24 June, 2007

On Million Dollar Baby


I can't ever remember being so emotionally affected by a movie.  Why?  What is the deep impact it has on me?  Why the reverberations?

I don't believe it is the obvious similarity between Mom and Richard's deaths and Maggie's.  I'm certain, though it is representative of an aspect of what I admire and am affected by.

When I think of Maggie I think of focus, singular desire, no distractions—nothing but One Love.  She had nothing else.  All the love of her heart she poured into boxing, training, and her coach.  She was nothing else.

She was simple, uneducated trailer-trash. . . no, she came from trash.  She wasn't, but she was poor, friendless, alone.  And she loved something passionately.  And she had Courage of the highest order.

She refused to be held back, not by her age, her history, her gender. . . her lack of a coach, or even her accident.  She lived completely on her own terms.  And she wouldn't stand for people trying to stop her.  Her dad had said, "You came into this world fightin', and you'll leave fighin'."


But why?  I've seen Frodo.  He was tragic.  Jesus. . . well, somehow I don't find Jesus tragic in the least.    The feeling is reminiscent of reading Stolen Lives.  I remember how I felt for Malika Oufkir.  Her characteristics and story are very similar: bravery, resilience, talent.  They diverge though because Malika was thrust into her suffering where Maggie chose at least part of her direction, she had that profound love that drove her.  Malika was driven by survival, love of family.

Yet they are both example of women of Power.  I can't offhand think of any other women like them.  I am in love with Maggie.  I didn't find her attractive physically.  But she so transcended everything physical. . . and that look in her eyes when Clint kissed her. . . she glowed, radiated. . . you could feel it.  I felt as Clint was meant to feel.  I could have spent the rest of my life serving her.  It is almost religion: I can imagine a life spent serving the divine in her form as a life aptly spent.  I can't explain it.

Why is she divine?  What is so so perfect about her?  What does she reflect in myself?  What am I staring at the I myself lack and am blind to?  I am not poor. I don't come from trailer-trash.  I have lots of friends.  I am not a woman in a waning man's-world.   More importantly, I don't have a single intense passion like boxing.


Let's leave that for a minute.  So she loved to box and with furious effort she excelled.  But notice now that nothing chances after the accident.  She is the same, in fact, more beautiful, more charming, more naked and radiant.  It was like. . . all of a sudden you could see her for her true self.  She never complained.  She hurt; she suffered.  And she bore it until with clarity she understood that life was now behind and not before her.  So with the same dogged determination that she attacked boxing she tackled the problem of dying when you have no physical control below the neck.  To kill oneself with the use of nothing but the head is quite a task.  Most people can't succeed with their full faculties.  But she tried.  Failed.  Then she tried and tried some more until they tranquilized her.  Anyone who has in truth seen those eyes, as I have, you then know there is no life in there.  I saw my mother's eyes just before we released her.  When I saw Maggie's drugged stare I cried.  How could anyone EVER imagine leaving such a woman with such spirit caged in her own body.  There can be no worse prison—and with the drugs even the mind is caged. 

To see her alive, if only technically was a torture.  To kill her, to free her seemed the only humanitarian act.  This isn't FICTION.  This happened with my mother.  Her brother Richard just made the same choice at the last moment, just as he had a stroke and would lose the power to control his own life.  Richard ended his life in his own way.  My mother needed us to release her.  But Maggie was all but alone—she had no one.  Can you imagine being crippled and having no one to love you?  I can't imagine the loneliness.  So coach stepped up and did what had to be done.  He acted when no one else could.

Remember One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.  The big Indian did the same for Jack Nickelson after the lobotomy.  Same situation really:  a man with great spirit, but all life was taken from him, safe his body.  So the Indian released him as well.  Call it compassion.


I think (and fear) I envy Maggie as well as love her.  Her life seems to have a perfect symmetry.  She didn't need all the frills.  Remember: "Don't let them keep me until I can't her them chantin' no more."  Could have killed me......

I believe she tasted the divine.  She touched the holy.  What more can you ask of life than that??

Is this what I adore?  What I admire?  She did it.  She won.  She played her hand perfectly, like an artist.  Oh, it was a shit hand to start, but she crafted it into perfection.  She did it with heart, pure heart.  Motzart: "the secret to genius is love, love, love."  Yes, she makes the rule.


