I’m in a zone beyond all zones. I don’t know how my body is still moving or how the light bulb in my brain hasn’t burnt out. I have slept little… four hours in 48 hours. I am writing to you now at 10 pm and I’ve been up since 2 am. At this moment I want to crumble and blow away like sand, but I am about to go coconut crab hunting. When in Ahe! Anyways, I will write you more at another hour. Perhaps after some sleep, perhaps not.
It’s a new day. A new hour. We found a blue coconut crab the size of a Yorkshire Terrier and two hermit crabs that live inside of glass jars instead of shells.
I think about the coconut crab for a long time. How their claws are machetes that bust open coconuts. How they break bones. How they steal silverware. How they eat cats and chickens and each other. How they are suspected of hauling off and eating Amelia Earhart’s bodily remains!
I close my eyes. Behind my eyelids there are crabs crawling around and a lizard sticking its tongue out at me. I sleep. On land. In a bed. Above a pearl farm. With waves crashing beneath me and a soft wind blowing across my skin.
I am awake and alive in Ahe now. It’s taken me four months to get here and I never want to leave. There are places on earth, for which there are no words to accurately describe. Ahe is one of them. I can only tell you how I feel here; illuminated, like there is a string of golden light that runs from heaven to earth and it is shooting through all of me on its way up and down.
But let’s drift back in time, to the moments just before we got here. To the night before last.
I did a final tack at 2 am and gained the perfect heading to Ahe. We were cruising up the coast fast… for Juniper. A supply ship stood offshore and it looked like a carnival. There were low-lying lit buoys hugging the coast. I wove Juniper, like a snake, between it all. Falling off a little. Heading up a little. Meteors streaking above.
I try to wake Brianna up, but can’t. I shake. I shout. Nothing. This is unlike her. For a moment I think she is dead and I feel for her pulse. I even put my fingers beneath her nose. She is there, but gone, gone, gone. I let her sleep on.
Between the stars I see shapes. Like an oscillating matrix forming out of the black. The sky is making a visual music. I drop into it. I flutter. I drip back out of it. It could have been a trick of my tired mind, or perhaps I was seeing something that has always been there, but requires a lot of distance from the human body to actually see it.
It was groovy, but I was grateful to see the the night get washed out by the break of light. I wave farewell to the meteors and Mars and the matrix, then swallow bucketfuls of the peach and hot pink sunrise.
The sun reveals that Ahe’s motus have more texture than Tikehau’s. But it’s a slight difference, like the difference between moth wings and butterfly wings.
I pull up to the Tieraroa Pass at 6:30 am and Patrick- the pearl farmer that I have come all this way to meet- shoots out of the pass on his aluminum dinghy. Golden sun beams glisten behind him, the way they always do when the day is young.
Patrick and I wave to each other and he looks, not at me, but into me, like he can see my every hidden thing. I feel unearthed. “Just follow me through the pass,” he says.
Patrick is the man who first guided Bernard Motessier through this pass. In fact, he is the man who convinced Motessier to even come to Ahe to begin with. If you don’t know Motessier, he is a French sailor and philosopher. He dropped out of a solo around world race that he was perhaps winning “because I am happy at sea and perhaps to save my soul.” He kept sailing on. He made it around the world once and started going around it again, without ever stopping, until he got to Tahiti. Anyway, you should read The Long Way, to learn more.
I follow Patrick through the pass. There is a 4 knot current coming out of it. There are breakers and ripples and water circling like little cyclones. I have my engine throttled up hard, but I can only move at half a knot against it. I move Juniper in small S shapes, I gain half a knot by going from side to side like that.
Have you ever thought you were going somewhere but ended up right where you were before you got going? That’s like my entire life, but that’s also what trying to get into the pass was like. It was like, yay I’m passing that palm tree. I look away. I look back five minutes later and I’m passing that same palm tree again.
Maybe you think that I was still in that matrix of the night sky, but clocks don’t lie, and it took me an hour to go through the pass which is only .5 nautical miles long. There must have been moments of stillness where I was neither moving forwards or backwards and there I just was.
With some difficulty we tie to a mooring in front of a dilapidated stilted hut that used to be a part of the pearl farm. “Won’t you come for breakfast,” Patrick says in a thick French accent after I kill the engine.
I grab the plants and the seeds I have brought as gifts from others for the farm. We plop into his boat and off we go.
The farm is right there. Behind the mooring. Five minutes, maybe less by dinghy. It sits high above the water. There is no ladder to get up from down. We jump several feet from the dinghy to the wooden platforms on which the farm sits. There are gaps between planks and with one misstep, I could fall back in, but it’s sea water and I don’t mind. Sea water can have me any time. Again and again and again, if it wants to.
“I have all these gifts for you from Hawaii and Tahiti,” I say to Patrick. We unwrap the potted plants on the platform- rosemary, lemongrass, parsley- they are wilting. I pass him the seed packets sent from Barry in Maui. The packets are stuck together by salt water. I say, “I’m sorry, I tried to keep everything alive, but you know, the salt is everywhere in the air at sea.”
Patrick says, “It’s ok, you’ve been sailing to weather and the plants just got a little seasick.”
I laugh. For days I had been nervous about arriving with dead plants. I have a green thumb, somewhere, I just misplaced it when I bought Juniper.
Land feels like a long wave and I sway. Wobbly and droop eyed and dazed. The salt water has stuck to me too.