String of Lights

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String of Lights

At some point, electricity had been brought to the jungle. Until now, somnolent and meditative in the dark of night, with the lead tree and tigers burning bright, the forest mused. Periodic, quick scurries across the layered floor of fallen leaves, along with birds flapping and dropping seeds in the night spaces between the trees and other chattering in the branches, untold stories were carried out. The forest presided.

And, one night, a light appeared, with all the halo of a sylvan gleam, at first with the loud sound of a generator, but soon burning quietly from a more removed source.

Other lights were added, according to plan, followed by more in rows and patterns, the whole gaining mass and complexity almost like a collection of ganglia, with tendrils sent out to varying distances. Then, taking the form of a grid, brighter spots and arrays appeared according to function. The delineation of centers and purposes developed – the market, the seat of government, the park…

Original trees intermingled, here and there, in parks or lawns, along with hedgerows and new plants. Strings of lights extended even to these, across branches and trunks. Nearby lighted signs advertised a cantina, a small, dormant banking building, an ice cream shop, patiently waiting for the next day. Street lights lit the walls and window frames of the city hall, the windows dark, the hall now in recess but still cautiously presiding.

Meanwhile, in absence of the building’s primary representatives, court was held outside in the idle hours of a warm night, either featuring planned events or hosting an impromptu showing of the public, out and about.

Apart from that and a four-wheeler returning from somewhere, under a row of street lamps along a dusty outskirt, lately, the only new addition was a new marina at the water’s edge and boats with strings of lights reflecting.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

Door hinges to a weathered door made squeaking in the wind. Out on a space of open grass, before a rocky drop to the ocean, someone had built a small house. There was no glass in the windows nor paint on the wood. Some of the roof had fallen in.

And now someone stood here, a frequent visitor. Though the place was not really too remote, he usually had it to himself. It was useful to experience land and sea and solitude, but in particular, a sense of history.

The house was a curious place, in that it seemed to defy time and distance a bit. There had been little chance for any historical evidence to be left around. People were a new thing here. At the same time, no one knew who had built the house.

It was almost as if it were a sort of premonition on the part of an early arrival, a small window of time for artifacts to occur, a calling to ways of life experienced first-hand by the builder, before recorded development began.

Now, the visitor’s imagination could play out the logic of events. Collected over time, the visitor had been exposed to plenty of references to previous coastal and seafaring life: pictures, stories, movies, places he’d been. And now, something in the surroundings – the wind, the remains of structures, the open coast, the sound of the door hinge telling tales, the mirage set off by hazy sunlight glinting from silvery wood – something was evocative.

Suddenly everything the visitor had seen and heard about the ocean in times past came to mind. In effect, the premonition of the early house builder was realized, translated over time and distance for the visitor. Things the visitor had never personally been witness to could be inferred and the life of centuries of sea travel played out.

At the moment, ships and boats were mostly still limited to interisland travel. But a greater scope of travel could be foreseen, vessels from longer distances eventually going by the rocky shore. And even though more modern practical means of navigation were now available, the visitor had a premonition, a legacy for ships to come.

He would build a lighthouse.

The Tour

The Tour

We made a drive, down the old jalopy road. The road circles most of the island. It goes through small settlements, or towns if you like. It goes over bridges at island streams and rivers already grown in with trees.

We stopped off at a cafe, an open-walled affair at the side of the road in one of the localities. The proprietor there had a particular menu of sandwiches and creations. Roast pork figured often. And rice.

We talked with the proprietor about our tour around the realm, not an uncommon excursion when one has some free time. He asked us to tell him if we found anything new. We agreed.

We kicked back on the patio in the middle of the day with some aperitifs. Dogs are known to roam some of these places, which is curious because these things have teeth and could be considered our competitors.

Then we wandered out, somewhat woozily, to our four-wheeled machine to once again menace the various paved and unpaved roads.

We stopped off at a break in the trees along the shoreline. There was plenty of sand and rocks and breezing palmtops.

Some of us went for a swim. Others did some body surfing.

It was, in fact, a more remote place with no one else there at the moment. The whole road trip is somewhere around 80 miles long.

Then we were away to the roads that grow more remote, less maintained, really considered rural on this outlying corner of the island.

Later, on a particularly bumpy stretch of dirt and trees, we found an elevated part of the roadway on pylons through the forest. And, of course, the concept was vague, as if it were some kind of experiment apart, in an out-flung region.

Smooth and curving, it went through unpopulated forest and was covered by an arching roof of glass, section after section of clear half cylinders going under the trees. The curious part was that, at every section, there was a break of some ten feet exposed to open air. The uncertain purpose of all this seemed to propose a maintained habitat somehow, as if to separate those in-passing from the environment. If it was intended to protect from the outside it did an incomplete job.

Then we were back out and onto dirt and bumps and even rougher terrain for a number of miles.

The machine roared and ground away. We met a small stream that had created a washout. We piled rocks over it and then rumbled onward.

More open road followed and then houses, sparse at first, and later on some small communities that must have only been reached by water.

In fact, neighboring islands could be seen from here, hazy at a distance and, by now, showing in the lower light of afternoon.

We carried on, afternoon to evening, isolated houses with lights on.

The sun, setting across the water in brilliant orange and yellow, sent a spray of light across the sky, spare clouds caught in the glow.

Soon, the road became so rough and tumble and, in fact, nonexistent that we dropped the vehicle off at the side.

At a single house in the trees, set up from the shore with one light on in a window, giving it the aspect of a last sentinel, we climbed on, on foot, where the trail seemed at least slightly evident.