I have not her determination or her heart.  Remember Rudy.  Raw effort.  Why?  Because it is what is required.  But no one was watching Maggie.  She did it all alone.  This is where I fail.  She did it only for herself, and she could command such a high standard for herself.

This is in part because she knew what she wanted.  This is necessary.  But she didn't question or squabble.  Sure, I know I love travel and writing and climbing and the sort, but, no. . . I don't "really" know what I love.  The devotion she showed, for me, would require an unequivocal love that I've not known.

So perhaps I need to find it.

But do I really want to lead her life.  What about Aragorn, the living happy ever after. . . ??  Perhaps it isn't for me.  I still think it is. . . unfortunately.  Why do I want a tragic end??  An easy out?

The end isn't important but the consistency in her nature—one shouldn't change who they are because of what happens to them.  Book of Job.  If evil can change your faith then your faith missed the point, didn't it?

I've been reading a lot about tragedies and how they effect faith.  "The Swallow". . ..wow.  Good book.

21 June, 2007

Turtle Speed

Turtle Speed.


I am sad, and slightly irritated, to say that not a lot is going on here at the moment.  Time is oozing past.   Fiji is beautiful and I am happy to be here.  At last I am getting some work done, but it is spare and slow.

Where is my determination? My drive?  My goals even?  Once again I am in a bit of a haze.   I should simply weigh anchor and move to Kandavu—but changing spots doesn't often do the trick.  Ah, but this is different.   Kandavu is one of my goals.  I am only slightly tied here.  Herbert should reach Fiji today or tomorrow.   I could get him to meet me there—a far easier sail from his direction (he's coming from Tuvalu).

If I leave Fiji altogether and head for Vanuatu, I think I would feel like I failed for not seeing more of Fiji while I was here.


I shouldn't complain.  The last month has been some of the nicest, albeit hottest, weather I've ever experienced.   No rain, only enough wind to create draft through the cabin.  ARABY has lain nicely in Saweni Bay all this time.   Lautoka is cheap and interesting.  Also, when you stay in one place for an extended period you make more friends with the locals.  Some local fisherman I helped with their gps now bring me fish in the morning after a night's work.   And you start to feel comfortable in a place.

But the flipside is that I feel like time is passing me by.  What am I learning?   If I start a new book I may sit and read it uncontrollably.  Nothing can stop it.  I should get more work done, but no, when the book is sitting there unfinished I must read it.   This make me guilty, except on Sundays, and public holidays.


I want my drive back.  I feel like it is close.  I got ditched by a friend whom I thought would come sail with me for a bit, and that passage to Fiji caused a lot of problems that I still haven't sorted out completely, and ARABY is starting to show her true age in certain disturbing ways (deck prob.).   But really, I should be able to do a couple minor sail repairs, buy a few more stores, and I could be off. It cheers me up just thinking about it.



I keep thinking about the visions I had on passage from Tonga to New Zealand last year.  I want those things to become true.   I want to make them happen.  I am concerned that I am not on that track.  I feel weak and slow, not up to the challenge, or unable to see the right course.

It is hard when you don't have anyone else to help motivate you, to use as a sounding board, to show you when you are screwing up or to pick you up when you are down.   I am learning, this may be the toughest part of being continually alone.





Fiji as is




I'm not sure how to explain a country which I already love, but also realize I haven't seen the best of yet.   I love Fiji.  The islands themselves are on a grand scale, lush and green, rising high in ridges and peaks above the multitude of reefs speckling the clear water and fringing the vast lagoon.   The waters are treacherous.  Three friends have hit reefs already (that I know of).   But the waters are worth the risk.   The people, every one, will say Bula, the Fijian hello, when you walk passed.  They are genuine and amicable and trustworthy.


But the island I am on, Viti Levu, is the main island is the most modern.   It is also more than half populated by Indians, who came over as British indentured servants working the sugarcane fields.  When they made their time they stayed rather than return home to India.  Lautoka and Suva, the two largest cities in Fiji, have most modern conveniences, and also the crime and surliness that come with them.  Othierwise, Fijians are warm and friendly and outgoing.


