Once upon a time, a giant eel ate a disobedient girl and one island turned into two. The priests were building a temple in Raitea and nobody was to stir nor speak during the construction of something so sacred, but this girl went to swim in a river, because she wanted to. So she swam and the gods woke the giant eel and the eel began to eat the girl, but it had a hard time swallowing her misbehavior and accidentally ate the heart of the island along the way. That’s why there are two islands in one lagoon; Raitea and Taha’a.
What does that teach you? Me, I don’t know the moral, but I couldn’t sit still long enough to raise a temple. Maybe that‘s something that I need to work on. Does the person who remains easily unmoved possess more virtue? Do they move closer into the realm of the Unmoved Mover? Are they one motionless moment away from that eternal source of all motion- God and love and wisdom.
Raitea means “Faraway Heaven” or “Sky with Soft Light.” It is the sacred island of ancient Polynesia. That temple the priests were building when the eel ate the girl, is the temple that all Polynesian voyagers went to, with prayers of offerings, before crossing the ocean and discovering Hawai’i and New Zealand.
I can feel the spirit of this place. Strong. I like that feeling. It’s like homecoming. There is even a rare tropical flower that only grows here, on top of this island’s extinct volcano. I must smell it. I will smell it. I am smelling it.
I‘m anchored far from shore. A ten minute dinghy ride away. I like that too. Being far away.
The first few days in Raitea were torrential downpours. Sometimes 45 knots. Sea swirling. I couldn’t see a thing but white and wet- slanted and fat and hailing.
There was enough wind to wind up all the women in the world, but my anchor held. There was enough rain to bleed through every wooden crack in Juniper- water in my galley, my saloon, my v-berth, my lemon, but my empty water tanks are now full.
Juniper is so porous that I think she’s one squall away from turning into a swimming pool. There isn’t enough time to fix any of the leaks, so I’m just going to wrap her in Saran Wrap and call her safe to sail.
I made up my mind. I will set sail for Fiji in less than two weeks. Before August 3rd. Because I have to. Because there are borders in this world. Because I’ve seen too many unwanted male membranes in this country. Because my potential concubine was creepy. Because I’m not leaving Juniper here. Because I don’t want to quarantaine in a luxury hotel. Because I’m sailing around the world and it’s time to get going with the going.
I’m going alone, unless someone presents themselves between now and then that seems like a magic fit for the journey. That’s how I know if I’m not to go alone, if a magician appears on my path, a golden magician that was set into motion by the Unmoved Mover.
I know. It seems preposterous that I have now decided to do this journey alone; after all the chaos as of late, after all the foul voices that have been crawling out of my waves, after all my whining about not wanting to be alone on the water.
But I feel better now. Life is no longer squeezing me. I’m back to my Honeybird ways- dancing, singing, exploring. My energy is high. Like a giraffe. And I love Juniper again. I fondly refer to her as Junie and look at her the way my friends look at their children… when the children are good.
I have also decided that when I experience resistance towards something, it’s because that something has a level of expansion to offer me. That expansion can‘t take shape without further enduring the very thing which I am resisting. What have I been resistant to? Sailing alone. What must I do to expand? Sail alone. If sailing alone is detrimental, God will bring the golden magician to join me, or create an impenetrable forest at the beginning of the journey.
Have you looked at the charts between French Polynesia and Fiji? It already looks like an impenetrable forest- islands and atolls and banks exploding everywhere out of the blue- Cook, Samoa, Tonga, Lao!
Sleeping will be one of my biggest challenges, but at least I can stop and anchor somewhere if shit hits the fan. Even though the laws of the sea concerning safe harbor- “no port should be closed to a foreign vessel seeking shelter from a bad storm,” have dissolved in many places due to COVID.
With a decision made, I call my weather router. I tell him that I’m leaving soon. He tells me to leave as soon as the high passes. I tell him, “Listen it’s been blowing big here and I can’t see straight. I don’t want to run into 40 knots squalls out at sea. I’m worried about my rig.” He laughs, “Ok, I’ll make a note of that.” I wish he really could control the weather.
