I traveled with a friend one day to visit a woman healer in a village at the edge of the Kalahari. She received us eagerly as we chattered about her late father, a prominent bishop whose mantle she had taken up. She set out some hand-crafted folding chairs slung with strips of cowhide of a kind frequently seen at the village court. Then she began to pour cups of a local herbal tea, rooibos, with goat’s milk and generously sweetened.
As we sipped the tea, the healer apologized for the scant furnishings in her home: bare walls, a small kitchen cupboard, a single candle in the windowsill, a wash basin and small stove. She herself sat cross-legged on the floor. My friend reproached her for her embarrassment with a homely story: on a drowsy afternoon in the shanty town where he lived, a snake was seen slithering into his living room. Jolted to full wakefulness, the household set about feverishly to evict this unwelcome guest. But first they confronted a wearisome task – to drag from the cluttered room every bit of overstuffed furniture where the snake might be hiding. He could never again take pleasure in an over-furnished house, my friend concluded.
Better – far safer – to live in uncluttered surroundings.