The Rocks

The Rocks

The man dove from the cliff of black lava in an inlet of steep black rocks topped with green trees and moss and ferns. He dove into churning ocean water that was blown by high winds from a sea storm, the water grey and choppy and whorling and spraying high up and around the rock bases.

One sentinel rock stood alone, farther out in the water, apart from the line, seeming to keep its watch of the events.

When the man splashed in, the water was much colder than the usual warm sea, and the currents began with him immediately, not deterred at all in their business of negotiating the complex little bay. And he dove after the current, planning to follow suit.

No one ever advised going into that uncertain area of the coast, and not at all in the current conditions. But he didn’t see it that way. He’d lived in this land most of his life and saw the situation as another, although particular, area of a coast he had known forever. He should then find it no more mistakable than the rest.

The closer he got to the rock sides, the higher the waves went, and he followed them in the fashion he’d come to generate over all the years. He was sure he was doing as proposed and as he planned, since the waves carried him up and about a number of times without anything he would call an incident.

But none of what was there paid him any heed and consequently did its own thing. He was soon doing only the same. He followed suit, but not his suit.

Before long he was diverted and delayed in an undertow, and though he did have experience in orienting amid rocks in and above water, again his interpretation was different than that of the moving water. He found himself near and then apart rocks without sufficient warning and without indication of where to apply his instinct.

This carried on for some time, without any other indication of how it might alter.

And then, like floating pebbles and giant bubbles amid the swirling shallows, a line of sea turtles paddled into view under the surface, and, in another instant, flew above and near him in half-silhouette in the murk and shadows, the turtles’ undersides evident with wings that flapped occasionally in the water’s sweep. The expressionless faces of the animals would likely show nothing in any occasion, but they didn’t seem anything like agitated, and the dark eyes in the water seemed to make routine checks of their surroundings.

The man’s own abilities for recognition kicked in and he noticed the to and fro of the team of animals and their kick and tip. The man swam, taking stock as well at each turn, almost as if in a dream or meditation. He watched the turtles flow like seeds ahead and around him, and, although he had to scramble at times and do his best, nevertheless, to catch up, he watched the turtles funnel out along the rock sides and into the open water, and he wasted no time in getting himself out as far as he could in it. And he was exhausted.

He turned to look into shore and saw the spray and melee in the water of the inlet and the even higher sea chop along the shore than in the water where he was now. Around the tip of the inlet rocks was a coastal cliff of black and green and in the opposite direction green-forested inland and black sand beaches. In that direction, the wind over the water was against him, taking him away from the trees and black sand and out toward the cliff side, where there was no sign of landings.

He took a moment to take stock of the situation, then turned again out to sea. From behind the sentinel rock he saw the white triangle of a sail board, bouncing back and forth along the waves and running into the wind, making way opposite to the wind and the low scud of the dark ocean clouds. Another dare devil was out and about and stamping on the water.

The rider was close enough to catch sight of the swimmer, and the swimmer used his strength to paddle across the water and to reach the sail board and rest.

The Bike

The Bike

Winding across the open terrain of the island’s volcanic coast, a marine and sweeping, grass covered incline before the interior mountains, the bike came up the paved road from the little port town below the cliffs.  The weather was damp, humid and muggy and dark enough for road lamps or yard lamps or lights in the sparse buildings to be lit. Lightning made flash bowls of the sky with quick-to-follow smacks of thunder burning up the air in the near distance. The bike kept going through fine to thin rain. Water had been falling all day, either in bits and pieces or in a downpour. Where it normally passed in drifts across the sunny land, today it seemed like a low-level monsoon, a near constant.

The bike climbed past houses and farms with fields of lavender. This far up and with the rain abated, wide lowlands  between two shorelines were visible below, sweeping directly away under the grey cloud ceiling to the next group of distant, green-covered peaks, now faint behind the swirl of moisture laden air.

The bike reached the wooded foothills of the interior and started climbing quietly between low deciduous trees and thick, almost creeping green grass on either side of the road, the surface of which had changed from hard macadam to slightly rougher, packed-gravel pavement. There was hardly a sound in the trees, almost like a study or a library.

Waiting in the miles further up the road, scattered houses were hidden in the forest. Beyond that was the mountain top, often in clouds, followed by the drop back down to hidden valleys and canyons and more mountain peaks.

The ride was methodical and quiet, but on a bike ride as contemplative as this, the weather was sure to return in due course.

First it came in infrequent drops and later in splats. Like recent missives from space, more arrived in greater numbers, until they generated a noise all around, unmistakable on the damp road and the leaves and in the brush. Before long, a state of rain came in the forest. With only partial protection from trees and five miles more to go for the bike, it would also be unavoidable.

And to wait any longer in it would find the storm in-full.

On this kind of damp day, when a storm appeared, water came out of the air from everywhere, high up and down amid the trees. Big drops came out in volumes, making no deliberations, and created a crashing downpour. The bike’s tires marched along in a bouncing spray. Rain filled the road and filled the air.

And the bike moved on in a world of water.

