A river of clouds rushed through a corridor of mountains proud - If a giant had stood there, no doubt he has just poured his feelings outwards, towards some distant gourd that holds some distant fjord. Che Chidi Chukwumerije
Clouds nestling between the
dark craggy mountains,
sitting in the valleys like velvet cushions –
Silent solemn sentinels rising upwards,
peaks to greet these metal intrusions –
I wonder if they think we are just fleeting illusions.
Che Chidi Chukwumerije
ONCE UPON a time in south-southern Nigeria, high up on the misty Obudu plateaux of those dreamy Sankwala mountain-ranges of which we only hear and read, but hardly ever see, there lived a voiceless girl called Iwi.
Iwi loved the air of the mountain-peak, she loved the clouds which sometimes came visiting, she loved the heavened birds that loved these same heights which she also loved; she loved the stars that shone brightly in the evenings, mornings and through the nights.
Iwi, being a little maiden, did not live alone. She lived with her mother, whom she called “Sister”, and who called her “Iwi, my friend”, for theirs was a deep and true friendship. Iwi’s father had also once lived with them and they had been a happy triangle. In those days her voice had still been with her, and her childlike songs and happy chatter had delighted her parent’s heart. Until one day her father died mysteriously, leaving Iwi and her mother to be each all the other had. The day her father died was the day Iwi lost her voice. As though he had taken it with her, try as she might, no sound ever again escaped her lips.
Iwi and her mother could have gone to live in any of the cities in the valleys where life would have been easier for them, but they loved these mountain-highs and preferred to live in hardship but preserve peace of soul. So up in the mountains they stayed, where they sensed their heart to be, and happiness kept them company every day. Together they reared the goats, tended the fowl, cultivated the farms and the gardens of those rare fruits that grew on those high climates, and rarely, but rarely, did they go down all the way to the valley, mainly to the Sankwala market, indeed just when they had to go.
As mysteriously as Iwi’s father had left the earth, her mother died one day, leaving Iwi now all alone upon their mountain home. If her father’s departure had taken her voice away, her mother’s did not bring it back, voiceless she remained.
After burying her mother, Iwi made the decision to continue to live up there where mountain-air, mountain-clouds and mountain-sighs gave back to her the love she gave. But lonely was she now, alone in the world, if we forget the the goats, the fowl and the flowers, and of course the fairies she saw not, although they saw her, and the friendy stars in the skies – all of which we may however not forget. Yet none of them proved able to restore to her her once beautiful voice.
She grew into a woman and grew used to being a single woman on the heights, managing and flowing, but once in a while longing for another human.
One day, like a miracle, who did she see walking there upon her mountains? A hermit, but younger than most hermits are, more handsome than hermits ought to be. If she was full surprised, then surely she was not half as surprised as he was… to find this beautiful woman living, alone, high up there where he’d come seeking solitude, hoping to discover himself in silence. So, shyly he avoided her for the next couple of months, and shyly she pretended too that he was not up there.
But then one morning, like a man must do, he waited for her outside her mountain hut. And when she emerged, he, in the Obanliku dialect of these parts, introduced himself to her and offered her a small basket of wild ụdara which he had gathered early that morning as the sun’s rays were still struggling to break through the mountain mist.
It is hard to say how long she stood there, silent, surprised, staring at him; but however long it was must have been of no consequence, for just as long did he too remain standing there, refusing to budge, waiting for her to reply. The moment was broken when, to her utmost shock, she heard her voice thanking him and then telling him her name. They both smiled as she accepted the basket of wild berries from him and then he turned around and walked away. And she had a voice again, awakened by love.
And so did they gradually they began to stop, to talk, one word here, two words there. And finally, over a year after he first arrived these heights, they began to live together. That he was a stranger to these parts was clear to her, for she heard it in his accent, although he bravely struggled to speak her thongue. It did not matter to her, it only made her love him all the more.
Love and understanding and joy are three things which when they arrive at the same time, in the same place, around the same people, create that thing which words cannot describe. And so it was between Iwi and the young hermit whose name, as he had told her that fateful morning, was Sike. Their love was eternal, immortal, intense – and it never ceased to startle them.
Through Iwi, Sike came to see and understand the Obudu mountains and their lush green forests with new eyes; its moods became a dictionary of new language upon his heart; mist or rain, animals or fauna, plauteaux or gorges, forests and waterfalls, his senses became born again to a world that was part of his native country but which he had never known, for it was so different from the world he came from that he knew he would never be able to describe it to the people of his world, villagers and city-people alike. And the more he discovered nature, the more he loved this beautiful female spirit who was the source of his rebirth. Everything that was special about this place was reflected in her nature – everything that was special about her personality was reflected in this cradle of nature. How could the one be separated from the other? The source of his joy became the emblem of his sorrow.
