"Hey, look at all those birds" Moira is slicing along at 6.5 knots, just rounding the northern end of Kaileuna Island, a flight of turns attacks a shoal of sardines from aloft while a school of bonito hits them from below.
"Shall I head over?" Freddy is at the wheel.
"No. We've got plenty of fish in the freezer now." I check the chart and line up our course to Labi Island.
"And green turtle meat, too," she adds with a frown.
"Head 143º - the north end of Labi." She adjusts course while I trim the sails. I look over the chart one more time. I like the part where it says, "Lusancay Isles, Uncharted waters." Just a big blank white area on the nautical chart. Unsurveyed.
"Canoe coming out," Freddy says. I look up to see a 30 foot long dugout with six men paddling frantically to intercept us. One of the men is looking at us with what seems to be naked greed.
"They want to get us to come to their village," I predict. As they come alongside I look at the aggressive man, his mix of Polynesian and Melanesian prominent in his face. His frantic scrollwork of tattoos glistens with sweat and he pants from the effort of paddling.
"We want buy carvings and maybe papaws," he grins, meaning he wants to sell us these. One man holds up a grass skirt and wiggles it, leering around its dancing bush at Freddy.
"We go to Labi. We must go now so sun high in sky. Many stones to see in water," I point west.
"No, come our village, no reef there. Only sand," the man protests.
"Yeah, and no bottom either," I mumble to Freddy.
"I do think I see some green water over there," she says.
"Do you want to go?"
"We go to Labi," I shout and let the sails fill.
"Stop when you come back," the man calls, now a small figure shouting in our wake.
We arrive in the lee of Labi at about 3 PM and anchor in 12 feet of water over white sand. I play out the anchor chain and watch the anchor snuggle in for the night as the chain pulls tight. Freddy and I go for a swim in the clear warm water and then she busies herself fixing "Turtle Cannonballs" while I listen to the soft whoosh of the gentle surge on the sand beach and the high pitched symphony of insects and frogs in the tropical rainforest ashore.
There is a small village on a little island south of us but the people have ignored us so far. Through the binoculars I see the houses are thatch and most of the women wear grass skirts.
"Think we'll find any pearl oysters here?" I ask Freddy.
"Maybe," her voice comes from below.
So far our survey has been singularly unproductive. Other than the four lapi we found the first day we've not found anything. No gold lip, no black lip, no lapi. The huge pearl oyster beds are now gone. Maybe there are still some here, in the "uncharted" Lusancay islands.
It is clear, from our early morning dive, no lapi lurk behind Labi. So we make a brief trip to see the village on the next island. I anchor the Avon off the beach. A group of children are playing around a big dead tree lodged in the shallow water off the village.
The village is kind of run down looking and the people are extremely shy. We have a quick walkabout and then return to the Avon, liberate it from the attention of 8 naked little children, and streak back over the shallow lagoon to our lonely anchorage.
It is late afternoon. We return to Moira after another futile attempt to find pearl oysters. The light has a special golden richness just perfect for photographs. I get my camera gear together and load it into the boat. Freddy darts below to get her beach bag and I wait on the back deck of Moira, looking at the intense green of the leaves on the trees ashore. The light is now exactly right, the shadows long, the air perfectly transparent. It is so exquisite I can't seem to get enough of the scene. I want to drink the vision, absorb myself into its beauty.
I concentrate on the shape and color of the leaves of one branch of one tree in the green canopy that shades the whole island. Now I keep the one leaf, the one branch, in center focus while adding the rest of the 180º by 90º of my peripheral vision.
Waves chant towards the shore, sighing rhythmically as they kiss the sand and fall upon its glittering white sweep. I breathe deeply, pulling in the air, feeling it flow deep inside. Clouds glide through the sky, cut by the sharp lines of Moira's rigging.
Every detail, shape, color, movement my eyes can perceive become centered in my mind. Now for the sounds. I hear wavelets slip-slap Moira's hull, swoosh onto the sand, insects whir and giggle, the wind nestles in the trees. A fish splashes far away. I see the light fuzzy circles of the splash on the edge of my vision and the sound of the fish smacking Sea cymbals within the tropical concert. These sounds web into my focus on the leaf of the one tree.
Familiar smells of Moira blend with forest blooms and the enchanting clean sharp fragrance of Sea.
The array of sight, sound, smell, blends with the touch of Sun on my back and the feel of Moira on the souls of my feet and the caress of wind around each and every hair of my body. I feel trembling muscle movements everywhere within, as my body makes minute balance adjustments to the passing waves. I feel cool air move in and out of my nose, mouth, throat and lungs.
I am sensate - fully open and accepting. The flow of information throughout my body is overwhelmingly spectacular and I reap the spirit of Sea, Earth, Air. I am a vortex of perception: simultaneously the planet and the entity sensing it. Awareness of awareness feeds on itself. I am MAN, the One Who Thinks, the only creature to dance with mythic PAN.
For an instant, the vortex of knowing hovers over a great cavern of perception as I touch the mind of Pan - the awareness of Earth and Sun. I am Man and Earth is my greater body. But the perception is gone in the same instant it arrives, leaving me alone, sitting on the Moira, aware I passed close to something I want desperately to know more closely. I almost saw something... something special.
Freddy emerges from the hatch and we climb into the Avon and go ashore to capture the golden afternoon on film. As we approach the wall of broad green leaves, I realize the mind-kiss of the planet has left an aftertaste, a concept.
To Have Polarity/Direction
Love one Another
Be of One Mind
The Holy Mama's words echo through me as the dinghy approaches the shore. They have a bizarre effect. I become a remote observer, watching as Richard and Frederique beach the dinghy and anchor it. They come ashore between two huge banyan trees whose ancient trunk-like branches rest on the powder white beach, the clear lagoon sea lapping at their roots.
