This post could be a bit or maybe a bit more harsh to read.
A note on that.
It’s not as easygoing as some.
It was a day for exploration. Line of low, knurled trees. Clear, sunny, but with a sea mist. 3 hours farther up the shore on foot than ever before. No people – just the sound of surf.
A wanderer, medium build, rather shaggy blonde head, shorts, sandals and a light t-shirt, stood on the sand, looking offshore.
About 300 feet across the shallows, a low, tangled mound of matted and twisted dry twigs and light-green leaves, filled with squawking black figures of seabirds.
Being this far up the coast of nowhere, the wanderer thought he might as well venture out to the small island.
He stepped with his sandaled feet into the edge of fairly calm water, half-way up the leg.
Beneath the ripples, hard shapes of rough, grey coral moved by, requiring careful steps.
Fish wandered or scuttled, brightly colored, some with a sharp parrot’s beak they used to grind coral.
He moved, making rippling noises, reaching down to tap the tepid water and looking through sun-lighted particulates and surface ripples of bright molten sunlight.
Stumbling at times, he kept watch. The coral could hide things, like eels that jump out quickly with sharp, strong teeth.
With some trepidation, he reached waist-high and ducked in to float and paddle a few feet over coral.
Nearer the small island, the water returned to shallow and he walked.
Bright-colored delta-shaped fish and striped yellow fish spun below and pecked decisively at the coral. A group of tiny, many-finned fish seemed to break under the water, like swarming flies, at his knee.
The island brush heap sat ahead with bustling birds while he stumbled along.
He was brought up short by a sharp, persistent jab in his right ankle, almost as if he had run into the tough spines of a sea urchin or a spike.
He barked, yanking his foot and stumbling for balance.
Sucking air in his teeth, he looked below.
At first, he didn’t see anything, just various shapes and coral.
Then movement caught his eye, below the ripples – a nearly -transparent webbing between splayed spines with back-facing hook tips.
It was a camouflaged fish, sitting among the lumps, zebra striped, two lump eyes and spreading fins along the sides and top, like hackles, in a high, arcing crest of hook-tipped spines, the webbing between running to tattered strips, like the sail of a beached boat or a hanging bed sheet, decaying in the sun.
The fish moved vaguely and resettled.
The jab delivered a whip sting and did not subside, but sat with new insistence.
It was an angry, punching thing, ill-tempered, that meant business and lasted on the skin with almost a material weight.
A faint mist drifted from it.
Unsure of the fish or anything else, he pushed through the water and sat on the wet sand, where seabirds spun in the air like a hive over the scrappy brush pile in the middle and made shadows on the beach.
Two bright red spots of blood had appeared, mixing with the water on his skin.
The pain sat with the steady heaviness of a sudden trauma. He scooted to the water and splashed and scrubbed with wet sand and water and with a rising sense of panic that it might be seriously venomous.
He sucked the wound, hauling his ankle to him and spitting bits of blood and sand.
But this seemed to make little immediate difference and he got up and stumped across the sand, hoping to wear out the sting with activity.
Black birds rattled in the high brush to his left side, making rather wood-like knocking sounds with their throats and shrieking ominously.
Wheeling shadows passed over him, the point-winged and long-tailed black air creatures spinning in the blue above.
The brush was composed of curling dry twigs and ratty leaves. It stemmed from hard, dry ground that disintegrated in rocky flakes and fragments without much surrounding grass or ground cover. Dead brush lay stacked about inside.
He stalked in the clear air, looking out.
To his right, on the opposite shore from where he’d come, gray green brush and sand ran back down the coast to open water behind him. Ahead of him, the coast ran around the far end of the little island. Palms sprouted at intervals along its shore.
He stood, contemplating the breeze blowing in the palm tops across the water and waiting for the sting to wear off, though it was considerable.
The ocean side of the small island was more beach sand and open water to the surf break, a half mile off, where the ocean still rolled.
