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The Observer

walter the cat


Walter is dying. There is blood in his stool. His penis is bright red and oozing blood. He can't pee. I test a tiny spot of urine and it is loaded with protein. Freddy and I give him Amoxyl, vitamin E and B.

Freddy is walking around in tears. The heat and smell have synthesized an image of Pago Pago harbor as a big, green, putrid, slimy, dead jellyfish clinging to Tutuila's guts.

I try to work on ideas for Fui's campaign. I think about the fine-mat analogy to people weaving a web of selves. It is only through experience, the act of weaving, that we become more than parts of a whole. Each individual must have the whole as its basis, being a conscious expression of the whole.

The unenlightened island is like a dreamer who gets deeper and deeper into the net of self-created illusions. An awakened island is one whose conceptual acts are united....

Walter crawls up, painfully, onto my lap. He is loose, weak, hot. He lays his head on my arm and we cry together. The political ramblings loose their flavor as I gently hold him.

Sunday 28 August

Walter can't make it up the ladder. "He wants you to get his box," Freddy stands with her hands loose at her sides. She does not reach up and wipe the tears on her cheek and that hits me hard, like a punch in the solar plexus.

I go on deck and get the cat box, trying to catch my breath through the lump in my throat. There is some blood red urine in his box already, formed into a grotesque cross on the bottom. I rinse the box and bring it inside and put it next to Walter. He gets in and squats painfully, straining. When he steps out there is another small blood red puddle.

"Ohhhh," says Walter.

"What's wrong Walter, sweetheart," Freddy gently touches him. "I'm right here. It's all right. Come on Walter, just one little bite? You want me to hug you tight? You going to eat? Come on, hmmm? A little nibble, just one? Yeah, that's a good kitty."

By two in the afternoon the medicine begins to take effect. Walter is pissing blood everywhere. Thick, sticky red urine. He sits for awhile watching the birds on shore with cat eloquence and eagerness. He breathes the fetid air - deep inhalations filling him with delight - like he is filling himself up with life for the last time and wants to savor each moment. He drinks the spirit of life and is silent in his pain. Whenever I look at him all I see is death.

"I hate this place!" Freddy cries, "It killed my Kitty!"

I can't fault this. Whatever is killing Walter was produced by Tutuila. Tutuila the filthy. Tutuila where people do not care. Tutuila where sickness attacks everyone, everything. Where the reefs die, the birds vanish, and the people are narced with TV and cash.

"I want to get out of here," Freddy sobs.

"Yeah, me too."

I walk to the phone. A beautiful sunny Sunday. Trash is everywhere. On the wharf, in the water, along the road. In any living system the whole is expressed in every part. To understand a concept's success, examine any part. To know the nature of its failures, look closely at any part.

Tutuila's problems are a pattern of behavior. Trash everywhere is merely the easiest expression to see. Examine the eyes, the hearts, the feelings of those who throw garbage on Tutuila and you see a holograph of why the government is failing, why crime is growing, why the youth are lost. Cure just one of the problems and the others will find a path to vitality.

The cure must not be force or fear or threats. The cure must come from understanding on the part of Tutuila's people that they are one with their island. Every person plays a role, no matter how small. They damage their own spirit when they desecrate their island.

Each time I see someone throw trash on the ground I think of Faatali Seleni, Tutuila's Special Person, spending his precious life picking up empty cans thrown by people who's lives are as empty as the trash they discard so blindly. I see another Tutuila, like a ghost in the background, one where everyone's life is full. A Tutuila where everyone shares in the goals of the living, awakened island. A Tutuila where no one would every throw trash on the ground. In this Tutuila, Faatali could spend his time planting flowers to make life more beautiful for everyone.

Walter Cat doing the magic mirror trick.

Thursday 1 September.

Sweet little Walter the Cat is still hanging in there. The massive doses of Amoxyl combined with Vitamins C, E, B, and the Calcium/Magnesium tablets seem to be gaining ground.

