Seventh Heaven

I’m in seventh heaven, darling. This morning I woke up, looked outside and I saw a man in the water with a fat head. I mean his head looked like the freaking moon, all white like that too! And I was like who is that loon, because it’s winter here in the South Pacific and mornings make you want to snuggle up with wool and hot water and a book, or a lover, or a spell, not jump in the water! Anyway, then the moon-headed man went down under and never came back up. I was just about to go bat shit screaming for help when I realized that the man wasn’t a man at all, he was a dugong!

Yes, there are dugongs all over Vanuatu. I have yet to look one in the eyes, but at least I saw it’s moon headedness. Wait, do you know what a dugong even is? It’s otherwise known as a sea cow. Their basically slow-moving giants with pig faces. They look like manatees, except they’ve got a fork in their tails. It’s rumored that dugongs inspired all of those legends about mermaids and sirens that your ancestors have been gabbing about since the dawn of dawn.

After the dugong left, the dolphins came and I put on the thickest wetsuit I could find and jumped right in to swim with them. The ocean, a deep blue. The sun, a fragmented light crashing down in glowing pieces of water. Me, attempting to sing. The dolphins, really singing. Our songs, sounding like some squeaky outer space transaction, like the noises one hears in between the astronauts words, those little high-pitched glitches that lay among the fuzz. I finally get out of the water when I can no longer feel my feet inside my fins.

That’s what my mornings are like out here, on the water. Me and nature. And sometimes it gets biblical- like when a crab eats a starfish in front of your face- and I feel like some pioneer at the edge of a new earth.

I’m on an island called Emae now. Me, the dolphins, the dugong, a sky of stars, this rad family that has a bunch of pigs, and that 70-foot flaming race boat with the Italian. I sailed out of Pele yesterday. If I’d have stayed any longer I’d have gotten too much moss on my stone. It took me a minute to leave because my chain was hooked on coral and that was a whole debacle I’d much rather forget. Sailing is always wrestling me outside of my comfort zone. Always. Always. Never not, not. And maneuvering out of that anchorage in Pele is hard even in the most murderous daylight.

The exquisite places on earth are always the complicated to reach.

You know how the longer you sit somewhere the sweeter it can get? Well, Pele was almost too sweet to eat by the time I left. It’s white sands, it’s turquoise jungle, it’s remote nothingness. What did I do there? Mostly snorkeled around and stared at tiny pretty things underwater- like Christmas tree worms and fish. Or walked around at low tide and peered into the tide pools, as you would a fish bowl, or a crystal ball, or a cloud. Tide-pooling I call it.

I went to a neighboring island to check out an abandoned hotel. It looks like a crumbling Versace mansion. White, with trees coming out of it’s windowless dreams, and an old swimming pool that has a gross green water with seven-eyed fish living inside of it. The island is called Rabbit Island and only one man lives there. He says it used to be covered in rabbits until the villagers from Pele ate all the rabbits on rabbit island. He says he’s been living alone there for 15 years, watching the hotel dilapidate into dust and praying for the rabbits to return. He says he survives by eating coconuts, shellfish, and birds. I say, “Dang man, your like Tarzan!” He smiles, with teeth missing.

I hiked up an old volcano with a masterful view. That day the air was smelling like a sweet-tart mixed with a lot of little fires, and I’m hiking with a chick from another boat whose high on Valium and it’s made her so numb that she doesn’t know where the clouds are. Up baby, up. There we are, in the middle of nothing, and my heart is working hard, when we hear a voice say, “hello there,” then a woman pops out of the green with her bush knife in hand and face that makes you gush. I can’t remember all the things she says, but she’s the most talkative woman I’ve met in Vanuatu so far. And in our fleeting moment together I develop a deep adoration. You know that little blue worm in the movie the “Labyrinth?” The one that says, “if you’d have gone that way you’d have gone straight to the castle.” For some reason this lady reminds me of that blue worm, as she stands there cutting back the weeds from the taro plants and talking talking talking talking. I will keep her with me for a long while, right next to the glow of the volcano goddess.

The sail to Emae was a gorgeous 13 knots- just-above-my-stern magic carpet ride. There was the warmth of sunbeams and water without any swell. Perfect. Totally. I left 45 minutes before the 70 foot flaming race boat did and it somehow took them all day to catch up to me. I can’t believe it. Me and my always-reefed mainsail are unstoppable. Although I did notice that my mainsail and my genoa are getting threadbare in some places. I can see shafts of light coming through them. I’ll need to sort that real soon or I’ll be dead in the water.

