Confluence in Paradise
October 12, 1996
The ageless matron picked her way through the tall grass with deliberate footsteps, crabs and starfish scattering in the dancing sunlight within the narrow layer of water between the floor of her world and the ceiling of their own. Squinting against the reflected rays of brilliant sunshine, she concentrated intently on the task of avoiding the beloved creatures with each footstep as her delicate legs rippled through the water, feet settling into the fine white sand with each step. Ever so often she would actually touch one with a toe, and it would skitter away in a sideways dash to safety.
Pausing for a moment, she took a blade of baygrass gently in her slender fingers and studied it, admiring the structure of the narrow blade, contemplating the natural beauty and subtle strength of this living gift of life. The emerald brilliance of the grass accented the richness of her chocolate brown fingers in ways she did not notice. For over a thousand years her people had lived in symbiotic harmony with the ever-abundant baygrass, as with all living things. They wove their cloth from its fibers, made their bedding, thatched their roofs, prepared a hundred culinary delicacies rich in vitamins and fiber, and blended their ceremonial wines from its pleasant nectar. In return, they protected and thinned the grass, allowing the collection of passing silt to extend and widen the shallows in which it thrived. The slowly extending range of growth provided protection for the myriad crustaceans and mollusks living in profusion across the shallows floor -- crabs, mussels, shrimp. Protected and cultured with purpose and devotion, these provided a plentiful source of protein for their island population.
Looking up, she surveyed the expanse of baygrass spread before her, the familiar coastline and the jagged green backdrop a kilometer beyond. A flight of pelicans passed overhead in characteristic single file, dropping low over the water along the beach, an occasional wingtip actually dipping into the surf. Now and again one would gain altitude, turn, and abruptly dive straight downward into the water, disappearing entirely as it scooped up its prey in a powerful beak. Then, presently, it would rejoin the ranks in their gliding vigil.
On this early afternoon walk she had taken to the bay from the distant Third Point and had maneuvered the shallows for some distance, staying beyond the deep shoreline channels and rocky points. She enjoyed her afternoon wades in the baygrass shallows. Her world was peaceful and plentiful, her life prosperous and rewarding. Her five beautiful children, three girls and two boys, were now productive adults with adorable children of their own; her finely contoured frame still lovely and desirable -- she remained quite young for her years. Happiness welled within her; life was rewarding and produced in her a grand contentment known to few outside her tropical paradise.
Now at the edge of the natural channel from deep water to First Point Bay, she relaxed gently into the crystal water and swam. The tight curves of her supple body reflected sunlight in rhythmic patterns tuned to the ripple of firm muscles as she glided effortlessly through the water. Reaching the opposite shallows she stood up, and suddenly realized two boats were surprisingly close to her. Instinctively she crouched, then relaxed into a prone position in the warm, shallow water, completely hidden by the tall baygrass.
The only route for incoming boats from other islands was down this very channel, and while arrivals were not a daily occurrence, they were not at all uncommon. Yet, she did not recognize any of the features of one of these vessels; and that in itself was cause for some concern. It had a strange inverted triangular canopy that extended all the way to the water on either side, slapping against the sides of the boat in the gentle breeze. Also, it was gliding silently through the water at an uncharacteristically high rate of speed. The second, quite ordinary looking boat was trailing further and further behind.
Lying in the tall grass and shallow water, she waited, the warm afternoon sunlight reflecting from droplets of diamond in her soft lambís wool hair. The boat proceeded to very nearly where she was hiding and then stopped. The occupants, hidden until now, disembarked without a sound. They looked more mysterious than dangerous, and they appeared to be a family. Their skin was not the deep, almost iridescent chocolate of her own. Their hair was straight and their posteriors almost flat. They had strange narrow, pointed noses, thin lips stretched around under-sized mouths, and pale, nearly transparent skin -- features not at all like her own. Although no visitors to the islands had ever acted distastefully, she preferred to regard these with caution.
She watched as the strange but somehow remotely familiar figures carefully picked their way through her lovely baygrass and toward her island, noting with some satisfaction that they took much care, as did all islanders, to disturb the grass and its natural inhabitants as little as possible. After a few minutes, she cautiously rose from her hiding place, determined to follow the strangers toward shore. Theirs was a deliberate, single-file march; father, son, four daughters, youngest son, and mother followed by the oldest son. They seemed to know right where they were going. Much to her surprise, they lead her across the narrow shallow toward Second Point Cove, through the otherwise deep channel a short distance left of First Point. Who were these strange people that were so familiar with her baygrass shallows?
As they made their way toward the alabaster beach, she thought a lot about it. By their very actions, this family did not appear to be strangers. More peculiar to her was that no one in the village seemed to have taken any notice of their arrival. There could be only one explanation -- she had been taught about it at a very early age.
"...and familiar strangers will walk among us; and they will come in peace and good will, seeking our wisdom. And they shall deposit the world at our feet, that we may drink from the bosom of the earth..."
Upon reaching Second Point Cove1 the family of nine followed a traditional walking path that formed in the fine white sands of the beach, lead through a deposit of jagged rock and up a green embankment to the village community center, buildings on a plateau well above First Point Cove. The buildings were made of brick, for a heritage of her community was brick making. Young and old alike participated in the yearlong activity. Immediately after the rainy season bricks were prepared from clay extracted through a special process from the natural humus of the island. These were cured well into the moderate months; building usually took place quickly and efficiently, and roofs were thatched just before the rains resumed.
A narrow walking path lead between civic and spiritual buildings and up to the school. On this day, there were children playing in the schoolyard, supervised by their teacher who was standing in the open doorway. As the family of nine plus one passed, a child ran to her side and greeted her.
"Who are these strangers, grandma Yve, who know us?" the child asked, acknowledging the same instinctive ties.
Her bright eyes were wide with wonder, her fine lambís wool hair sparkling in the sunlight.
"I think it is Them," the young grandmother replied, "they who bring the knowledge of the world to our doorstep."
The child skittered off, running to the community water fountain nearby. She leaned close into the fountain to catch in her mouth the spreading droplets which projected in a circular spray from the cane; then turning sideways, let the spray cover her face and torso, a cooling respite, and run down her legs. As abruptly, the little girl returned to her playground and the teacher, who stooped over to receive her. She flung her arms around the teacher's neck and delivered the message.
"It is They who bring the world to our doorstep."
"I know, child," smiled the teacher, "I know."
As the little girl glided back into her playgroup, her teacher caught the young grandmother's eyes and smiled; a rush of love and contentment exchanged between them.
The family of nine continued up the walking path between houses of thatch and brick to a point where another path led up a stairway, where there was a hilltop balcony and a lovely home that wasn't quite completed. They immediately set to finishing the construction, adding living details and sweeping out the interior. They would make this their home, and they and the villagers would become one. The young grandmother followed them to the balcony, from where she could see the rear of the island, the modest livestock pens and planting plots below, the healthy green forest that spread to the sea, a cove and more beach. She exhaled a sigh of great peace, turned and smiled at the familiar strangers, then reached for a bundle of thatch.
October 12, 1996
1Click here for a map of the island.
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Yvette D & Larry K. Fox
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