A soft land breeze, filled with the perfume of New Caledonia's jungle, floats down the mountain just before dawn to swing our stern offshore. The movement wakes Walter the Cat and he wakes me. I get up and go on deck to see what's happening. I am just in time to catch a spectacular view of Earth spinning - smoothly, majestically - unveiling the sun as the jagged mountains of New Caledonia rotate down out of the way. The sky is crystal clear, the jungle perfume heady with rich morning blossoms. Not a cloud anywhere in sight.
We are anchored in a little bay just down the hill from Yves' House. I can't see the house from here, only the thick jungle along the shore. Behind us the broad lagoon stretches out to the barrier reef. I walk forward, and from the forward deck look north at a scattering of little mountain peaks jutting from the calm lagoon. The big Mount Dore towers ahead to port, looking pregnant with nickel and other minerals.
What a beautiful island. So green, so mountainous, so uninhabited. From where I'm standing the whole place looks uninhabited. I can't see any roads or houses or people. Except a few lights and a white blur where Noumea encrusts the land off to the Northwest. I stand naked on Moira's foredeck, enjoying the soft remnant of last night's sea breeze on my skin. A good day to take some photographs. That deep blue cloudless sky with the jagged mountain skyline would be a good start. In a few hours there will be towering clouds up there in that valley. I could do a time-lapse sequence of how the sun and island and sea interact. Thinking about this, another one of those special phrases dawns on me.
"We are the interplay of sea, air, shore and sun. Yet we are not bounded by our shores. We rise above the islands as clouds. Burst upon the land as rain." That's just right for a vision of the daily cloud build-up over New Caledonia. The island's juices steamed up from the mountains by the hot summer sun, rising into the deep blue sky like some giant white jungle blossom opening in time-lapse.
At 7 AM I set up the tripod ashore and aim my Olympus at the mountains, framed by some mangrove trees. I check to make sure the horizon is level. Click. Scene one.
I predict, absolutely, within the next hour clouds will form over the mountains as the summer sun heats up the vegetation. By mid-day the clouds will be towering thunderheads, many times larger than the mountains exhaling them. In the late afternoon, the clouds will dump their rain. If I take a shot every few hours, I will capture the interplay of sea, air, shore and sun. Then I'll project the shots in rapid sequence.
"We are the interplay of sea, air, shore and sun. Yet we are not bounded by our shores. We rise above the islands as clouds, burst upon the land as rain," will be the narration for the sequence.
"We" represents life, all life, created in the interplay of the elements of sea, air and shore uplifted and energized by the sun. The flow of water through the living beings of the island is part of this dynamic, ever changing interplay; rising above the islands of being high into the atmosphere. The clouds represent how life creates and sustains its own environment: cycling the moisture, making shade from the tropical sun, forming misty cloud forests on the mountain peaks.
My inner voice finishes the narration, "As we flow back into ourselves we dance Earth's atoms with radiance from Sun forming prismatic patterns of one divided into many."
In addition to the idea of rain water flowing back to Sea via the myriad life forms of the island, the phrase reveals a deeper meaning: awareness must operate along existing watersheds of behavior. The moisture (and awareness) moves along patterns of behavior in the living terrain. They flow through gullies and notches in the behavior systems of life and these direct the flow of each molecule of water, and every thirsty awareness, from the time the raindrops fall into the green sea of leaves until the water cycles through the living systems and rises again from those leaves to lift into the morning sky.
A cloud is already beginning to form in the valley. Up near the top. A long wispy trail of steam drifts above the deep green valley floor where there must be a river.
It is so calm here in the anchorage this morning I can hear Freddy down below, making little cat noises with Walter, getting breakfast ready. Our New Caledonia guest flag, flying from the spreaders, hangs limply, barely turning this way and that.
"Breakfast is ready," Freddy calls. I leave the tripod, return to Moira and go below. Freddy has fixed scrambled eggs with some French croissants. As we eat, I try to remember what Yves and I talked about last night.
Yves fixed us a strange, delightful, omelet spiced with herbs grown in his garden, hand picked and delicately chopped up into tiny aromatic bits at the very last moment, just before he sprinkled them into the frying pan. The tomato salad was an explosion of his spices. By contrast, he left the roast beef unseasoned, cooked without salt. Just tender meat. All arranged like flowers on big wooden platters. There were red wines and pure mineral water taken from a mountain source nearby.
"Tell me Richard, when did you first see yourself living on a sailboat?" Yves asked during dinner. I told him I had lived aboard my own sailboats since I was 18, some 24 years ago.
"What about the Moira? When did you find this boat?" He asked. I could not resist telling him how, one night, while walking my dog in an empty lot next to the Tropical Marina in Key West, I came upon a steel sculpture of a devil. I could see two stars in the cut-outs where the devil's eyes should be and when I looked into the stars in the devil's eyes, I had a vision. I saw the interior of the Moira, with Freddy standing in the galley. I knew the boat was anchored off the coast of Australia. I told Yves about later finding Freddy, selling the research vessel I then owned, and finding the Moira. Eventually, I explained, the vision was fulfilled in Port Douglas, North Queensland.
Freddy translated the high points for Danielle. After we finished the story, the three of them lapsed into a conversation about visions in general - entirely in French.
