Simplicity and the Joy of a Smile

Woman in Arusha Carrying Firewood.jpg

When I was out on my daily constitutional last night in Arusha, I came across this woman.  She was walking slowly but surely, carrying a sizable load of firewood on her head. As you may know, it is customary for folks to carry loads on their heads here, and they're very good at it. She looked somewhat tired but determined. Maybe even a little grim. I'm not sure, and I didn't ask.

Anyway, the amateur photographer in me saw an opportunity to make a photo memory, so I greeted her and politely asked her in Kiswahili whether I could take her picture. She hesitantly agreed, and her facial expression moved ever-so-slightly from determined to inquisitive. Although she simply nodded and said nothing, I'm sure she was thinking, "Why does this stranger want to take my picture?" Sensing this, I told her in broken Swahili, "Nataka kupiga picha nawe kwa sebabu wewe ni mrembo sana." ("I want to take your picture because you are very beautiful.")

Look at the result! Damn!! She showed me her dirty freedom! 

Isn't she beautiful? I nearly wept after I saw the picture in my viewfinder. I showed it to her, and she laughed out loud, delighted to see herself.

I wrote a post last year about simplicity equaling joy. Although I think this woman's life may be complex in ways I could never understand (I didn't have time to ask her to tell me about her circumstances, as darkness was approaching), there is such simplicity and joy in an impromptu smile. And a photo can reveal much about someone's soul. Her soul is good.

This is merely another iteration of what Dirty Freedom is about--another example of finding joy in simplicity and learning to appreciate the wonderful things in life that are right in front of you but you might be missing because of what I'll call "environmental interference".  Look around you, and drink all the beauty and joy in.  Your own soul can always use a refresher, regardless of its condition.

I hope to meet this woman again on one of my walks. If I do, I know she'll remember me, and perhaps next time we'll shoot a video.  I will ask her to tell her story.

-Badger out.