Frederique looks intensely at the sand. She sinks to her hands and knees, picks up some very small sea shells, only about 3-mm long.
"Richard sinks to his knees, also, to focus the camera on Freddy and then on the plants just behind the beach from a low angle, "The late afternoon light really makes them glow. The high wax content makes them shiny, see? It protects them from the salt spray."
Richard walks into the shade of the branches and looks closely at the glow of the moss on the trunk of the giant trees. He digs in his camera bag and sets up a strobe. Carefully, with much bending and angling, he takes a close-up of the moss. Shakes his head, dissatisfied.
He moves into the forest, camera at the ready, peering closely at every detail, every shape. He stops, inhales deeply, closes his eyes as he savors the damp forest smell. It is a deep green forest glade with orchids in the trees. "I wish I could figure out a way to photograph this jungle the way I can see it." he mumbles. I tag along, just observing.
"I'm going to get lost in here for awhile," he calls out to Frederique. She replies and waves but her sound is broken by the chatter of a green and red plumed parrot as it flaps angrily away from the voices. Richard watches her through the foliage as she stands, turns and walks down the beach, her skin a satin gold in the late afternoon sun.
Inside the forest he walks on the damp broad brown leaves. They are very supple. He speaks softly, perhaps to me, perhaps to the forest. "That feels great on my bare feet." He walks up to a big tree trunk lying on the jungle floor, reaches out and touches the soft green glow of moss. He strokes an upright branch with his fingertips and peers closely at the tiny green puffs of moss rippling softly under his fingertips.
He turns and regards a group of tiny flies dancing furiously in the focal point of light made by the circular lens formed by gaps in the leaves where the afternoon sun streams down into the calm jungle air. "Hmmm." he says to the flies, "Captured in the focus of sunlight in the forest. You have no choice but to circle round and round just there." The flies agree, continue to circle in the odd, luminous ball of sunglow.
Richard glances up at the hole in the leaves forming the lens and his head and eyes follow the way the light shafts down to the focal point just above the forest floor. "Hey. I just realized you guys are actually forming the ball of light. The sunlight would be invisible except it hits all your little bodies and reflects off them. So you are not just responding to the dynamics of the forest and the movement of the planet and sun, you also are circling your own little group, attracted by the reflection of sunlight off yourselves."
He looks through his camera from various angles and then shakes his head as if to say the image can't be photographed. He climbs onto the fallen tree trunk to get a better perspective. Standing on the decaying wood with the green moss folded neatly under his naked feet, he focuses his vision on the focal point of light and the flies vibro-dance like hot atoms in the sunlight.
Richard stands very quietly, now. He is trying to perceive with all of his senses. His muscles relax as he allows all the light entering his eyes to flow into his conscious mind. We move closer together, but he has no awareness of me. The sounds of the forest and the surf and the touch of the cool moss and the fragrance of the forest enters him and gradually his every sense opens to the Forest. We are very close together now, actually touching.
He says, "It is not insane to say I am sunlight dancing with earth crystals. It is not insane to say I am the dance of mind with the energy of sun and the memories of Earth. It is not insane to say....since I am sunlight, since I am mind....I am one with the creation of these trees for they are also sunlight and awareness. I, Awareness, built these trees from sunlight and earth crystals exactly as I built...as I build this body."
"Who are you trying to convince?" I ask him, laughing, but he ignores me, still unaware of me. Too bad, he has missed a good hint. He talks too much.
"My body is a focal point for the only part of creation aware it is sunlight dancing with earth crystals. Other creatures might feel this, deep within their focus, but they can not say it or know it as I do."
"Only Man, the one who thinks, can say it. Only Man has seen his greater planetary self with eyes placed in the Void. I am created and am at the same moment the creator. I behold my creation. I behold myself....my forest....my sea....my sky....my source of power, the star, the sun."
"My, my, my," I inject into his monologue. "What about me?" He is opaque to my comments, continues on, gaining momentum.
"Sunlight does not know what it is. Atoms do not know what they are. Cells know nothing of themselves. Only the greater mind, manifested by billions of human neurons, by the endless flowing of endless human words can know. Only MAN can perceive the pulse of an electron and the gyre of a galaxy and the rush of galaxies of galaxies and know them for what they are."
"I am Man. I am Mind, the creator. But though I can perceive this, I can not know more or do more than this brain is capable of. I can not perceive more than this sensory system can perceive. I am limited to the capacity of this body and its social identity."
"Yet, it is enough to know who I am and yet not be insane. I do not hallucinate angels, pixies, elves or other myths in the forest. I see nature's elemental spirit. I perceive, though I can not explain, the vast interrelated system of sunbeams dancing with earth crystals. And in perceiving this I know also it is, as I am, a progression of mind. Forest, I, the planet, all is an interlocked web of mind, powered by the sun, woven in the fabric of earth atoms. We are all one entity and, in being aware of this, I am aware I am that entity."
Richard's body is rigid with the effort to perceive and speak at the same time. The green forest darkens as the earth spins to hide the star behind its bulk. The tiny flies vanish as their shaft of sunlight winks out. They are probably headed this way, godamits ready for an evening snack on his blood. He is oblivious, his eyes close, his body slumps and tears flow down his cheeks. He is trembling as he climbs down to the forest floor. He walks toward the turquoise opening onto the beach and then stops, listening. Now is my chance, "How can you get so close and yet miss the point entirely?" I ask. He hears me this time but has no reply.
Freddy is waiting for Richard at the edge of the jungle, she is in the shade having browned her skin enough for the day.
Richard decides, quite correctly, that she makes a better subject for photography than mosses, tiny flies or waxy leaves.