I followed the mountain to the moon, or did I follow the moon to the mountain? I can’t remember, but here I am, floating in Paradise. Every day on the Garden Island is a wild green dream with a runaway pulse. Beneath me, the water glows in the dark and I can hear the poem of the ocean inside my head. Then there is the tenderness of the sea breeze and beyond that, a land as fertile as wet lips where papaya trees grow like weeds.

Crickets, frogs, grass, birds, flowers, honey, bees. Welcome to the jungle buzz.

When I left Savusavu, all the boats that I know were heading west to a party in the Blue Lagoon, but I pointed Juniper east towards this place instead. I’ve been feeling a need to step away from the crowd. To vanish within. To commune with spirit. To get beyond this skin that I’m in.

My friend, Rosalind, sailed here with me. She and her partner, Mark Whitwell, live on the Garden Island and together they are the Heart of Yoga. Rosalind reminds me of a hummingbird. Who doesn’t love a hummingbird? A bird that flies like a bee with a rainbowed body. And when Mark speaks, the earth quakes, because everything he says is prophetic. Mark is teaching me how to breathe the way that breath was breathed in the 14th century. It sounds kind of like snoring, but when I do it along with simple movements, my body spills into a jewel. That is yoga.

The three of us could spend the better half of a day dissecting a dream, or defining all the moods of the ocean, or deliberating these words set forth by Rumi, “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.”

It was a full day motor-sail to get to this island and the motor ran without fail, but now my autopilot is glitching. There is always a problem to solve on a boat. I don’t know how to fix it, so I pronounced, “There will be someone at anchorage who can help me.”

Around sunset we pulled into Paradise. Paradise is paradise. It’s a resort on a cliff overlooking the sea. It’s got moorings, rooms, a pool, and a bakery. They are so cruiser-friendly, that three Fijians kayak out to help you catch your mooring. By the time you’ve stepped ashore, everybody at Paradise already knows your name.

There are historic pictures on the walls. One is a black and white photo of a Fijian man who ate 999 people! He’s got dreads and drunk eyes. There are signs that say things like “If your thighs touch then you’re one step closer to being a mermaid.” The beauties who work at Paradise remind me of sea nymphs and they love Kenny Rogers. To melt them, just play “The Gambler.”

There are only two other boats here. One is a catamaran called Catatonic and they are trailblazers. They sailed against the trades from Hong Kong to Fiji. Non-stop. 40 some odd days. The other boat belongs to an airplane mechanic. I told them all about my autopilot. It took a few hour, three and a half men, and a lot of gold duct tape, but they fixed it. What are the odds?

If you pronounce it, and believe it, it will be. That’s life’s magnetism.

I just found a gecko aboard Juniper, and I‘m so ecstatic that I don’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the day. You know how it is when your already up above up? I named her, Viola. She doesn’t walk, she flings, she flies, she flops. Imagine a horizontal rabbit. I hope she gets fat on spiders and roaches and worms.

The main crime on this island is kava theft and liars are called “Johnnys.” So the prison is filled with kava thieving Johnnys who pick pineapples as punishment. When I pass by the prison, the prisoners wave with a smile and something about the scene looks so idyllic. It’s like they want to be there.

On Sundays, everybody on the Garden Island dolls up for God and speaks in whispers. The rest of the week, laughter is a tincture stirred into every conversation. How beautiful is laughter? So beautiful that you can’t contain it. Every Fijian that I’ve met knows this. They want you to laugh. They want to laugh. They want you to want them to laugh.

Do you want to laugh? The other day I went into a forest protected by purple crabs and I witnessed a purple crab poop, then grab it’s poop, and prepare to throw it at me like a weapon. I’ve never seen a crab do anything more hysterical.

Yea, I spend my days here staring at critters… so what? I also spend them sliding down rock slides, swimming in waterfalls, riding horses into fairytales, and diving into worlds where bubbles are words. I’ve been working my fingers to the bone too. I directed three shoots this week. I was beamed onto a set in LA through a video call. There was a mirrored box around the camera that revealed my face to the cast and crew. That’s how I did it. It’s super futuristic, right?

Sometimes I feel guilty that my life is this blessed. That I haven’t endured a loss of freedom, or health, or income, or family, during this pandemic. I don’t know how it happened. All I can tell you is that even though I have a degree in Journalism, I do not feed the news all of my attention, nor do I let it rob me of my affection for nature. I have no denial about the reality of today’s circumstance, I just haven’t allowed it to become my whole reality.

Is it naive that I prefer to watch the soft coral bloom when the tide rushes past, instead of watching a newscast? I think this is how I stay spring-fed. I like to make my days on earth feel lived. I like to feel the force of my own pulse. I like to feel the bend of the bones in my body. I like to shake my eyes up with sunlight. I like to connect my breath to all that breathes. I like to feel the rush of my blood in a cold breeze. I like to keep my ship sailing and my horizons expanding. That’s what makes me feel alive.

What makes you feel alive?



P.S. I am sorry I haven’t been writing to you as often. Sometimes I don’t want the responsibility of these words that I write to you, but these words, they want me, and so I must write them to you. I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

11 Replies to “THE GARDEN ISLAND”

  1. Just wanted to say thank you for this beautiful bit of writing and perspective and adventure! It went down particularly well here in Paris.

  2. I am not sure if you are able to see these comments, but for what it’s worth, I just want to tell you how this post speaks to me in endless volumes (well, all of your posts do). I’m so full of gratitude that you are living life full of heart and from the heart.

  3. No forgiveness required. The last two paragraphs will cure the world of all that ails it. Shine your light!

  4. Thank you for your words Ms Olivia. It is such a welcome respite to read words that speak of the sea, the wind, creatures you’re seeing, and humans you’re meeting. I will not lie – I would love to have more free spiritedness in my life. While it will never look close to yours, you remind me to seek it within my confines. Truly thank you – I know taking time to write is a labor of responsibility and care.

  5. And here I am stuck in the Garden State, seems like the Garden Island is a world unto itself. You’re remote directing shoots over zoom? That is EPIC! Thanks for another wonderful post.

  6. Ahhh you found Heart of Yoga. Well, now you’re doubly blessed. Taveuni is a dream. Mark & Rosalind are amazing. Isn’t the real yoga amazing? I confess I used to play audio of Mark’s yoga musings when I was an anxious single mom stuck in Minneapolis, missing home (Aotearoa) because he spoke my language AND he spoke such simple effective methods of calming down.

    Love your blog. Love your mission.

  7. To answer your question: breath, wind, sun, meditation, sailing, exploring, true smiles, being kind, accepting kindness from others for a start.

    Sounds like you are in heaven there.

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