Here he might find a way to swim out to deeper water and away from the low shallows, where live things that sting were.
He began to doubt the wisdom of staying on an island with a nasty sting.
He ventured into to ocean-side water.
It remained low and sandy for some distance. But before it went much deeper, he could see the dark shapes of a coral bed cropping up ahead and soon ran once more into a line of grey coral that extended from one side to the other and as far ahead as he could see underneath.
Standing before it, his ankle felt as if the fish still lived there, making demands. The red spots had darkened and we’re already swelling.
He went to the right, along the sandy edge of coral, trying to ignore a pain that had begun to gain a burning edge and send flames up his leg. He ached along further, the distance becoming more labored and difficult.
But, apart from some hopeful recesses in the coral line, the coral appeared to continue the whole way around the far end. Exiting the island would require reentering the tide pool-like shallows with hidden sea life.
At this point, the foot was beginning to take all his attention, making it difficult to stay upright, and even his head started to swim over the bright water.
He persisted, looking for a break in the coral. But limping through the water, the foot was consuming his energy. The wound was throbbing heavily and engulfing his lower leg and he finally folded and dragged himself back to the beach.
Visually, it was a mess, puffing out around the holes and swelling all around.
This only served to increase his concern.
He sat and bent toward it, intent on waiting it out but not knowing what to do. With the heightened anxiety, heat from the wound seemed to reach his brain, making him light-headed.
The water’s edge seemed brighter and with almost an asphyxiating anxiety, he blinked out at it, looking for options.
A fierce effect of raging fire created a sort of delirious distraction.
He pulled himself up, weaving with vertigo, his breathing labored, and he angled up the beach and to the water.
He searched again through a haze of shouting pain for a break in the line and a clear exit. But wading through unpredictable coral, fighting for balance and focus, to even get through and manage in open water with an overwhelmingly affected foot and disorientation leading to nausea sounded unsustainable.
He wandered back and collapsed on the beach. The fish sting was showing its full nature.
A wildly flaring affliction and an all-engrossing burn of a barrel of molten steel at the end of his right leg that could do nothing to be kicked off.
It would need to be fought.
Here, it’s pointless to talk to conditions of this nature.
Turns and spates of poison from two cuts, with no respite or recourse in sand or water or trees, in a heap or lurching in delirious and breathless patterns across the beach.
The sun was some degrees lower before thin clouds started to form in the sky and take some shape.
And an individual nearly asleep.
The foot railed on now, but without such amplified effect. It told of a tale and of turns of events by now well-versed, though modulating continuously.
Shadows went longer till they were closer to 45 degrees when these found a figure lying flat and marking time to the bursting throb in his foot, while he traced the pattern of hairs on a forearm flung across his face.
His pulse had begun to normalize. Though adrenaline and poison had wasted his energy, he noted nothing at this point seemed life-threatening.
He watched the water’s edge and far break of the ocean, knowing clear waters lay out there somewhere. The birds made piercing noises to one side.
With a somewhat sunburned face and limbs, he sat up shakily and looked at the wound and barked again, chucking a small handful of sand.
The ankle had gone to more than twice its width and the sting wounds had broken into shredded, red skin.
He sat and let his breathing even.
He looked again at the lines of broken, red flesh. It would need antibiotics.
Late afternoon found him clattering along with the birds in the underbrush. Along with their somewhat funereal black and crook-necked-gull appearance, they had a rather sinister and piercing bat-like shriek, interspersed by a sepulchral knocking in the throat.
He let them carry on in the branches above, even louder wherever he scrambled while gathering dry material. Sitting among the afternoon twigs, parched for water and drained by adrenaline and sunburn, he slowly tore his shirt and carefully bandaged his sandaled feet, padding them with the softest leaves and brush he could find and leaving the shoe soles mostly bare.
Hardly able to touch the enflamed right foot, he had to relieve pressure by loosening the top of the sandal and only lightly wrapping it.