But now I'm sick. A bitch of a cold. Walter and I are sitting here on the boat feeling like shit together. I pick up my log book and let my hand doodle. I watch abstractly, my nose trying to drip off, as my fingers scribble out a wiggly thread of ink that says,


Tutuila, why do you hold me,

Unraveling dreams on your heat soaked sands

Tender needs caught, like fish, wiggling in your web

Unbreakable threads of thought, tugged by desire

Indestructible twine of words and deeds, pull and push

Lives lashed firmly in the tide rip of This Magic Sea

What should I do when the shark swims so near to my soul?

Feverish Fool  

Stop. Wait. Hold on. Feel your feet propped up on the mast. Your hand on the pen. Turn your head. Feel your mouth. You are feverish, Richard, my boy. Breathe easy. Whew. That's better. I look back at what I wrote. There is no doubt the thought web is a way of depicting the communication network that creates the cathedrals of bullshit currently ravaging the planet.

It's also true we should get the hell out of here. Get moving. A ship in port is safe and secure but that's not what ships are for.

The official tourism office team waves a fond farewell to 2000 cash paying visitors.

My fever is having a fine old time and I feel really miserable. I need to move around. I go ashore and wander down to take some shots of the Oriana cruise ship as it leaves the harbor. Then I slouch back past the market. I stop on the bridge and stare down into Trash Creek. It takes several moments for my dazed mind to wonder what those people are doing down in the creek, up to their crotches in trash. Then I realize they are CLEANING IT. I look around and see THREE waste containers in the market next to the creek.

Tolani Toleso is suddenly there next to me. I have been really pissed at him for not getting the creek cleaned up. We stand there together watching the clean-up crew. "Not your men," I observe.

"No, they are from the village here." He gestures behind us.

"I told you, it wouldn't do any good to clean it up without having someone responsible to keep it clean."

"So how did you convince those guys to do it?"

"They wanted some Park land next to the creek to build a Canoe shed for the village Fautasi. I told them they could use the land providing they kept it free of trash and litter. Once they agreed, I told them the creek was part of the deal." Tolani looks very pleased with himself.

"And you put the trash containers in the market?"

"We put them in lots of places, in all the parks." Tolani smiles. "The boy scouts painted them." I want to shake his hand but I don't want him to get this miserable cold from me.




Freddy, Walter and I sit in front of the boob tube while Tutuila's deepest inner soul is illuminated by pallid TV mind currents easing frazzled minds into mental mush. At the end of the Heart to Heart show, the KVZK station break comes on. It is my photograph of Matafau Mountain with KVZK written on it.

"Hey, look at that, it looks great!" Freddy sits up. The station break fades to the mountain slide without lettering and Fui's voice booms out into Moira's cabin, "

Samoan's often dance sitting down. Possibly because in the old days the nobility considered it improper (and maybe not safe) for anyone to have their head higher than the noble's.

We are a living island.

Our consciousness is the words we speak to each other.

Our memory is our culture, made visible in our homes, gardens and pathways.

Our ability to perceive and respond is the way we love one another,

work together, and are of one mind.


Each phrase is another slide of Tutuila, showing the people, homes, gardens, pathways, churches, and children dancing and singing together. "Ok, All Right! At last the message is getting out."

"Too bad the slides were not perfectly synchronized but the total effect is outstanding, I've got to admit," Freddy gives me a big smooch.

Two points TV break Last night they showed the spot with the flowers, with a woman's voice saying, "When you plant flowers, you're planting beauty. When you harvest flowers, you harvest love." We've finished the one with the sports slides, too, about not messing up the island. That one shows their star basketball player moving down the court. He jumps to make the basket and the last slide shows him grinning, dropping an empty Coke can in a trash barrel. He says, "Two points for Tutuila," and you hear the empty can rattle into the barrel.

Each spot is about 20 to 30 seconds long and contains a seed of the living island concept. Each has a series of my best color slides, shown rapid-fire to the words.

The first slide of each of the five "Living Island" sequences has been copied with the KVZK-TV logo. The idea is to use the cover slide as KVZK station breaks. People get to see it often, sometimes for minutes at a time. When the first slide has become associated with the living island message, the message should come to mind each time someone sees the station break. Little reminders to be aware of your part in the living island, to work together, and make Tutuila more beautiful.

