am a part, though only so briefly.  Still I will have been here, a bit of me will stay here when I go; I left a few strands of hair at my safe circle.

I must trust that when I complete my circle of life I will not be afraid to step into the blackness in which I will become something new, though I will not know it.

So this will be the last long walk, this morning.  I do not have the powerful grief over leaving, the prospect of leaving Africa, this time.  Because, I think, I am just making my circle, rather than starting it, or wondering if I shall ever start it, or seeing the possibilities of it and wondering if I shall have them, or if I will not.  Before there was that terrible dread that wondrousness might pass me by.  Instead, I have embraced wonderfulness and brought it to me.  I have done well, and so I am not grief-stricken to leave the place where the circle began.


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