There is heartache in the wind, the sky is made of stones, and my boat is an unknown planet. The edges of Cyclone Judy are thrashing all around and Cyclone Kevin is hot to trot on her tail. Judy has worked her way up to a category 4 and I’m clinging onto a mooring ball in Musket Cove, trying hard not to blow away. The atmosphere is untamed, ferocious, precarious- like an escaped criminal coming at you, and the wind has been screaming at us so hard that nobody has left their boats for two days straight.
On top of it all there are squalls and when they come it’s like I’m riding a bucking beast in a blizzard. Everything shakes- the wind howls, the rain daggers, the world goes whiteout, the birds sing a mad song, and my planet flies and jerks and twists. Everything feels and sounds like it’s on the verge of breaking, even me. I mean like my little bimini looks as if it’s about to rip right off and my dinghy keeps flipping over on it’s side and I’d be a fat liar if I told you that I’m not scared of the squalls, I’m freaking terrified. I don’t know if I can endure another night of them alone. I’m considering hiring someone form the village, perhaps the son of a chief, to sleep onboard.
Oh how I miss the smell of dry earth and long for the glow of stars.
I wish I could tell you exactly how hard Judy’s been blowing, but she blew so bad that she broke my anemometer and now I’m looking for a wizard that can fix it. I’m always looking for a wizard that can fix IT! Sometimes I don’t even know what IT is. IT is vaporous and porous, undetectable, indiscernible made known only by it’s feathered flashes. When did IT form? When I was five, laying alone among the summer gras praying to God to make me anything other than human? When I was a teen and took my first toke of grass to escape being human? When I was 20 and first lost love and sank lower than the grass because there was nothing I could take or do or pray to in order to escape my humanness. Anyway, the last I saw, Judy was at 36 knots and blazing higher, by now she must be junebugging her way into a black sea spin along with the rest of the serial killers.
Even the primitive and brainless purple jellyfish know that Judy is near. Here in Fiji, they flood the shores of some islands and make a purple mess of the sand during low pressure systems, the lower the pressure the messier the purple mess. And right now the Fiji islands are jellified, even though Cyclone Judy is still 600 NM away. I am jellified too and my boat could break free of this mooring and I could end up sprawled on the purple jelly sand next to my splintered boat. I don’t know what the hell to do. But that’s not new, I never know what the hell to do!
I must confess something strange….. after all of this I still adore Fiji the most in cyclone season. It reminds me of winter in the northern hemisphere except that there are red dragonflies and raindrops in the sky instead of snowflakes. I like this season because life feels less spastic and at the same time more electric. There are fewer people too, so there is more space to twirl around. And these moments of rain and wind give me time to sit inside of my seashell and reflect without guilt. I think because I live on this thing that moves, when the trades are blowing I have a constant itch to sail all over the place, but deep down there is a part of me that loves to sit still and that part can’t get enough of this cyclone season that won’t let me get too far.
I’ve gained a real closeness with the other cruiser who decided to ride out this season in Fiji. For the first time on the water I feel like I’m a part of community or family rather, bonded by blue, thick with salt. At this moment in time, there are ten other boats floating in my neighborhood and most of them are around about my age.
My newest friends live on a race boat that they converted for cruising, complete with a bathtub made out of surfboards. She’s British and plays the violin, her name is Jo. He’s Italian and can fix everything and bake anything, his name is Timo. They have dog named Solo and a one-year-old named Nemo who loves pandas, but he calls them bi-eyes and nobody knows why.
Our floating family has a group chat and we’re all running low on supplies due to the cyclone. The other day someone wrote on their looking for engine oil, and another needed marshmallows, and I wrote, “I’d give someone my left leg in exchange for some honey.” Two of the boats here currently don’t have working engines and when they need to move we all team up and use our dinghies to help tow them. Before Judy the family and I would gather for hootenannies too -amplified jam sessions on motor-yachts, long walks with the frogs, surf sessions when the waves were hot, sunsets at the island bar, or bonfires at low tide on the sandbar and we’d stay until the tide rose and the fire floated.
I got a palm reading by the eldest sailor in our family- he’s in his late 70’s. He says I’m going to live forever and that I rule the Jack of hearts. At the end of the night he was talking to me about what he wanted to be in his next life and said, “Forget being a man, I’m coming back as a woman. Yea, I’m gonna be an expensive call girl.” I would pick something a bit more extravagant for my next life. Like maybe a female Pop Star.
Anyway, it’s 8 PM and I’ve just stripped down because I like to take my showers naked at night in the cockpit so none of my boat family can see me. I’ve got the camping shower nozzle in my hand and I’m about to rinse off, but I hear an outboard coming straight at me. I fumble in the dark and wrap myself in a floral sarong. A flashlight beams onto me. It’s one of my neighbors just popping over to chew the fat. We live in a world without fences, only this wind between us.
It’s midnight now. The wind is totally obscene, sleep is complex and fleeting. I have visions of palm trees flying off the land and smashing into me. Last week the wind wasn’t like this at all. Last week there was a bright sun and I rented a car and drove on the wrong side of the road, heading for the Coral Coast. My plan was to learn how to build a bilbili (bamboo raft), but I never did. What did I do? I ate at a Korean Christian cult gas station- damn they have good food, I attempted to slide down the Sigatoka sand dunes on an extra large pizza box- it did not work but the dunes made me feel like I was in outer space, and I went shark diving. Yes. Sharks. My mom says, “Be careful with sharks. Never wear jewelry or anything shiny in the water, as sharks go after shiny objects!” Heck I think everything on earth goes after shiny objects. Birds, people, fish, insects.
Anyway the shark dive is a memory that will never escape me, no matter how old I get or how mush my brain becomes. It was off of Beqa Island where the men are all fire walking on the feet of their grandfather’s and their grandfather’s fathers and their grandfather’s father’s father. I went down 18 meters deep, swam past a shipwreck, and hung behind a coral wall. There were dive masters all around me with sharp sticks that could poke a shark’s eyes out… in case one came near me. There was a diver in front of the coral wall tilting a green trashcan, filled with fish heads, upside down. As soon as the trashcan moved but an inch, the water exploded with sharks and fish and it just kept exploding again and again and again. If ever there was a Big Bang in space, I imagine that this is what it looked like. Sparks of life swimming, flying, fins, fangs, feet, frothing, fizzing, foaming.
My friend Rosalind wrote to ask, “When do the Fiji sirens release you?” I don’t know for certain. They might devour all of me right now in these Judy winds. And even if they don’t I’m so deep into the lair of sirens along with all the other seatikis and cultish fish, that Fiji feels like the only home I’ve ever known. Everywhere I go someone calls my name; down the coast, in the middle of the water, on top of the volcano tops. The barnacles, the sea snakes, the people, they all know me here, better than I know myself. My plan was to dash off to Vanuatu right after cyclone season ends in May, but I might stick around now until July. I suppose it all depends on the wind and how fast I can find a wizard to fix all of