The story of wildlife filmmaker Joan Root comes alive in "Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa." Journalist Mark Seal describes Root's love of animals, her passionate romance with her filmmaker husband, and her mission to preserve Kenya's Lake Naivasha.
After Root and her husband of 20 years divorced, she was trying to rediscover herself before she was mysteriously murdered at her farmhouse in Kenya, Seal writes.
Read an excerpt of the book below.
She always knew he would come back to her. He would climb into his helicopter at first light one Nairobi morning and rise above the screaming madhouse of the city, tilting west over
East Africa's largest slum, and flying out into wonder: out over the Great Rift Valley, the cradle of civilization, a three- thousand- mile- long seam in the earth that stretches from Syria to Mozambique but is at its most glorious here in Kenya. As the floor of the world dropped away, opening into endless sky and a breathtaking vista, he would follow this corridor straight back to her.
There were things she longed to tell him, things only he would understand. Everything she'd been too shy and self- effacing to say before would now come pouring out, just as it had in all of the letters she had written him, letters she never sent:
A lifetime has passed since we split, and yet some memories of
things we did together seem [as if they happened] only the other day. There is so much I would like to say and share with you—now I know I am not inferior to you.
She waited for him in her blue house beside the lake, which looked so perfect and placid from the air. But this was merely another extreme in a country where great beauty coexists with unimaginable brutality, where the border between life and death is the thinnest of lines, where nothing is ever as it seems.
Now in contact with others, I realize how knowledgeable I am about the natural world. . . . People respect me nowadays. But the only love of my life is one of the few people I cannot communicate with, even as a friend.
She could leave all that pain behind as soon as he came back into her life. Flying over the mountains and dormant volcanoes that form a natural amphitheater around the lake, he would hover over the emeraldgreen water, taking in its wide, verdant, wildlife- infested expanse.
When you flew over and saw the blue house you were probably happy you didn't live here anymore, but I am really such a different person, I hardly know myself. I have written you so many letters in my head but when I try to write I go to pieces.
She imagined him buzzing the house, as playfully as he always had, then touching down on the grass landing strip and stepping out, as if returning from only a brief safari instead of half a lifetime. Then at last she would impress him with her independence and accomplishments and show him the abiding endurance of her love.
Finally, he did come back to her, flying in with the dawn on January 13, 2006. It was not, however, as she had dreamed for so long. He hadn't come to reunite with the woman who had once been his wife, partner, and best friend, the woman he'd left to live alone in Africa for sixteen years.
He had come to collect her remains.
Excerpted from Wildflower by Mark Seal Copyright © 2009 by Mark Seal. Excerpted by permission of Random House Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.