Don't trash Tutuila with Matafao Mountain in the background. Not exactly a subliminal message.I like the one that shows a huge Samoan guy with a big club. Matafau Mountain is in the background. I framed the mountain over his head to give the dual impression of protection. Mountain protects man, man protects mountain. The man says, in Samoan. "Don't trash Tutuila." I needed to talk to him for fifteen minutes and shot a half a roll of film before I could get him to look mean and dangerous. He is one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet and kept laughing and smiling at the camera.

Joe, the director of the Development Planning Office, wanted to have "Sponsored by The Development Planning Office," on each station break slide along with the KVZK-TV logo. But FCC rules only permit the station's logo and address on station ID breaks. That damn near ended the project before it began.

Joe has canceled the TV spots.

This time because the narrator gave credit to Fui for the translation and reading of the Living Island message. The narrator says, "A Samoan Affairs Message brought to you courtesy of KVZK-TV and the Development Planning Office." Joe figures DPO (he) should be first, last and only. I tried to argue with him, saying people will remember the last thing they hear best, but he would not even discuss it.

When I stop by the studio, Peni, the station manager, hands me the slides and says, "We don't have time for this shit." Not meaning the slides and their content, but Joe's insane jealousy. He apparently called Peni and had a fit over the phone. KVZK has spent a lot of time helping out with the project without any funding. They were willing to do it on a friendly basis, but not if someone is going to give them a bad time about it.

Here I am, trying to run a program about working together for the benefit of everyone and I can't even get the key people to work together.

"Listen, Peni, my friend, why not keep the station break slides and use them? They are mine, after all, and I just gave them to you. Maybe you can't use the spots right now, but maybe, one of these days, your camera men might want to do a similar thing." Peni hesitates and I walk out, leaving the station break slides on his desk.

Back at DPO, I can barely contain myself. I'd love to have it out with Joe but he has made his play and won't back down. In his best mood, he is a touchy and irritable man and today he is not in his best mood.

The west coast of Tutuila Island is a beautiful wilderness area.

I show Joe and his staff the final "Island Beauty" slide show, complete with music and automated script in English and in Samoan. The slides are truly beautiful. The Island Beauty slide show and the Healthy Island show key in with the TV spots. The idea is to put on the slide shows at schools and at get-togethers. Then the spots on TV will give a reminder of the program and the station breaks will bring the essential points to mind many times each day. Tutuila will get the message. Only now Tutuila will not get the message because Joseph has canceled the TV spots.

I have this God-awful vision of the slide shows being carefully set on the shelf alongside the decaying zombie reports. At least they will provide a gourmet change of diet for the cockroaches and book bugs.

When I walk out into the sunny Tutuila morning my mind is in a state of advanced numb-brain. I plod slowly towards the museum where Freddy is setting up her drawings and hand painted silk paroes for the annual Art Show. I pass the Communications Center. Step by step the numbness spreads. I have the uncanny feeling I am walking towards something. Something very important.

"Tutuila, I really do Love You," I slip back into the mantra that has sustained me over the past year. "But it looks like the message is going to stay just between you and me. If there is such a thing as an island awareness, if there is such a thing as a larger mind-system aware of us poor little creatures, why is it not helping me get the message out? Why these last-minute stupidities on the part of the very people who should be joyously helping? Help me, Tutuila! You're my only hope."

I push open the door to the Museum and find Freddy standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by artistic creation.

"So, what do you think?" Freddy asks, hands on hips, surveying her display on the museum walls.

"Looks outstanding," I put my arm around her waist and give her a hug. "Outstanding."

Freddy demonstrates how to tie one of her silk Paraoes into a sexy looking dress.

Friday 21 October.


I stand in the post office reading are rereading the yellow telex. It arrived at the exact time I was wandering out of DPO yesterday, feeling I was walking towards something very important. As it came clacking in to their ancient telex machine, I was not 50 meters away asking Tutuila to help me.

I call Jeremy Carew-Reid. He has a very friendly voice. The voice says they are in the process of organizing a Radio Broadcaster's Training Course for Environmental Radio and had heard of the work I was doing with KVZK TV. Would I be interested in putting together the educational materials for the course and some material for the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme? I say yes. He goes over the project and then asks when can I come to Noumea.