I’ve been moving like moonlight to repair things since I got to Raitea. I don’t tell you everything-thing-thing that is broken because something-thing-thing is always broken and that might depress you too much to hear about.
But now I will tell you some stuff! For weeks my head (a.k.a toilet) has been leaking saltwater whenever I pump it. Furthermore, pumping it was like trying to pump breastmilk out of a 100 year old woman, cow, goat. Beyond that, the foot pump in my bathroom sink wasn’t working, and the boom gallows squeaked like 1,000 mice, and the headstay was as loose as a goose, and the engine needed more love.
I call a mechanic. I like his sense of humor. His car is a total junker and it starts to rain and I can’t get the window to go up and he says, with his French accent, “I don’t understand why, the car, it’s brand new.”
We change the oil and filters and I make him check my shaft packing- again, I check it like five times a day. Then he shows me how to fix my head. We clean the interior pump, pour engine oil into the bowl, pump the oil through the system, and voila, the leaking stops and it’s all butter.
Pour engine oil into your head! Trust me!
A rigger comes too. I haul him up the mast in 30 knot gusts and he refuses to let me wrap the halyard into the self-tailor! I can’t drop him. His life. My hands. The rope. Gripping. Hard.
He checks everything, adds tension on the backstay and says, “You’ll be fine to get to Fiji. It’s not far. Sail conservatively, have anticipation.” I’m like, “Are you sure I don’t need to change any of the wires, I don’t know how old they are.” He says, “Don’t do that in French Polynesia, it will cost you a fortune.”
I like this rigger. He’s thrifty and an optimist. That’s what I need in my boat repair life. Optimism that leaves me blessed by bounty.
Meanwhile, this other rigger is sending me hate messages. He stood me up three days in a row. Kept saying he would be here at such and such time, then didn’t show. I wrote him and said, “I found someone else, don’t bother coming.” He wrote back, “Fine. Good luck finding someone professional. I think you’re a bad captain.” And I wrote back, “Fine. Let me know when you graduate from kindergarten.”
I’m DONE with people treating me like a sidewalk. Step all over me, and I’m stepping back. I know, no eye for an eye, but this was just toe for toe, so I can keep walking with my legs straight.
At this moment, I’m rubbing lotion onto my mud-caked legs. I ventured into a rainforest, in the rain, to find les trois cascades. It was lush. The water falling gave me sky eye, mud pie, head egg, and left me with a lust for leaves.
I went to the hospital earlier too. Not for me, for my friend on S/V Wilderness. She had staph inside her finger. They operated, with anesthesia and everything.The hospital’s cleanliness was on par with a prison. All the doctors were wearing board shorts and flip-flops. They put my friend in shear white underwear and a shear green hospital gown, and you could see her everything. They threw a hair net on top of her and whisked her away while singing, “Head and shoulders, knees and toes.”
It was very, very strange.
3 Replies to “FARAWAY HEAVEN”
When I first glanced at the heading I thought it said “Fairway to Heaven” and I thought, “Is she playing golf in Tahiti?”. Definitely data overload….
“I think you [are] a bad captain.” [he said in his unmistakable French accent] And she [shot] back, “Fine. Let me know when you graduate from kindergarten.” Priceless . . . nearly peed myself laughing . . . a scene right out of a Peter Sellers movie.
Fiji . . . 300 islands, 3 official languages and at least 5 different cultures . . . and the hot bread shop in Suva not far from the roti restaurant . . . pure heaven.
I’m glad you are back in love with Juniper. I have a new Juniper (aka Junebug) to love…my new great-niece in Japan, Juniper Rose Kisling. She has a giant father (by Japanese standards), my Oklahoman nephew Paul, who has been teaching English in Japan for years, and a petite Thai-American mother, Mintra Rose, who also teaches — they met and fell in love at the Kansas City Art Institute. Juniper was by far the largest newborn in the Japanese hospital nursery.
Anyway, enjoy your journey to Fiji, and may both Junipers prosper in good health! ?