There aren’t any other sailboats along this coast.  If there were I’d ask “How deep did you drop?” I’m always asking that. I like to drop as shallow as I can. Five meters tops.

This sea floor is made of volcanic black sand and a manta ray lives here, somewhere. John from the black magic village rows a dugout canoe over to meet me. The day is one long cloud and the island he’s rowing from, Ambrym, is a green mist mountain that just keeps growing. He says the chief got sick and a kid has died, so the festival is canceled, but they will still put on a tiny show for me anyways. I ask, “Will there be masks?” He says, “Yes.” I ask, “Will there be black magic?” He says, “Yes.” I ask, “Will it be the most mystical thing I’ve ever seen?” He says, “yes.”

Then he asks me where my husband is. I say, “I don’t have one, but you tell everyone in that village that I do. You tell them my husband is sick in bed, but you met him briefly and he’s got a body like a bush knife. Tell them he looks mean, like he could fight someone to the death like all them roosters do. Tell them he’s a real pig of man.” John and I shake on it and agree to meet at the beach at 9 AM.

The day comes and goes, then there is night and the sound of kava pounding. All of the stars fall into the mouth of the morning crow and the houses begin to puff with smoke. I rise. I shine. I am a she-wolf ready to romp amongst the magic.

I meet John on a black sand beach that scorches feet. A bunch of banana boats are hanging in the west. A few kids run around, some in Bob Marley shirts. There are colorful houses on stilts made of palm trees and grass. A cow tied to a post. Chickens. Fruit trees. Everything languid and slow rising.

John and I hike up a snake-shaped dirt road with steep walls that make make me feel like I’m inside some windy earth womb. I am barefoot and wearing a long purple dress. John shows me plants along the way. A stinging plant with broad leaves that one should never touch. He says a tourist once peed in the woods and she used it to wipe and her vagina swelled up and got as red as a tomato and she cried for two weeks straight. And then there are these tiny purple flowers called Blue Grass and if you’re tired and eat handfuls of the flowers they will hit you like crack or coffee, perk you right up.

After 45 minutes we make it to his village. There are kids singing a song about fish in the sea. There are other kids throwing things at a pig that’s tied to a tree, her piglets running around her. There is a little boy who is crying when he sees me, his mom says, “he cry ‘cause he never see white man before.” There is a big-boobed grandma with white curly hair in a long blue dress with princess sleeves and she has chickens all over her body- on her head, on her arms, in her lap- she is feeding them seeds and I love her.

I am led deeper into the village, to an arena style area lined in tiki statues. The tallest tiki is a woman with her hands clasped around her breasts, I like her. There are men walking around in masks and costumes made of grass. There are other men who are naked with only a leaf around their penis and their berries hanging free. Some of them have leaves sticking up above their butts like a tail feather. Some of them wear necklaces with curly pig tusks.

John shows me the leaf that the penises are wrapped in. He says, “Some of the men are so big down there that it’s difficult to find a leaf to dress in.” I feel like I have fallen back to a pure and mystic time, where nature is God and must be worshiped. I tell them I want to dress like them. A woman in the village lends me a rainbow grass skirt. It’s perfect. If I was a grass skirt I would be this grass skirt.

John tells me the women aren’t allowed to dance and it’s tabu to touch or go near the men in masks.  He says if I do I will pay a fine. He tells me it costs a lot of pigs to buy just one of those masks. Like a lot. Like so many pigs that most people can’t afford one. Pigs are worth more than gold in Vanuatu.

The men begin to dance a dance that is performed for the annual yam harvest. It’s called the Rom Dance. Someone hits a wooden drum. Feet stomp. The grass costumes twirl. Dust kicks up around them. There is singing, chanting. The rhythm. The pulse. The beat of the earth. Hearts colliding with nature.

After the dance comes the black magic. One of the near naked men takes a palm frond. It’s like a feather with leaves on both sides. He spits on it then uses a bush knife to cut the leaves off on one side. He spits on it some more. Shakes it. Spits again. Then the leaves that he cut off reappear and the frond is symmetrical again. What the banana! I ask, “How did you do that?” He says, “It’s magic.”

The eldest near naked man from the clan plays an ornate bamboo flute for me. It makes a haunting sound. Most of the flutes were made by a six year old girl in the village. A small knife and fire is used to create geometric designs on them. In this village the word for blow, as in “blow the flute” sounds like the sound an owl makes, “hoo, hoo.” I used to play a bamboo flute in a Balinese gamelan orchestra based out of New York and for the life of me I could not play this one, no matter how hard I hoo.

I’m in love with Vanuatu. This is the best time I’ve had in a long while. On days like this it’s like the entire expanse of the universe could not even attempt to contain just one of my feelings. I am higher than the man on the moon and getting higher.

*Check out my instagram for more videos from this day

I have a new youtube video up. It is an animation of the shark god short fiction story that I wrote based on my experience with a shark god statue in the Bishop Museum on Oahu. I have decided that my channel will be a kaleidoscope of my life in the wilderness of waves. It will include sailing videos, fiction stories, ethnographic work, love letters from the sea, slow tv seascape meditations, and more! Would love your thoughts on it! xoxoxox

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Also I would love your feedback on all that I am creating. What do you like? What don’t you like? What do you want more of? Do you have any ideas for what else I can create or do to stay afloat?

Love you!


  1. Such great visual content already! By the time you finish your circumnavigation you will have tons of first-rate footage to cull through (for another award-winner). Organize your clips well!

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