The Dandelion in the Kalahari


I don’t know if they have dandelions in the Kalahari – I don’t mean in the hottest, sandiest part, but you know – on the fringes, where some plants grow in spite of the harsh conditions.

I often write about inspiration, and more specifically, how and where to find it. Today I’m doing it again.

Some days I feel a bit stuck for a new idea. But looking around me at the people and things in this world, I find stories everywhere. The people on the bus – why are they going into town? are they going to do shopping? to pay bills? to snatch a secret coffee with a lover in the back of a cafe, constantly watching the door in case someone they know should come in and their secret be revealed? Or maybe they’re just going to work.

Or that picture on the wall of the art gallery. What does it mean? Who is the woman in the painting? What was she thinking as she sat for her portrait? Did she wish the artist was young and handsome? that he would flirt with her, run away with her, that they dandelion-1000460_1280could make a new life for themselves away from the stifling formality of her life as a noblewoman? Did she hope he would compliment her beauty, her poise, that he’d say he’d never seen such a complexion and that paint alone couldn’t hope to match the glow in her cheek or the brilliance of her eyes? Or did she think ‘these stays are killing me, I can’t breathe! Paint faster you stupid man, I can’t bear this a moment longer!’

Or what about that seedling suddenly sprouting up in the middle of the lawn. Was it borne here by a strong wind from a garden nearby? Or did it fall from the feet or feathers of a bird after a long migration from Africa, from some hot, arid terrain, expansive and open, where wildebeest and lions roam, as unlike my suburban English garden as it is possible to get?

Inspiration demands that we go about with our eyes and our minds open. We need to be enquiring, nosy and have a slightly off-centre way of looking at things, at the world around us, its people and places and objects. We need to ask why, and how, and most importantly, what if. When you habitually ask yourself these questions even in the most mundane of life’s situations, you’ll find your story.


Maybe there is a dandelion growing outside a traditional home on the edge of the Kalahari, and a woman a little bit like me is looking at it and wondering, how did that get here?