The sun reflected from out at sea by the time the wanderer limped with a burning foot, both feet wrapped in shirt and twigs, in the direction of the open ocean, down the beach and into the water.
Coolness of seawater and exterior salt burn made little difference to the injury. The loose wrapping around it already started to sag in the water.
He moved slowly, looking intently below the surface. Later light made seeing through easier, but the view underneath was dimmer. He made cautious, weaving steps across the low, sandy water, searching anxiously, till he reached mid-leg water and the dimly purplish front of coral.
Glare from the low sun on the horizon ahead of him and its contrasting highlights on the coral obscured details in the shadows.
The wanderer let his breathing steady and looked for signs in the spreading and shaded coral sea bed.
He stepped in, quickly shifting his balance from the injured foot to catch himself safely and stopping at passing marine life.
He moved farther from shore in surprisingly shallow water, increasingly surrounded by coral, the surf breaking faintly ahead and bird sounds more distant.
The stuffed leaves and twigs on both feet were coming loose in bits or floating to the surface. The right-side wrap unraveled progressively, starting to wag and catch, leaving his ankle bare.
He continued without fixing it and conserving energy. Fish of various sizes moved about, some gleaming in the lower sun, some darting whenever he shifted his weight.
He searched every detail. Each change in color could be interpreted in different ways. Each step a gamble. Each line or pattern leading to various logical outcomes, multiple combinations of indistinct patches in plausible outlines of hidden hazards.
He stopped often to assess whether the next lump of mud would move without warning.
Further out, the process became almost meditative, though he fought dehydration. The fleshy foot burned, and frequent stints of standing in hunched concentration on the left foot brought fatigue and dizziness.
Looking back at his first crossing, he estimated he stood now at half that previous distance.
He continued his limp with an exposed foot, eyeing a faint line of lighter colors arrayed across the variegated bottom – another set of patches that suggested more than random occurrence – and he traced them out into an extended pattern.
Another spiked fish sat in the shallows.
The chill of cold water ran straight to the base of his spine, taking with it his shallow energy.
He stayed stalk-still with low water around his legs and a seething pulse in his temples.
He didn’t dare move, to avoid upsetting this state of tenuous balance.
The sunlight shifted in the dim water, catching the tattered flaglets at the tips of the high, arching back spines. He followed the pattern further out, where it resolved in the form of a second fish.
With a sense of vertigo, he looked around his feet and out in all directions before looking back.
Wide side fins on the first fish rolled and its camouflage-striped body shifted and resettled. Unsure of whether they were aggressive, he had the vision of one shooting under the water in a flare of a feathered dart, straight for his feet.
He waited and stared at them a long while.
Standing still, he looked at his environment, near and far.
Life carried on here in whatever was its mysterious form, while the sun dropped lower.
The two spiked fish ahead did nothing.
Stiff from standing, the left leg gone numb, he brought himself to wakefulness and shifted to the side, making a slow path to the right, away from the sitting fish, while negotiating the underwater ground lumps that cast shadows in low sunlight. He passed several of these coral ranks, calculating in silence.
The water deepened, followed by a lower coral bank to nearly waist level. The wanderer ducked in and pushed out, lifting his feet away. Soon after, he could see the profile of another drop in the coral, showing ghostly before the murky dark blue of open water.
He rolled his arms slowly and kicked with his left leg, head above water, the sound of his breathing reflecting off its rippling surface.
Making along the shore, parallel to the beach line that reflected orange some hundreds of feet away across the nose-level water, he intended to gain distance from the island reef and find a safer landing on sand instead, further down the shore.
Somewhere, the wrap on the right side, as well as the sandal, had fallen away, his foot bare above the dark blue.
He checked his path against the sparsely spaced groups of palms on the shore as he went along, watching their tops against the now darker blue sky.
He slowed and looked back at the sun. It smoldered orange in distant cloud lines, a few degrees over the horizon.