For just when Iwi came to believe that Sike would stay up here with her, forevermore, he told the truth about himself: he was a servant of his people who had come here to seek quietude and clarity, but had vowed to return to his people when he was done, to continue with his service. He spoke about communal clashes and border disputes, about social projects and missions of hope and other things he was not sure she understood. Without emotion Iwi listened to him and then, with trembling heart, waited for him to ask her if she would come with him, not knowing what her answer would be.
But the request never came. She did not ask him if there was someone else waiting for him in his old life, nor did he mention it.
Now Sike stood outside Iwi’s hut, looked at the sky, and tear on tear fell from his eyes. He’d come up here to find understandings rare, only to end up with much more than he had expected. After strengthening his heart with a silent prayer which Iwi did not see, but strongly felt, he turned to her and said:
“Iwi… I love you… eternally… but I love also the people I have pledged to serve, and I love the service I have vowed to fulfill all the days of life… they need me… and so I must return there where I came from.”
They held each other tightly one last time under the blue skies, tropical avians winging their way over, and he promised to love her… and she promised to love him… foreverevermore…
They parted on that same evening – Iwi remained with his heart upon her Obudu mounain-tops, Sike took her heart with him to his calling.
She never did find out to which constituency he belonged, he never came to know what became of her in the future; but every morning and every evening, both their heartborn, love-borne thoughts meet in the firmaments of Heaven, and their thoughts promise love foreverevermore.
– CHE CHIDI CHUKWUMERIJE.
Read other inspirational stories in:
THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE.
Is that sea or sand
Out of which the jagged
Jaggered, the daggered mountains
A sea of sand
A limitless band beneath my eyes
A voiceless voiceless sea of cries
The mountains and the desert.
I fly away, I don’t return
A heart, I beat, within a metalbird
I sit and stare
At the weight of all the thoughts that I bear
World without end.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
Peoples of different origins
Colonised my heart
And raised therein an edifice
And treasured dreams…
Look now at the liquid mountains
Luminous and eternal
Which have become my spirit’s
Liquid mountains of moving light…
When I say I love you
I mean it…
When I say I love you
I mean it…
When I say I love you
I mean it…
Inside each liquid mountain
Within each luminous elevation
Is a heart
Of gold, of fire, of love…
So love me forever, my dear.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
Deep music is sailing over the mountains and into the hearts of lonely people far away. Over the mountains – over the mountains – the sight is glorious and gone. Much is gone that was here yesterday. I feel like an old man, waiting to die. But, rather than wait, why don’t I just spread my wings and fly again, like I did when I was young.
The earth is not my home. The earth is not my home, but my way home. Over the mountains, over the mountains, all is happy. It came and went so quickly. But I do not mind. Because what joy did not finish, pain shall. And vice versa.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
It must have been on Castlerigg
Amidst the ancient stones
My spirit suddenly grew big –
Did I sense my old bones?
I felt that here within this circle
I have married you before
What some might call insensible
Or, being kind, a lore…
Why do I feel what I feel?
Your eyes tell me it’s real…
If you agree with me, then nothing else matters
Sacred are family matters –
I still see Castlerigg
The heart of a mighty circle
Of mountainous hills wise and big
Like a prototype stone circle
Built by Substantiate Beings
That walked the earth
Long before Human Beings
First came to birth.
It must be hard for you
To be the subject
– or is it the object?
or is it the heart? –
Of so many poems.
When you stumble, remember:
I love you and you love me
Even if there be no poems
Even if there be no songs
No mountains, no photos, no words…
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
Friends are true friends when they will not go away from you in search of something which they merely sense that you can give them; and they can wait a thousand years for you, because they simply love you.
Castles are places where those who have love can live without guilt, and those who have no love cannot live without guilt, because every castle is an amalgamation of the qualities of the souls that inhabit it. Castles breathe.
Lakes, although they treasure a mystery, will only show you your own face, and if you must know what lies inside the heart, then you must break through the face on the surface of the lake. Lakes speak never.
Mountains are mighty until you have conquered them… and then they become mightier than ever, each mount, but now you know why it stands there, because you have crowned it. Even after you die, the mountain will remember those who crowned him once, and forever; and when you return again, he will whisper your name not once, but thrice… mountains live forever in my heart. You are my heart, sweet woman.
Friends and castles, lakes, mountains and mysteries.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
In the Distance, mysterious and magnificent
There spreads a group of towering mountains
Who, in total appearance
From left to right, in shape and aura
Looks like a wild horse,
Frozen in mid-gallop.
And there is a legend, aye there is
About the heroic wild-horses
Who, long, so long ago
Had guarded these mountains
So that nobody had been able to come near them
Or of mounting these towering rocks
Beautiful wild horses. Killer-beasts of different colours
Guardians of this mysterious mountain-range
From an era immemorial. – – –
Finally, an earthquake split off the Wild-Horse mountains
From the rest of our land
Such that it now floats, an Island
Barely visible miles out into the mysterious ocean
And called by everybody “The Island of Wild-Horse Mountain”.