In these conditions, the self-reliance of the bike was evident. It went one-to-one with the elements, without barriers, completely exposed and surrounded. Like stepping onto the wing of a moving airplane, it met the storm. But it didn’t rely on airplanes or special vehicles. This it could survive on the very road, completely by its own means.

The storm showed its character, still flashing the sky and sending out air-sizzling cracking noises. The bike made more miles, through turns and dips in the torrent and the wash and among the wild trees, standing in their natural element. And the rain held sway, as if in a time of siege.

But this could be waited out as well, and some minutes later, though the air and sky remained heavy and thunder still in action, the rain had once again returned to fine particulates and wet had already begun to evaporate from the pavement.

The bike cranked along the paved road, through more features in the landscape, trees and open areas, once again in still air, before reaching the fenced line of grassy hillside on the last stretch to the house in the trees. The house wasn’t at the foggy heights of the mountains, but it wasn’t far below, and fog lay in the near reaches.

The bike turned into the short curve of gravel drive, went up the greyed wooden steps and under the damp eaves of the deck roof and parked. The lights inside the house glowed in the darkened day and the rider went inside.

Pithy Part 1: at War with the Coconuts

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I saw some kind of disturbing stuff about Everest recently. Feeling a little morbid.

Pithy Part 1: at War with the Coconuts

How to open a coconut.

The nut and the husk are primary, the husk a thick covering of fibrous material with a burnished shell around a smaller round nut with meat and water.

Opening a green coconut: find a rock. Commence hurling till lengthwise cracks appear. Grab the edge of a crack and give the triceps a workout. Smudge the partially cleared husk fibers against the rock to break apart the stem till the smug and pugnacious little face of two eyes and a mouth appear on the round nut where the stem was.

Opening a resilient and dried brown husk: find a sharp stick and pry.

Once clear of the fibers, the little stem face will provide the water.

A lateral line of dents around the nut with a sharp rock edge makes two easy halves for eating the meat.

Behold the machete. Easy. One go at an end of a green husk cuts a drinking hole in the nut, leaving a tip of shell like a spoon to scoop the middle.

Avoid a hammock between palms. An unannounced drop by a hefty and remorseless hunk of green organic material, having matured in the tropical breeze and bearing a smug and pugnacious little face, is sure to produce an unhappy dent in trade wind dreams.

At such a point, find a rock, commence to hurl.

Of course, none of this will ever hear you.

Nothing New Under the Sun

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Nothing New Under the Sun

Out on the bright, reflective sand, a beach side hut stood in its own stark shadow, weathered poles and roof of dried palm leaves, gleaming in the sun. Really only an open shelter with a pair of walls against prevailing winds, its brown-grey color was evidence it could exist in the sunny present, or at night or with clouds or rain. Sand, randomly scuffed in heaps at the pole bases, could also wait for the disturbance of another tent, which would arrive shortly and be gone again.

An open blue sea lapped down the beach slope. Palms caught an even breeze in the open sky behind, almost with mocking circular crowns of palm fronds and the same gleam as the thatch roof. And a low line of distant, hazy mountains, gradually shifting shape over millennia, ran from inland out to a point in the water.

The conceit of a long wait seemed almost equally insolent.

And as if to show this by further evidence, the waves continued to lap; the sun shone; the palms waved on, until the sun dropped to a lower angle, to afternoon, sunset and a gleam to waning light

By then, the sea had advanced, lapping further up the beach, incrementally, hour by hour and then, hour after hour, receding under starlight.

The shelter, the palms, the mountains were prepared to wait out the rising and dropping tide  until first light and, later, the reappearance of the sun behind the leaves and the recession of the water line, now scuttling around at the bottom of a wide slope of wet sand and finding something else to do.

By later morning, a tent had arrived, bright orange and purple under the shelter, and, as predicted, it would soon be gone.

String of Lights

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String of Lights

At some point, electricity had been brought to the jungle. Until now, somnolent and meditative in the dark of night, with the lead tree and tigers burning bright, the forest mused. Periodic, quick scurries across the layered floor of fallen leaves, along with birds flapping and dropping seeds in the night spaces between the trees and other chattering in the branches, untold stories were carried out. The forest presided.

And, one night, a light appeared, with all the halo of a sylvan gleam, at first with the loud sound of a generator, but soon burning quietly from a more removed source.

Other lights were added, according to plan, followed by more in rows and patterns, the whole gaining mass and complexity almost like a collection of ganglia, with tendrils sent out to varying distances. Then, taking the form of a grid, brighter spots and arrays appeared according to function. The delineation of centers and purposes developed – the market, the seat of government, the park…

Original trees intermingled, here and there, in parks or lawns, along with hedgerows and new plants. Strings of lights extended even to these, across branches and trunks. Nearby lighted signs advertised a cantina, a small, dormant banking building, an ice cream shop, patiently waiting for the next day. Street lights lit the walls and window frames of the city hall, the windows dark, the hall now in recess but still cautiously presiding.

Meanwhile, in absence of the building’s primary representatives, court was held outside in the idle hours of a warm night, either featuring planned events or hosting an impromptu showing of the public, out and about.

