"Wow. Have a look at this." Louis calls from behind the bushes. I squeeze through, climbing over a cracked, 50 ton block of red jasper, and come out beside him.
"Yeah. Great. Hey Freddy, George, over here." I call.
From here we can see the whole panorama. Moira and Dragon are little toy boats down in the anchorage. New Caledonia's mountains march north - rolling green peaks wearing their early morning baby clouds. Turning west, I see the barrier reef far across the lagoon, the white ocean surf just visible as it explodes on the coral.
"Look at that surf," I point as Freddy and George join us on the rock overlook.
"From Abigail." Louis says. The hurricane is about half way between us and Australia. "You wouldn't want to be out there today. Ho, HO, What have we here?" An American Destroyer is turning into the Grande Rade behind Noumea. It's sleek grey and black form glides into the protected waters of the bay and noses away from us towards the big ship wharf and Noumea. The Grande Ville glistens like molten silver in the morning sun. It's all very beautiful. The four of us stand there looking out over the world, thinking our own thoughts.
I'm looking off down the lagoon towards the Isle of Pines where Yves and John, Danielle and Marianique must be wondering what happened to the Moira. We set sail on Friday to join them but the wind was roasting up out of the Southeast at nearly 50 knots, building up a murderous chop in the lagoon. We just couldn't make it. Opposite Ile aux Canards, Freddy and I decided we were crazy to try to go to Isle of Pines with Hurricane Abigail dancing around in the Coral Sea. We turned tail and sailed back to Noumea. Louis suggested the wise thing to do was to run north, to Point Maa, where we could look for deer to fill our freezer.
"I'll bet old Mr. Schmidt is watching her," Freddy is watching the destroyer anchor. I look down at the farm house on the saddle of the peninsula. It looks deserted from up here, but the whole family could be out there by the beach, under the trees, and we wouldn't be able to see them.
When we arrived here on Saturday, we went ashore to visit with the people who live here: the Schmidt family. There is a 76 year old man named Gayton, his Polynesian wife, Maria, and an extended family of children and grandchildren. We invited them aboard the yachts. On Sunday all of them came to visit: first on Dragon, and then on Moira.
When they arrived, they told us it was the first time anyone had ever invited them aboard. That says a lot about the French. Yachts come here all the time because it's a lovely bay with a sheltered white sand beach. It's only 10 miles from Noumea. A favorite weekend spot. The people from the boats wander around on Mr. Schmidts property, leave him their garbage strewn all over the beach, kill his chickens and sheep, and never - in the 76 years he has been living here - never once stopped by to say hello or invite the family aboard for a drink.
Sunday was the first time Gayton spoke English since the War. Shaking with Parkinson's disease, he sat in the cockpit of Moira speaking damn good English, telling us about the 40's when the Americans were here.
"There were 28 American warships here in this bay," He said in his old, thin shaky voice. "With 3000 men aboard them. I had a photographic memory then. I knew the names of every man. My family provided them with food and wine without any payment at all. When the war was over Mrs. Roosevelt came here. Here, to Presqu'ile Maa, and she shook my hand. `Merci por la Soldiers,' she said to me." Gayton's bright blue eyes sparkled in the folds of ancient flesh.
"I remember the war clear as I'm standing here," Louis interrupts my thoughts. The American warship is now swinging on her anchor in the strong southeasterly wind. We turn and start back down the mountain peak. "Shootin' everywhere. 'Course I was just a kid. Every morning at 7 AM I got a ride in a big German tank. We'd go roaring down the middle of the street to wake everybody up."
"Yeah? How'd you manage that?" I say, fending off a meter-wide spider web with a stick. "Were you friendly with the Germans?"
"My friend, it's like this. You can't even imagine. One day a car full of officers drive up to your house. One of them says "How many people live here? Five? OK, you put five soldiers in that room, three in that room. From now on you do the cookin' for 'em and we'll supply the food."
"And on an individual basis they are not bad guys." I surmise.
"Right. The Germans were clean and orderly. Not like the Russians. Boy, when the Russians came they were like a bunch of bandits. Yep. For me, the war was the greatest thing ever. People shootin' - kapow, kapow - planes havin' dog fights right over the center of town - eeeeeaoooooooooow tata tata tata. When it was over there was ammunition like you couldn't even believe. It was everywhere. Boxes of the stuff. I was throwin' grenades when I was seven years old.' He scoops up a grenade sized rock, skips ahead and lobs it expertly into the midst of the forest. "Ka-blam!"
"Geeze....Look at that!" He stops and stares out to the bay. I look up and see a rain squall coming across the lagoon.
"Damn, my camera is in my pocket." I look at the black sheet of rain.
"We left the hatches open," Louis mumbles, eyeing the storm. "It's going maybe 6 knots. I think we can beat it. Come on!" And we lope down the hillside, crashing through the forest like deer in flight. Freddy and George follow at a more sedate pace, talking to each other and smiling.
"When did you first decide to live on a boat?" I ask as we run. He had told me about his escape from Hungary, the barbed wire, the machine guns, the red cross evacuation to Canada, slavery on a farm there.
"I was sailing from the time I was a little kid," he makes a graceful leap from one rock outcrop to the next and I'm right behind him.