It could soon be dark. He would have trouble telling if he could land on sand or coral, regardless of how far away from the island he swam.
He turned in toward shore, pushing with more effort, checking his time against the dropping sun.
The water was still dark blue underneath, though the palms drew closer. Faint shapes of coral appeared in the depths. They rose, as he paddled, and became more distinct before they broke apart in dark groups against a lighter tone of blue at the bottom.
He could hear the ripples at the shore and watched these spread out across it. Green-orange sun rays into the water ahead formed a dark hollow in the shape of his moving form, till they sent his long shadow across the bottom. He set his left foot on sand.
Half swimming and walking till wading depth, he hauled himself up to hop on his left foot the short distance to beach and sat.
The sun was going below the water’s edge.
With an aching head and pulsing foot, quivering with exhaustion, adrenaline, dehydration forming a knot of near nausea in his stomach, he willed himself to stay up and watch the sun burn lower.
He grabbed sand and moved on all-fours up the beach to the brush line and a small stand of palms in a clearing.
Two dark lumps sat underneath where two coconuts lay. He got them open, drank and ate and lost consciousness.
The heavy ache in his foot woke him. It had taken on the cold steel weight of starting infection. He sat up off the ground in the dark, his head muzzy with a sense of fever. The shoreline made a washing sound and the night surf bellowed distantly at the break.
With an ache at every joint, the wanderer lifted himself and hobbled out of the dry bush and back down the coast for the distance of what had earlier been a three hour day trip.
I don’t know how realistic this is. It’s from research. I haven’t experienced anything like this or met these problems.
In fact, this was meant to be a visit to an island with some sort of trouble while there or on the way.
I had no idea the severity of stings like these. First reading a list of symptoms set me back. In a sense, I didn’t know what I’d got myself into.
It’s a Lionfish. According to reports I read, it is this bad or, apparently, worse. Not a good thing to get stung.
There are also Scorpionfish and Stonefish, considered more venomous, which look like rocks and sting with increased foot pressure and are pretty horrible or deadly.
Apparently, Pufferfish are the most venomous.
I always cite the fact I don’t live in these parts of the world. This blog is a sort of fascination. If this story’s plausibility is off the mark, let me know. Knowing is better.
The list of animals is –
Blue Stripe Snapper
The tiny Cardinalfish
The Torrid Zone
The Earth’s axial tilt, 23.5 degrees.
The sun stops overhead at the Tropic of Cancer
23.5 degrees north – in June
and at the Tropic of Capricorn
23.5 degrees south – in December.
Between is the equator and the tropics. The Torrid Zone.
A hummingbird lit, branch to branch.
With the rain and the gray and chill and bits of water falling from the sky, the hummingbird zipped between, buzzing its wings like a tiny fan.
With a rapid shake of its head, it flung more bits into the air.
With perfect form, it posed itself midair before specially colored flowers, then flew away to find others.
The little messengers, with their messages by airmail, made it through the storm.
The man dove from the cliff of black lava in an inlet of steep black rocks topped with green trees and moss and ferns. He dove into churning ocean water that was blown by high winds from a sea storm, the water grey and choppy and whorling and spraying high up and around the rock bases.
One sentinel rock stood alone, farther out in the water, apart from the line, seeming to keep its watch of the events.
When the man splashed in, the water was much colder than the usual warm sea, and the currents began with him immediately, not deterred at all in their business of negotiating the complex little bay. And he dove after the current, planning to follow suit.
No one ever advised going into that uncertain area of the coast, and not at all in the current conditions. But he didn’t see it that way. He’d lived in this land most of his life and saw the situation as another, although particular, area of a coast he had known forever. He should then find it no more mistakable than the rest.
The closer he got to the rock sides, the higher the waves went, and he followed them in the fashion he’d come to generate over all the years. He was sure he was doing as proposed and as he planned, since the waves carried him up and about a number of times without anything he would call an incident.