I drifted off into culinary contentment. My mind savored the tastes Yves designed. I drank in the scene of the heavy wood plank table, the delicate arrangement of sea shells in an old wooden cabinet, the way Yves smiled, the lovely animation of Danielle in conversation. There was a moment of pure joy as I watched her happily tell us something. Followed by abrupt awakening when she saw me looking at her so intently and asked, "Did you understand?" And I didn't.
I tried to explain about the many levels of a conversation. I might have missed a lot on the alpha level, the words and stories, but I was completely happy with the other levels.
"But you know," Yves said between bites, "The French have a word for this two or three levels of conversation. We call it Bifurcate, branching. What is the English word for this?"
"We use the word bifurcate, but not for the same thing. English doesn't have a word for this. Our language system does not allow us to recognize, consciously, the concept of the different levels of a conversation. It is part of the English control system."
Later, we moved some deck chairs out onto the lawn, in the darkness. We sat and watched the moon and the moon river on the lagoon, I told them about the Lusencay Islands in Papua New Guinea. About trying to explain to the islanders how Earth atoms rise up from the island as plants and become their bodies when they ate the plants. As I told the story I saw Yves and Danielle and Frederique lying on the deck chairs in the moonlight and, to me, they were sunlight dancing with earth atoms.
The story of sunlight dancing with earth atoms got us back to destiny and visions and evolution. The Plan.
Yves said, "Do you think the information to build awareness is somehow already in the sunlight? That the stars actually guide us?" We were all looking out over the night sea. As he spoke, a cloud passed between the moon and the sea. The moonriver on the lagoon became a golden pyramid crowned by a perfect reflection of the crescent moon. Very mystic looking, indeed.
"Do you see the pyramid with the crescent moon at its peak?" I asked.
"Yes," they all said at the same time.
"It is sunlight, reflected by the moon, made into that particular shape by the cloud, the sea, the wind, and the lens of mind (us), watching it. The pyramid topped with the crescent moon has mystical significance. But the mystical significance depends on your viewpoint. If we were over there, on Mount d'ore, the cloud would not sever the moon river and there would not be a crescent moon on top of a pyramid for us to view. It would just be moonlight on the sea." We sat, mesmerized, looking at the dark lagoon with its golden pyramid and crescent moon. I was waiting for the cloud to move on and the scene to change but it did not move on.
"I don't think the information to build awareness is in the sunlight nor is the plan predestined. The Plan is a learning process. The laws of physics predestine many aspects of it by controlling what is and is not possible. Eric Fromm's Catastrophe Theory, for example, allows only nine ways change can take place within a sea of seemingly infinite variations. A second kind of control is what I call communications momentum. Once a series of events starts, the watershed of results can reach a long and convoluted distance into the future.
"I have heard of Eric Fromm's mathematical theory. How do you apply this to the behavior of life?" Yves said. His voice was quiet.
"As we came up here tonight, I saw a tree, a very old and dwarfed pine tree, growing from a big rock. It looked like a branch of Acropora coral crowning a coral reef. The way the tree branches is exactly like the branching of a colony of Acropora I photographed at Elizabeth Atoll. Why should that be? The way branching happens, the interval before a growing tubular behavior system buds off in a new direction, is a prime key to understanding destiny. It represents a pattern of conduct established over 4 billion years of living, presenting a pre-tested way for life to survive.
"The interval of branching in the tree and in the coral is controlled by a set of mathematical commands inherent in Catastrophe Theory mixed with genetic memory systems of how to respond to environmental cues."
"But what of free will?" Yves asked. "Surely we can alter these genetic memories and break free of the pattern."
"Yes. Exactly. And when life breaks from the pattern it does so in refreshing ways. This variability is the heart of the system of evolution because it allows, within set limits, new ideas, new modes of behavior to test survival. Free will is, I believe, the ability of awareness to learn new patterns of behavior. But it only applies to specific levels of awareness.
For example, there is no mystical significance of pyramids or crescent moons from the standpoint of our cells or your big black cat," I pointed to Danielle's overweight, long-haired cat nestled in her lap.
"By and large, destiny is a statistical event precipitating from a multitude of behavioral interactions."
"What is precipit...?" Danielle asked.
"Like, to rain, to fall out of solution." Yves explained. "A good image. Destiny raining from the multitude of behavior of all the creatures."
Encouraged by Yves' understanding, I went on. "Free will is the ability of a being to interpret events and alter the flow of events with new concepts for responding to a variable environment.
New concepts for behavior nucleate in the interstices of harmonic modes of interactions to create new ways of existing, new beings, new forms, new creatures." This elicited such a long silence I realized I was probably impossible to understand in English, let alone in the late evening French translations Yves and Danielle had to do. One of the phases from This Magic Sea said it better, "We are concepts, forming our own fields of communications, new clusters of I am."
Wistfully, in French, Danielle said something about a radio program she heard that afternoon. The woman being interviewed claimed if you looked at a cloud you could will it to go away and it would. Not just blow away, but vanish. We all looked at the cloud blocking the moon river and, sure enough, it vanished.
After breakfast, I go back on deck. There are lots of lovely white clouds building up over the island. I return to the camera and take the second picture. It is 0800. I know we'll have a nice big cloud build-up today. It is still calm.