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An Elephant Never Forgets

There is something both beautiful and spiritual when you look over the Mara — as Ian witnessed in the Garden of Remembrance
Above: The Chapel and the newly laid out Garden

One hot afternoon, a large group of guests chaperoned by Steve Mitchell had requested to plant three trees in the Garden of Remembrance. When I arrived, I suggested we sit for a moment in the chapel built in honour of Steve Fitzgerald. It was in the little chapel where Steve Mitchell opened his heart about the recent passing of his beloved golden retriever Knox and the others reflected on the beautiful souls they had lost, with the late afternoon sun glowing in the stained glass windows of the chapel.

Mama Jane standing watch over the garden from the Chapel

Willie, the head shamba keeper, slipped into the chapel almost unnoticed and gestured that they were ready for us. Opening the back doors of the chapel which face the garden, we made our way to the gathering of shamba keepers armed with spades. Nine indigenous saplings (nurtured by the green-fingered Elias) were carefully placed alongside freshly prepared holes for each guest to plant, as a symbol to honour and remember an important individual they had lost.

Steve Mitchell planting a tree in memory of dear Knoxy

Several years ago, two trees were planted in memory of two incredible people, Steve and Anna Fitzgerald — which is how the Garden of Remembrance came to be. Since then, many members of staff have followed suit.

You know how they say an elephant never forgets? Well, these giants never seem to forget to decimate Steve Fitz’s tree every time they visit. Cyrus, who takes safeguarding both gardens very seriously, informed me that one time an elephant broke in and the only damage that it made was to pull out Steve’s tree. Nicky believes this must be his sense of humour as we’re now on tree number four. A few years ago, my sister and mom planted a tree here for my Dad. It still stands firmly though the eland are fond of it and over time they’ve transformed it into a plus-sized bonsai.

Willow Boyd waters his grandfather's tree (#4)

This year, Angama began offering guests the opporutnity to participate in this meaningful ritual so I made time to consider how the space could be arranged. Rather than the haphazard dotting of trees within the field as before, I decided some order was needed and designed a snaking path as well as a direct path (sound familiar?) so that many trees may be planted and in time, create a beautiful forest garden. During this ceremony, an idea landed to offer the guests some rosemary sprigs to hold and caress as they symbolise 'remembrance'. In time, we’ll plant a few bushes of this in the bendy part of the snaking path.

Guests taking matters into their own hands
Who needs a brush in the bush?

Just as we wondered how we would recall which tree belonged to which soul, Jeremy emerged with some timber boards and grey paint. A paintbrush couldn’t be found, so he broke off a small branch from a shrub and offered the fragrant alternative. But the tree planters had made a plan of their own and embraced the paint with their fingers. Eventually, these boards will be replaced with metal plaques mounted on large stones and will face the view of the Mara.

As we left, I noticed that some guests had elected not to wash the paint off their fingers, perhaps not quite ready to part with their memorial in the Mara, and smiled.

Notes from the Editor:

In loving memory of Knox, a good boy until the very last.

Filed under: Stories From The Mara

Tagged with:

Angama Team , garden of remembrance , This Week At Angama

About: Ian Dommisse

Ian is an architect with a passion for alternative, environmentally friendly construction methods. In 2013, he founded The EcoBrick Exchange (EBE), a recycling non-profit, which builds township preschools using up-cycled plastic waste. With landscaping projects becoming more of a focus, including designing Angama's Shamba, he is in his element surrounded by nature amongst its magic and beautiful creatures great and small.

Browse all articles by Ian Dommisse Meet the angama team

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Join the Conversation (2 comments)

Comments (2):

Sylvia Berman

27 December 2022

I have always planted a tree "in memory" so the garden is now even more special for my Angama family. Thanks to all of you

    Charlotte Ross Stewart

    30 December 2022

    Dear Sylvia, we are so honoured to have your tree of remembrance in our garden. We will look after it as best we can and keep it growing so one day, you and your family can sit in its shade and remember your loved ones who have passed. Wishing you a very happy festive period, Charlotte

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