While I was sailing here I kept wondering what was under me. That I’ll never know, unless it surfaces and shows me it’s face or fin. I could be sailing over a giant squid and I wouldn’t know it, unless it wanted me to know it. I wish they made glasses that let me see beneath the surface.

I need to see beneath my own surface. I’m a shipwreck somewhere down there, I can feel it, but I can’t find it because my entire interior is like an octopus camouflaged among my flesh. I’m as lost as the gal on Valium who doesn’t know where the clouds are. I’ve had so many things blow up in such a short amount of time that I don’t really know for sure what I want anymore and everything I thought was important before doesn’t seem so important anymore.

What is important to me? This is the question that keeps me tossing at night. Is it this or that? I have so many options, that I don’t know what to choose, I want something external to choose for me. I also have so many things I want to do in life, that I don’t know where to start. Does it matter what we chose in the end? Is it bad that the only thing that feels good to me right now is sailing around and staring at fish? Is every choice the right choice that eventually leads me to the same ocean? I’ve never been like this before. I’ve always known with conviction what I wanted and where I was going.

Where am I going? Around the world.

Then what? What does that matter, you will decide when this is done.

But sometimes the bad is bad! Yea, the bad is bad, but the good is good. So what? That’s life.

I pulled up to Emae around 3:30 PM yesterday. The island looks like three pointy boobs coming out of one chest and it was so late in the day that I couldn’t see a thing under the water and the chart says there are coral bommies everywhere. I pass a boat already anchored. They say, “Good luck finding some sand to anchor in, it took us and hour and five people to find a spot.” I smile and say, “thanks.” They could have offered to help. I could have asked. Those purple lilies that I bought on the streets of Port Villa are rotting in a vase in my galley sink. I feel like giving the dead flowers to those people for not being so helpful.

They had ten eyes, I wondered how long it would take my two eyes to find a place to anchor amidst this fading daylight. A part of me wants to just turn around and just keep sailing to an easier anchorage. One without any reef. But I suck it up and circle around the anchorage again and again, just like a dog does before it sits. Then I found a spot of sand and I circled it some more and eventually I dropped the hook.

I did a shit job because I can hear my chain dragging on coral, but at least it’s set. This family on shore is the jam. We had a bonfire on their coral bone beach. The mom and her fourteen-year-old daughter braided my whole head. They were wearing matching blue floral dresses. Sailor moon style. Meanwhile the son told me what the Vanuatu flag means (I haven’t verified this); the red stripe is for the blood, the yellow is for Christianity, the black is for the black man, the green is for the islands, the pig tusks is because the pig is sacred here. The pig symbolizes the power of the chief.

I believe the pig part. I met one greedy chief and he was wearing a pig tusk necklace. And the local beer is called Tusker and it’s got a hog on it. Woo pig sooie. Anyway, I’m tired and I have to wake up before dawn to make it up to the next island in time for the black magic show, so this is all I can squeeze out of my head today. But you know I love you right? We’ll talk again soon, I promise.

6 Replies to “Seventh Heaven”

  1. We (I) love you, too, Olivia! Glad you found a spot of sand to land Juniper upon safely— your story of the other anchored boat not helping you made me sad — and quite surprised. I typically hear stories of how helpful sailors are to other sailors. Maybe those 10 eyes are soulless, just posers, and not true sailors after all. The sail to Emae sounded magical; I learned what a dugong is from your post today (love how salty-spun tales of mermaids, etc might find their origin story in the dugong); I love that you practice tide-pooling; the family on the beach does sound like the jam; the talky-talky woman with the machete sounds like a gift; I understand what you mean about conviction, experiencing so much tumult in such a short period of time, not being able to see the clouds. To not know what’s important anymore to oneself. Life seems, to me, to be like what you said in your post about sailing: “Sailing is always wrestling me outside of my comfort zone.” Life definitely does that for me. I believe Importance will find you when you’re ready for it to come back to you. Just keep moving, if you want to. Or, if you want to just be still, that’s OK, too. Thank you for sharing your whole-humanness with us. You are the real deal. Love you. P.S. Charm arrives this Tuesday! 💜⛵️

  2. “Sailing Around the World Alone” by Josh Slokum was one of my favorite reads. I can see a great book deal at the end of your voyage.

  3. You might have some Patreon success with your Home crowd. If you’re interested in doing a little self promotion with a Maumelle Sailing Club folks, give me a shout. Several folks out there with blue water miles,(Transpac races, Bermuda races, transatlantic deliveries) others with Bluewater dreams.

  4. Ah to feel uncomfortable! Where growth happens. Do you head towards it or away to bliss somewhere miles from it?
    Sending love. Your loss is a big step in life, to say goodbye to our fathers.
    May your inner questions and confusion give way to surrender and growth. 🙂

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