It is the outlying islands that interest me.  There, things are still slow, and traditional.   They have chiefs and villages.  To gain permission to come ashore, you are required to make sevu-sevu.  This is a ceremony between the guest and the chief of the village.  Essentially, you come ashore and ask for the chief.  When you at last find him, you introduce yourself and offer kava.   Kava is a pacific island narcotic drink, made from kava root.  It isn't alcoholic, but it makes your mouth go tingly and your legs wobbly.   Like everything else in Fiji, it is shared.

The kava is prepared in a great wooden bowl and the partakers sit around it in a circle.    One half-coconut shell is used as a cup.  It is filled and then drank in one long pull.  Then you say, Matha, which means empty.   The bowl is passed around the circle until all have had a cup.

The locals sit like this late into the evening.  Kava drinking is at once a ceremonial drink, as in the sevu-sevu, but it is also a social drink.   I've drank kava with the port security guards as I walked to town.  It is ubiquitous.  And it is drunk throughout the islands, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, ect.  But Fiji has some of the best.  I love it.  I like that it is shared.   The Fijians drink beer the same way: one beer poured into one small glass, emptied in one go, then refilled and passed to the next man.  Everything is shared.






Minding Monkey's Business


I left Araby in Saweni Bay—the same bay I've been in for nearly two weeks now.   I hitched down the road five kilometers to Vuda Point Marina where Monkey's Business was docked.

Laurel had recently headed back to the States for personal affairs and Jason had the boat to himself for a five days.   We decided it would be fun if I came on as crew until he had to fly out.  The idea was that we could head back to Musket Cove and go surfing and diving.


I generally jump at the opportunity to sail on other yachts.  It is so interesting to see how other sailors do things, see how other boats behave—the experiences serve as proverbial yard sticks, measures of myself, my boat, and my seamanship.  Of course, you can't overemphasize the allure of cold milk, cold beer, chicken, and motorsailing. 

There was no wind.  Dead still.   Good for Araby, good for motoring.  With the radio humming we passed out the marina entrance and entered Nadi Bay.   A friend had told Jason to look out for a tall mast across the bay, which we found.  I didn't care at the time, but later I found out that the yacht was Endeavor, one of only three or four J-boats left in the world, a 120 ft. sloop.  I got to see her and race against her in Antigua years ago.  Very cool to see her again, a very special yacht, beautiful.

Musket Cove was much more packed this time around.  We anchored and visited with friends who were in the anchorage.   More and more boats are turning up from NZ now and nearly every one got hammered coming across.  Another friend had to run the bucket brigade after having three bilge pumps fail.   Another changed his alternator five times!  The stories go on and on.  We all agreed that a surf expedition was needed for the morning.   Wilkes Break was about three miles off and we'd set off at dawn to beat the resort surfers who show up at nine-ish.

Of course, I don't have a surf board. . . space, money, and I've never found a good deal.   I do, however, have a wakeboard.  I figure it is a decent way to learn waves, and it fits far more easily into V-berth.

It turned out to be a light day, very small waves.  I thought, Man I didn't realize surfing was such a chill sport.   I never thought about how much time was spent just sitting on your board in the sun, chatting with your mates, waiting for waves.

It was a great time.  The weather was beautiful.   I caught a few decent waves.  Most Fiji surfing is along reefs—no nice soft sand beaches.  Coral, hard coral.   So one must be careful.  But, as I said, it was a peaceful. . . small. . . day.  The next day, however, was not.

The wind had picked up in the afternoon and had blown through the night into the next morning.   So the sunrise surf was a pass.  But by the afternoon the wind had calmed and we loaded the dinghies and headed out once again.  And Wow!   They rose like a cobra to its flute—from nothing to a rearing, teetering wall, hanging for a moment at climax before striking, rolling like thunder into the reef leaving foam and froth before retreating back to the sea. And then again. . . and again.

There were a couple of Kiwis already out there.  I was rather amped about the whole deal.   All peacefulness of yesterday forgotten, I was ready to work for some waves.  With one exception, my mates (yes, I've gone Aussie.   Curse me if you will.) were all beginner surfers.  So they were a bit reluctant.  But it is much easier to hop on a wave with a boogie board than a surf board, and safer over the reef.   So I headed to the thick of it.

