Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Firewood Woman

The firewood woman—I did not learn her name--looks old and weary and worn, yet she has a toddler with her so she must be young. She once had a husband who helped her with the work, cutting and bundling the wood. He died. She is now a widow stripped of all possessions (according to the Levirate custom); even the wedding necklaces she once proudly wore were reclaimed by the dead man’s brothers. 

Reduced to near starvation, this Firewood Woman has walked four miles to reach here. She steps slowly, deliberately into the Narus compound beneath her heavy load, then bends to topple its weight onto the ground. She sits on the dirt and turns her head upward, hoping that the compound manager will purchase the wood so that she and her child can eat. But no, she has come too late: the compound bought its supply of wood yesterday from another woman. 

This firewood woman sits motionless on the ground for another hour, absorbing the news the way the earth absorbs the punishing heat, without complaint; then she hoists her burden onto her head, stands upright, and walks back through the gate.

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