But none of what was there paid him any heed and consequently did its own thing. He was soon doing only the same. He followed suit, but not his suit.
Before long he was diverted and delayed in an undertow, and though he did have experience in orienting amid rocks in and above water, again his interpretation was different than that of the moving water. He found himself near and then apart rocks without sufficient warning and without indication of where to apply his instinct.
This carried on for some time, without any other indication of how it might alter.
And then, like floating pebbles and giant bubbles amid the swirling shallows, a line of sea turtles paddled into view under the surface, and, in another instant, flew above and near him in half-silhouette in the murk and shadows, the turtles’ undersides evident with wings that flapped occasionally in the water’s sweep. The expressionless faces of the animals would likely show nothing in any occasion, but they didn’t seem anything like agitated, and the dark eyes in the water seemed to make routine checks of their surroundings.
The man’s own abilities for recognition kicked in and he noticed the to and fro of the team of animals and their kick and tip. The man swam, taking stock as well at each turn, almost as if in a dream or meditation. He watched the turtles flow like seeds ahead and around him, and, although he had to scramble at times and do his best, nevertheless, to catch up, he watched the turtles funnel out along the rock sides and into the open water, and he wasted no time in getting himself out as far as he could in it. And he was exhausted.
He turned to look into shore and saw the spray and melee in the water of the inlet and the even higher sea chop along the shore than in the water where he was now. Around the tip of the inlet rocks was a coastal cliff of black and green and in the opposite direction green-forested inland and black sand beaches. In that direction, the wind over the water was against him, taking him away from the trees and black sand and out toward the cliff side, where there was no sign of landings.
He took a moment to take stock of the situation, then turned again out to sea. From behind the sentinel rock he saw the white triangle of a sail board, bouncing back and forth along the waves and running into the wind, making way opposite to the wind and the low scud of the dark ocean clouds. Another dare devil was out and about and stamping on the water.
The rider was close enough to catch sight of the swimmer, and the swimmer used his strength to paddle across the water and to reach the sail board and rest.
Winding across the open terrain of the island’s volcanic coast, a marine and sweeping, grass covered incline before the interior mountains, the bike came up the paved road from the little port town below the cliffs. The weather was damp, humid and muggy and dark enough for road lamps or yard lamps or lights in the sparse buildings to be lit. Lightning made flash bowls of the sky with quick-to-follow smacks of thunder burning up the air in the near distance. The bike kept going through fine to thin rain. Water had been falling all day, either in bits and pieces or in a downpour. Where it normally passed in drifts across the sunny land, today it seemed like a low-level monsoon, a near constant.
The bike climbed past houses and farms with fields of lavender. This far up and with the rain abated, wide lowlands between two shorelines were visible below, sweeping directly away under the grey cloud ceiling to the next group of distant, green-covered peaks, now faint behind the swirl of moisture laden air.
The bike reached the wooded foothills of the interior and started climbing quietly between low deciduous trees and thick, almost creeping green grass on either side of the road, the surface of which had changed from hard macadam to slightly rougher, packed-gravel pavement. There was hardly a sound in the trees, almost like a study or a library.
Waiting in the miles further up the road, scattered houses were hidden in the forest. Beyond that was the mountain top, often in clouds, followed by the drop back down to hidden valleys and canyons and more mountain peaks.
The ride was methodical and quiet, but on a bike ride as contemplative as this, the weather was sure to return in due course.
First it came in infrequent drops and later in splats. Like recent missives from space, more arrived in greater numbers, until they generated a noise all around, unmistakable on the damp road and the leaves and in the brush. Before long, a state of rain came in the forest. With only partial protection from trees and five miles more to go for the bike, it would also be unavoidable.
And to wait any longer in it would find the storm in-full.
On this kind of damp day, when a storm appeared, water came out of the air from everywhere, high up and down amid the trees. Big drops came out in volumes, making no deliberations, and created a crashing downpour. The bike’s tires marched along in a bouncing spray. Rain filled the road and filled the air.
