This Water Lives in Mombasa

DH and I have always loved the movie Out of Africa. One of my favorite bits is an exchange between Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) and her servant, Farah (Malick Bowens). Early in the film, Karen is overseeing the damming of a river for her new coffee plantation. Farah shakes his head, warning her, “This water lives in Mombasa.” She pays no attention.

However, near the end of the film, her dreams destroyed by fire and then sudden flooding, Karen finally gives up and puts her hand on Farah’s arm to stop his effort to repair the broken dam. “Let it go,” she tells him. “Let it go. This water lives in Mombasa, anyway.”

I have always thought it was a perfect expression of the idea that nature will win in the end.

Three years ago Damon and I spent a sweaty day with a chainsaw and cut all the small trees off this slope except the white birches. I burned truckloads of black cherry saplings and balsams. Since then I’ve had no time to pay the slope any attention.

This land wants to be balsams.


Last summer I had planned to transplant many of the balsams to other places on the farm and pull the rest, but as usual my list was too long.


I have always known that the minute I no longer have the energy to combat nature’s intention, these hard-won, cleared acres will start to go back to trees. Maps from the 1940s show my land as pasture. When I bought the two pieces in 2003 and 2005, the towering forest was so thick it couldn’t be walked.

For the moment I have a perfect little balsam nursery. Again my plan is to move many of them this spring and summer.


It’s on the list. We shall see if I can be successful — even temporarily.

This water lives in Mombasa.

One Response to This Water Lives in Mombasa

  1. Erika says:

    Since reading “Circling the Sun” by Paula McLain (about Beryl Markham, a friend of Karen Blixen) I have been wanting to see “Out of Africa.” Now I have another reason. Thanks for posting!

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