We are on our way, JC, on our way.

Moira under sail on a mission for the South Pacific Commission.

Moira is between Tonga and Fiji at 18o30' South 175o30' West , heading 263o with a northeasterly wind at 13 knots apparent. We are smoking along at 7 knots. Ahead, perhaps 20 miles away, I see a truly enormous anvil shaped cloud. It is imbedded in a solid wall of monster clouds extending to the north and south as far as I can see. The wall is a trough of low pressure we must pass through on our way to Noumea.

So far the weather has been ideal. We left Pago Pago at 11 AM on Monday. Just about exactly one year from the time we arrived. God, but it's good to be moving again. And downwind, too. The weather is clear all the way to New Caledonia, except for that front.

"Looks nasty," Freddy leans her elbows on the cockpit combing and peers out at the front, her shapely buns blocking my view. "Like the one in Western Samoa that tore our Mainsail."

An approaching squall line.

"Yeah, 50 knots of wind," I look at the black bottoms of the clouds, close to the water. They have the tell-tale curl on their leading edge. Nasty winds under those. Freddy goes below to get her galley ready for the wind and waves. I set the autopilot and walk up on the bow for a better look. The sun is just setting behind the wall of clouds. It will still be light when we enter that mess. I decide to wait before taking in some sail.

Here we are, again. The Research Vessel Moira, sailing on This Magic Sea. Just when things looked darkest, when all seemed lost, I asked Tutuila, the Living Island, to help. Even as I asked, The South Pacific Regional Environment Programme - at the South Pacific Commission - responded. We are headed towards the ganglion - a major nerve center - of the communications network for all the islands of Oceania. Going to prepare educational materials for men and women of 19 different Pacific Island countries that will be broadcast as Environmental Radio.

It does, indeed, seem like the larger mind system of Oceania has responded to my plea. It's enough to make a believer out of me. I lean back against the headstay and gaze up and up and up at the gigantic anvil cloud ahead of us. It is so peaceful now, quiet and happy as Moira slides towards the maelstrom of black beneath the anvil.

"Anvil cloud," I call. "Hey cloud! If you are Christ's Anvil then I lay myself upon you, with joy in my heart. Shape me as you will. I come to you when you call. Go where you send me. I am a child of Buddha, a child of the planet, a child of This Magic Sea."

As I speak, the cloud-anvil billows up in its center, thousands and thousands of feet above me. The huge dome of uplifted air becomes the head of a giant cloud creature and the points of the anvil become the arms. It rears up over us, reaching out to engulf us. A terrifying blackness looms under the creature where clouds thick with rain reach ragged tendrils into Sea. A flash of lightning crackles through the cloud-man and it speaks with a deafening boom of thunder. Great. Wonderful.

"If I am doing the right thing, then I work for you, planet Earth. Show me your love. Lift this danger from my path. Clear the way for the Moirae!"

On and on we sail. The cloud creature above us grows thin and vanishes leaving a great gulf - like a deep bay in a coastline of clouds. It grows darker as the planet spins and hides the sun from us. Clouds tower up all around as we move deeper into the bay of clear air. Black rain lashes white-caps from Sea ahead and on both sides. But above us the stars appear as the sun rays reach rose-colored fingers through the tops of the thunderheads. Soon it is night and I see the cloud gulf above us awash with sparkling diamonds of light - phosphorescence of life in This Magic Sea - surrounded by great billowing cloud volcanoes. Every few seconds the cloud volcanoes erupt with brilliant fires of lightning and thunder.

Freddy and I eat dinner, run the engine to charge the batteries, and settle down to the first watch. The wind has not altered its direction or force. Moira continues to glide west south west towards the southern end of the Lau Group of Fiji, all sails set.

At midnight, the final layers of clouds dissipate ahead of us and the long, narrow fiord of stars in the solid mass of the front becomes a pass - perhaps 8 or 10 miles wide - leading out into a vast, calm, star-strewn Magic Sea. As we pass to the other side, I turn and look aft and see the pass slowly close again behind us, like curtains on the stage of our past.

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