And the bike moved on in a world of water.
In these conditions, the self-reliance of the bike was evident. It went one-to-one with the elements, without barriers, completely exposed and surrounded. Like stepping onto the wing of a moving airplane, it met the storm. But it didn’t rely on airplanes or special vehicles. This it could survive on the very road, completely by its own means.
The storm showed its character, still flashing the sky and sending out air-sizzling cracking noises. The bike made more miles, through turns and dips in the torrent and the wash and among the wild trees, standing in their natural element. And the rain held sway, as if in a time of siege.
But this could be waited out as well, and some minutes later, though the air and sky remained heavy and thunder still in action, the rain had once again returned to fine particulates and wet had already begun to evaporate from the pavement.
The bike cranked along the paved road, through more features in the landscape, trees and open areas, once again in still air, before reaching the fenced line of grassy hillside on the last stretch to the house in the trees. The house wasn’t at the foggy heights of the mountains, but it wasn’t far below, and fog lay in the near reaches.
The bike turned into the short curve of gravel drive, went up the greyed wooden steps and under the damp eaves of the deck roof and parked. The lights inside the house glowed in the darkened day and the rider went inside.
I saw some kind of disturbing stuff about Everest recently. Feeling a little morbid.
Pithy Part 1: at War with the Coconuts
How to open a coconut.
The nut and the husk are primary, the husk a thick covering of fibrous material with a burnished shell around a smaller round nut with meat and water.
Opening a green coconut: find a rock. Commence hurling till lengthwise cracks appear. Grab the edge of a crack and give the triceps a workout. Smudge the partially cleared husk fibers against the rock to break apart the stem till the smug and pugnacious little face of two eyes and a mouth appear on the round nut where the stem was.
Opening a resilient and dried brown husk: find a sharp stick and pry.
Once clear of the fibers, the little stem face will provide the water.
A lateral line of dents around the nut with a sharp rock edge makes two easy halves for eating the meat.
Behold the machete. Easy. One go at an end of a green husk cuts a drinking hole in the nut, leaving a tip of shell like a spoon to scoop the middle.
Avoid a hammock between palms. An unannounced drop by a hefty and remorseless hunk of green organic material, having matured in the tropical breeze and bearing a smug and pugnacious little face, is sure to produce an unhappy dent in trade wind dreams.
At such a point, find a rock, commence to hurl.
Of course, none of this will ever hear you.
Nothing New Under the Sun
Out on the bright, reflective sand, a beach side hut stood in its own stark shadow, weathered poles and roof of dried palm leaves, gleaming in the sun. Really only an open shelter with a pair of walls against prevailing winds, its brown-grey color was evidence it could exist in the sunny present, or at night or with clouds or rain. Sand, randomly scuffed in heaps at the pole bases, could also wait for the disturbance of another tent, which would arrive shortly and be gone again.
An open blue sea lapped down the beach slope. Palms caught an even breeze in the open sky behind, almost with mocking circular crowns of palm fronds and the same gleam as the thatch roof. And a low line of distant, hazy mountains, gradually shifting shape over millennia, ran from inland out to a point in the water.
The conceit of a long wait seemed almost equally insolent.
And as if to show this by further evidence, the waves continued to lap; the sun shone; the palms waved on, until the sun dropped to a lower angle, to afternoon, sunset and a gleam to waning light
By then, the sea had advanced, lapping further up the beach, incrementally, hour by hour and then, hour after hour, receding under starlight.
The shelter, the palms, the mountains were prepared to wait out the rising and dropping tide until first light and, later, the reappearance of the sun behind the leaves and the recession of the water line, now scuttling around at the bottom of a wide slope of wet sand and finding something else to do.
By later morning, a tent had arrived, bright orange and purple under the shelter, and, as predicted, it would soon be gone.