And I caught a wave too.  It was a monster and I've never ridden a thing like it.   It wasn't clean really, it closed out a bit I think, but it was fast, and I had to hang on for dear life.  Luckily, and by some miracle, I was able to paddle back out with little trouble.   The wave I rode was at the end of a set I suppose.  But such luck wouldn't hold out.

Unfortunately, I was still nursing the juvenile conceptions I'd acquired the day before and the sea prides herself in healing ignorance.   As floated along with the two Kiwis I watches as the both took to paddling.  I glanced around and noticed what seemed to be a fine wave.   Perhaps they were preparing to ride it, but they were paddling more toward sea, and across the wave.  For a moment or two I pondered the wave, Should I ride it?   No, I don't think my position is very good; I'm too far in.  But then, if that is the case, I need to paddle OUT (as the two Kiwis had done moments ago).   I wouldn't catch them. . . and the wave caught me.  I tried, belatedly to dive, but it was too late. I got the full washer-machine action.  I came up short a fin in that wave.  The next wave took my other fin.  Kicking is not the same without fins and the water was strong.   But I managed to recover a fin, and seeing as these were my good fins I figured I'd bide my time until I could recover the other fin.  But a fierce set was coming in and I was pushed all the way onto the reef where I simply stood up and washed the other waves coming in, now just large foamy rollers.

It occurred as I looked for the fin that this day was not as it had been the day before.   These were fair waves and perhaps the reef was not the best place to fool around looking for a fin for which I have numerous replacements.

Without the fin paddling out was too much the chore so I paddled across into the pass and then around and back out to the dinghy (which was anchored beyond the break).   I received quite the applause for my escapades.  But of course, no one else had fared much better.


The lesson was: One must always keep a keen eye on the waves coming in.  Constant Vigilance—I should have known.  Just because most waves are breaking behind you doesn't mean they all will.   The lesson cost me a mighty fine fin.  But I got one fine wave out of the deal. 

With only one fin I was done for the day.  My mates weren't far behind.   The sun was drooping and the sky was preparing for the sunset.  While motoring back, the sky went red and the water was as calm as peaceful lagoons can be.   Jason stops the dinghy—It was time for dinghy surfing.

I was new to the sport.  Essentially it is wakeboarding with a surf board.   A Zodiac and a 10 hp outboard is strong enough to get you out of the water.  Getting up is the trick, but since I had wakeboarded years ago it wasn't a great hurdle.

But the reward was absolutely wondrous.  The surrounding were surreal—Everything was red, the sky, the water, they all faded into each other, nearly indistinguishable.   Just faint outlines of reef here, Malolo Island there, the masts slowly approaching beyond.

And the motion!  Absolutely incredible.   Like snowboarding in powder, powder still untouched in the brisk morning in the backcountry.  The water had no ripples, none.  And somehow I could manage the board.   Back and forth. . . back and forth across the wake. . . left to right and back again. . . effortlessly.  I wanted it to never end.   It was a perfect moment.  Something new, but with the easy feel of a matured hobby.  And the sunset went on and on and on and on.   This was Fiji.  This was sailing.  This was fine!



What else need be said beyond that?  We ate good meals.   The conversations were great.  The milk was cold and perfect (especially when I slipped in a bit of vodka and Kailua).  We motored away for another island with a resort called Beachcomber.   It was a small, small island with no anchorage to speak of.  I am not a fan of resorts, but it made for interesting people watching.   The water there was protected from fishing so the diving was excellent.

But before I knew it the week had passed and we were once again motoring back to Vuda Point Marina .  I helped Jason clean the boat.  I met his neighbor and she and her boat Ventana had spend part of last season up in Kiribati and met Herbert.   This brought a great smile to my face.  Herbert should be down here soon.   Herb—You remember Elisabeth?    I bet you do.


I found Araby just as I left her but with a few more neighbors than before.   The season is getting well underway now.  I need to get some work done and work on getting underway myself.






03 June, 2007


Fiji rules.  The nicest people around.  Beautiful.  Cheap.  I'm in Saweni Bay, have been for a while.  Will write something nice about it.  Need to ready myself to leave for the islands.  Waiting on an email from SOMEONE.