Apart from that and a four-wheeler returning from somewhere, under a row of street lamps along a dusty outskirt, lately, the only new addition was a new marina at the water’s edge and boats with strings of lights reflecting.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

Door hinges to a weathered door made squeaking in the wind. Out on a space of open grass, before a rocky drop to the ocean, someone had built a small house. There was no glass in the windows nor paint on the wood. Some of the roof had fallen in.

And now someone stood here, a frequent visitor. Though the place was not really too remote, he usually had it to himself. It was useful to experience land and sea and solitude, but in particular, a sense of history.

The house was a curious place, in that it seemed to defy time and distance a bit. There had been little chance for any historical evidence to be left around. People were a new thing here. At the same time, no one knew who had built the house.

It was almost as if it were a sort of premonition on the part of an early arrival, a small window of time for artifacts to occur, a calling to ways of life experienced first-hand by the builder, before recorded development began.

Now, the visitor’s imagination could play out the logic of events. Collected over time, the visitor had been exposed to plenty of references to previous coastal and seafaring life: pictures, stories, movies, places he’d been. And now, something in the surroundings – the wind, the remains of structures, the open coast, the sound of the door hinge telling tales, the mirage set off by hazy sunlight glinting from silvery wood – something was evocative.

Suddenly everything the visitor had seen and heard about the ocean in times past came to mind. In effect, the premonition of the early house builder was realized, translated over time and distance for the visitor. Things the visitor had never personally been witness to could be inferred and the life of centuries of sea travel played out.

At the moment, ships and boats were mostly still limited to interisland travel. But a greater scope of travel could be foreseen, vessels from longer distances eventually going by the rocky shore. And even though more modern practical means of navigation were now available, the visitor had a premonition, a legacy for ships to come.

He would build a lighthouse.

The Tour

The Tour

We made a drive, down the old jalopy road. The road circles most of the island. It goes through small settlements, or towns if you like. It goes over bridges at island streams and rivers already grown in with trees.

We stopped off at a cafe, an open-walled affair at the side of the road in one of the localities. The proprietor there had a particular menu of sandwiches and creations. Roast pork figured often. And rice.

We talked with the proprietor about our tour around the realm, not an uncommon excursion when one has some free time. He asked us to tell him if we found anything new. We agreed.

We kicked back on the patio in the middle of the day with some aperitifs. Dogs are known to roam some of these places, which is curious because these things have teeth and could be considered our competitors.

Then we wandered out, somewhat woozily, to our four-wheeled machine to once again menace the various paved and unpaved roads.

We stopped off at a break in the trees along the shoreline. There was plenty of sand and rocks and breezing palmtops.

Some of us went for a swim. Others did some body surfing.

It was, in fact, a more remote place with no one else there at the moment. The whole road trip is somewhere around 80 miles long.

Then we were away to the roads that grow more remote, less maintained, really considered rural on this outlying corner of the island.

Later, on a particularly bumpy stretch of dirt and trees, we found an elevated part of the roadway on pylons through the forest. And, of course, the concept was vague, as if it were some kind of experiment apart, in an out-flung region.

Smooth and curving, it went through unpopulated forest and was covered by an arching roof of glass, section after section of clear half cylinders going under the trees. The curious part was that, at every section, there was a break of some ten feet exposed to open air. The uncertain purpose of all this seemed to propose a maintained habitat somehow, as if to separate those in-passing from the environment. If it was intended to protect from the outside it did an incomplete job.

Then we were back out and onto dirt and bumps and even rougher terrain for a number of miles.

The machine roared and ground away. We met a small stream that had created a washout. We piled rocks over it and then rumbled onward.

More open road followed and then houses, sparse at first, and later on some small communities that must have only been reached by water.

In fact, neighboring islands could be seen from here, hazy at a distance and, by now, showing in the lower light of afternoon.

We carried on, afternoon to evening, isolated houses with lights on.

The sun, setting across the water in brilliant orange and yellow, sent a spray of light across the sky, spare clouds caught in the glow.

Soon, the road became so rough and tumble and, in fact, nonexistent that we dropped the vehicle off at the side.

At a single house in the trees, set up from the shore with one light on in a window, giving it the aspect of a last sentinel, we climbed on, on foot, where the trail seemed at least slightly evident.

We tramped on in the forest, night sounds beginning around us. Into night, we followed the sound of surf to the side of us, across steep descents and climbs, over rocks and fallen trees.

We found a sharp drop with only a waterfall by which to go down.

Making no attempt at investigation and flinging ourselves foolishly into complete chance and open darkness, possibly full of anything from a shallow riverbed to sticks and rocks below, everyone fell into deep water at the bottom and was carried down stream.

This took us to the ocean shore, which was forested to the edge. We followed the shore again, till we started to see more lights of houses. We found signs of a roadway leading to the edges of a settlement.

Eventually, we walked into the areas of our town and strolled in the evening to our neighborhood.

Most everyone was preparing to go to sleep.

We found our house, the front light on, crickets reverberating in the night and flying bugs flitting about the light bulb.

Tomorrow, we would need to take another car and do it again so we could bring our four-wheeler back with us.