We tramped on in the forest, night sounds beginning around us. Into night, we followed the sound of surf to the side of us, across steep descents and climbs, over rocks and fallen trees.

We found a sharp drop with only a waterfall by which to go down.

Making no attempt at investigation and flinging ourselves foolishly into complete chance and open darkness, possibly full of anything from a shallow riverbed to sticks and rocks below, everyone fell into deep water at the bottom and was carried down stream.

This took us to the ocean shore, which was forested to the edge. We followed the shore again, till we started to see more lights of houses. We found signs of a roadway leading to the edges of a settlement.

Eventually, we walked into the areas of our town and strolled in the evening to our neighborhood.

Most everyone was preparing to go to sleep.

We found our house, the front light on, crickets reverberating in the night and flying bugs flitting about the light bulb.

Tomorrow, we would need to take another car and do it again so we could bring our four-wheeler back with us.

The Bread was an Odd Color

The Bread was an Odd Color

When the shop owner had, over time, begun to gather a salable inventory, the question of bread was ever a process of natural selection, on the part of the patrons, at least, if not the part of the proprietor as connoisseur.

The owner liked good bread. It made the difference in a sandwich, which could have all the makings but could be canceled by a bland or tasteless base (the bread).

It made the difference at the table.

It was worth a greater percentage of items chosen in a picnic basket.

At the top of the hill, looking out over grass blown by the moist sea wind and down to the tree fronds and the harbor, it could be counted among any spare trees under which to sit. Or the rocks. A pretty girl took no notice of it, as it made sense on an outing.

The bread types shifted on the shelves through weeks and months, the shifting ever mindful of which items made it to the front register. They came from other aficionados on the island who would venture a go at their own designs or at recipes from old worlds, assayed with the grains at hand.

The favorites surfaced: experimental mixes of grains or methods of baking, some with cheese or fruit.

One was a sort of almost baking soda-flaky kind of baguette, with a soft middle. It was popular, along with others, but the proprietor still hadn’t found any that stood out. Sure, he was one of only a few shops, but good business is good business. And so is worthy bread.

Then a batch came from a local maker: this same flaky baguette. The maker had added kelp from the sea, and deliberately, not by accident. And it was the color green.

It had the same taste, really. The same consistency. Same baking methods. But, it had something to the constitution.

It was worth taking home.

It became a local and even island favorite and one of the first items to feature in the store.

The Mosaic

The Mosaic

A girl of twelve went to the opposite side of the island to visit her grandparents. It was always a fun visit. One could often do as one pleased. They fed her. Sometimes, she would help with a boat cleaning or breakfast.

The place was also in a less developed area and had quiet ranges of beach to walk. She would have done so with a dog, but they had a cat.

However, conveniently, they were on an arm of civilization and so had a small store about a quarter mile away. So, she would bicycle. And there was time to read, to play board games, to talk.

On a subsequent morning, toward the latter part of her two weeks, she stepped out for another venture on the beach.

Having collected various small items over time, from shells to rocks to glass, and while sitting in the early sun, she began idly to arrange whatever items were at hand: a reed, a tree leaf, a wood chip. Then she ventured further afield recovering whatever material the sea washed up and arranging it in the image of a beach scene. She used whatever blue she could find, shells and wood, for the ocean, and gray and green for sky and sand. Seaweed did for trees.

Then it was time for breakfast.

The items had drawn down the sand incline by the next day, with troughs from water washed by the tide.

By the time she had gathered her things to go back to the other side of the island, the arrangement had separated, or dispersed, with some items partly buried in the sand.

And it was time to resume studies at school.

 

Fishers

Fishers

Offshore, a wild blue yonder holds divers, pawing depths for shellfish on a rope. It’s a bit bizarre, but it renders lines of mollusks in broad daylight. From there it’s a measure of culinary concern.

Languages are spoken on different boats, at different times. But, most of it has nothing to do with fishing and all to do with the practicalities of retrieval. The thing is that commerce, in some circles (and in these settings, a number of social circles can occur), is possibly moot. Here, there’s enough.

On the north island, the water is dark blue, for depth, and the sky would look pale in contrast but for its particularly dark natural hue.

And here, there are no ruins, not of ancient times. Only boats that come and go and small towns, or settlements, that sleep in the sun.

Languages are only, or mostly, a form of expression. In general, everyone uses the lingua franca.

But food harvested from the sea is a fact of life.

House in the Shade

House in the Shade

The trees hide the shore, or rather, the shore sits in the glare of sunlight, and the trees sit behind that, and they provide respite.

A man stands on a ladder, half-way up the side of a house that is half-buried in trees. He is observed by a cat sitting on the hard-baked, sandy ground.

The cat regards him as he strings wires along the eaves, along the wall.

Off the shore, surf rushes and tosses, its coming and going observed from the roof point of the house by a bright and curved dish mounted on a stand, fast against imminent wind and weather.

The man brings wires along to an open window, which is typically kept open and normally only covered with a reed shade, unless the wind blows up. In such an event, more sturdy protection is put up.

The man descends and pets the cat between the ears and the two characters separate paths.

Before long, in the shade of the house, a screen glows.

Living Under a Star

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Living under a Star

The swimmer made a wake across clear blue water, the water still and limpid. The air was bright and the wide sky a deeper shade of blue, high to the dome, where shone a clear star.

With every push, the swimmer cut across measures, or quantities, of water. Equal parcels of this stretched for hundreds and thousands of miles over the horizon, curving, in turn, in the equally empty volumes of space beyond the atmosphere. Harsh space. Radiation-filled space, smelling of the over-cooked volatility of gunpowder.

The swimmer took another breath and made more distance.