Are the wild horses still there? Guardians!…?
What have they guarded for so long?
Seven people on one boat,
Trapped by a violent gale at sea one summer evening,
Decided to quickly beach on Wild-Horse Mountain Island
Before the sea wrecked their boat
And killed them.
Now you must understand that the legend
Of Wild-Horse Mountain
Is just a legend.
It is possible that this small island with its rugged mountains
Has ever floated right there in the ocean
And that it was all never a part of our mainland
And that no wild horses had ever existed.
But the legend claims that the Wild-Horse Mountain
Had once been on land, our land, guarded by wild killer horses
Until an earthquake turned it into a floating island
So many aeons ago.
Nobody really believed, but you know how it is:
Everybody likes to repeat legends.
It was the Silence
That first struck these seven people
When they landed ashore.
Immediately, they were gripped by a tension
And an uncanny excitement
Which they could not comprehend.
The gale at sea suddenly died
Yet they remained on the shore of the island
Gazing up in awe at the Wild-Horse mountains.
These people were three couples and one lady,
And, all of a sudden
They decided to explore the mountains themselves
To see if they would find any relics
Perhaps bones or any other things
Which might perhaps substantiate or contradict
The old Legend.
So they began.
They moved in a group towards the mountains.
But night fell
And they camped and slept.
In the morning they began to search –
There are seven mountains that make up this breath-taking range,
And in six days they had explored six mountains
And found nothing. –
On the seventh day, they mounted the seventh
And, over half-way up,
Heard a strange sound below them… and,
Saw the entire valley suddenly
Populated by horses nobler than the noblest steeds,
Silent as tombs, with angry fire roaring out of their eyes,
The ancient wild horses; the beautiful legendary killer-beasts.
It was eerie. They seemed to have come out of nowhere.
In a flash, the wild horses
Charged up the mountain, towards the intruders.
Looking up, the humans saw a light glow on the mountain-peak
And it occurred to them suddenly
That it was a race to the top.
They just knew it!
If they got to the peak before the wild horses
Then they would be left to live…
But if the wild horses caught up with them
Before they got to the summit
Then they were each dead and gone for life.
So the race began.
Up they sped, faster and faster
Empowered by the threat of death
And the possibility of victory and life.
But the wild horses, too, continued to gallop their tested
Way so quickly and surely up this seventh mountain,
Pursuing them deathly,
And still they were all silent.
But if the horses were wild
And if the mountains looked like a wild horse
Then surely these virgin mountains were also wild.
Only now did the intruders
Suddenly understand the true meaning
Of the name Wild-Horse Mountain.
Suddenly, like a very wild, untamed horse
This seventh mountain bluntly refused to be mounted.
Ever and again it bucked
And threatened to throw
The human beings down, into oblivion.
And then…, the near inevitable happened…
One of the humans missed his footing… and fell!
He rolled into the path of the merciless wild horses
They tore him brutally apart…
His partner, seeing this, lost her balance
And pummelled down to her death too…
One by one, singly and yet in pairs
They all began to slip, stumble, fall
Thrown by the bucking of wild-horse mountain.
In the end,
Only the lady made it to the top
While the three couples fell back and died
Pursued by wild horses,
Betrayed by a wild mountain,
As all mountains, how ever tame, are actually very wild.
At the peak
She found that the light glow was in truth a path.
On it was a proud Stallion, calm,
Who had eyes that were almost human.
She mounted him
And he bore her grandly down the winding
Gently-sloping path that led into the very heart
Of the entire Wild-Horse Mountain Range…
Unexpectedly they came across the
Her breath caught in her heart
As she beheld the precious treasures
The unbelievable Prize
Which the wild horses had so faithfully
Guarded from that time unremembered:
She saw a colony
Of magnificent winged horses,
Each exactly as she had always
Imagined Pegasus would be,
Only even more beautiful were these…
For the first time ever, one of us
Encountered the valley of life
Where the winged horses had been
Slowly evolving over millennia.
There, deep inside the gentle heart
Of the Wild-Horse Mountains
Guarded faithfully by unchanging unwavering
Without fear, without question
Aided by a stubborn mountain.
Their leader’s name was Sram.
He spoke to the lady from the land of men.
She mounted him, he beat his wings, and, together
They visited awhile the Land of Tomorrow
Where, one day, the Earth will also be…
And noble animals will roam the earth again
And noble human beings will bestride the earth anew
And the winged flying horses
That the lady saw in the valley of life
Will make a friendly abode with humans on earth
For a long time
Yet to come.
When next you see a wild horse
Do not try to tame it
That wild streak in her
Is the sole guardian
Of a beauty
That yet sleeps, silent,
Within the heart of every human being.
– AKA TERAKA.