"Sure. We had a 90 mile lake and there were government owned boats. I used to scrub the boats just to be around them. Then, after they got to know me, they let me sail the boats. 31 minutes sailing for four hours scrubbing. I got to know the guy who was the champion sailor. I think he was the European champion." We duck under a branch and come out onto a big grassy field. It slopes steeply towards Sea. Louis runs straight downhill, his voice shaking in tune to his feet, "He began to teach me how to sail. Then I won a race. The next year I won again."
"So they noticed you." I pant.
"Not yet. First I won the Hungarian Championship. It was in an old, heavy boat. But on the day of the race it was blowing a gale and I was tough. My friend who was with me was tough. The old boat could take anything and we entered every race. In some, we were the only boat to make it over the course so we won everything. And then they told me they were going to build a brand new boat, just for me."
We stop, breathing heavily, looking out at Moira and Dragon. The storm still has a way to go. We'll just make it. He plunges down the last slope, "I'll tell you, I almost didn't leave during the revolution because of the sailboats. It's something you seldom achieve."
"Sure. That's why the Olympic athletes don't run off. The prestige factor." I pant.
"But anyway, I figured it wasn't worth it and I escaped."
"So how did you get a boat like Dragon? Picking tobacco? Diesel Mechanic, Electrician?" I can smell the rain on the wind. We emerge onto the coastal road and jog towards the dinghies.
"I was working for Mac Truck as a diesel mechanic, in Vancouver, on the night shift. I come home one night about midnight and started readin' an Argosy magazine. It had an article, 'Be your own Captain on an interisland boat in the Caribbean.' I woke up George and told her, 'Hey George, we're goin' to the Caribbean!' And that was it.
"Next morning there was an ad in the newspaper about some guy wantin' an all girl crew to go to the Caribbean on a 60 foot sailboat. Turned out he was only building it. So I gave him a hand - just for the experience - he never would have got it built alone. I built the boat and we got an all girl crew except for one young guy I hired. A 70 year old lady came as passenger and paid for the trip. It took us six months - 52 sailing days - to get to the Virgin Islands." We arrive, gasping, at the dinghies and wade out to get the anchors.
"I stayed on the boat, chartering it, for three years and then got my own boat. Dragon is my third boat. Ohhhhh, I'm gonna make it. Come ON George! Hey, you take George out, OK? My hatches are open." He slithers into his dinghy, fires up the outboard and zooms off to the Dragon as the rain begins to fall.
What a character. Freddy and George come ambling up, grinning. The rain comes down on us in an avalanche of water. The camera and bags get safely tucked up under the skirt of the Avon. Then we strip and plunge into the warm sea. I love the sound of the rain on the surface and stay underwater for as long as I can, listening to it. I surface and watch the rain drops hit Sea. Some of them bounce back after they hit. Freddy and George float around on their backs. Freddy has her mouth open, catching raindrops. I wade ashore, and stand on the beach, letting the cold rain rinse off the salt, listening to the sound of the raindrops pelting my head, watching the rain transform the landscape.
I'm thinking about how Louis is really an odd ape, with two different personas. The Hungarian is still in there but the rough cosmopolitan sailor from Canada completely overshadows him. The two personalities are really two language systems living inside Louis. The Canadian language system laid down over the younger Hungarian.
This overlay idea merges, in the cold rain, into a shimmering vision of Point Maa - the ancient overlain with the new. The new looks like a French pasture. I stand in the rain with my feet in Sea and peer at Point Maa. The overlay vision glistens, like a rainbow, arching outward into layers and layers of strange and wondrous concepts.
As I think this, Sun breaks through to spotlight Point Maa, projecting a brilliant rainbow. Freddy shouts, "Oh, look at the rainbow." I'm seeing the water rising from the sea and from the vegetation, forming clouds and pouring down again through the sunlight, merging into all the plants and animals and then cycling back again.
In this cycle, the behavior patterns of the plants and animals of Point Maa appear like rainbows. But unlike rainbows, their prismatic patterns of colors - the greens, browns, yellows, blues, reds of life - are not the random result of sunlight striking water droplets. They are complex, directed, interrelated behavior: chlorophyll, bark, leaves, white wool on sheep, aguti ticked hairs of deer, behavior directed by each self's perceptions, genetic memories, and reactions. They are sunlight refracted through the droplets of mind.
My metaphoric rainbow has a metaphoric treasure at both ends. At one end there is a sea of behavior. It is a magic sea, lying beyond the horizons of individual perception. In the radiance of mankind's collective being, ideas evaporate from this sea and rise up into the air. Winds, generated by statistical thought reacting with the cultural atmosphere, carry these ideas over the broad surface of This Magic Sea.
On the other end of the rainbow, I see islands in This Magic Sea. The islands are sub-cultural selves rising like mountains of behavior from This Magic Sea. The interactions of these living mountains with the ideological trade winds of cultural climate creates updrafts. Clouds form over them, billowing up in the radiance of Man. The clouds accumulate as the day grows old. Then, in the afternoon, the concepts rain down onto the behavior of the people, the ideas are absorbed, filtered, changed into prismatic patterns of one divided into many, and then exhaled as actions. The actions forever alter the cultural landscape of the island.
Too abstract. What I see, here, now, is much more visual. I see the island as a concentration of different behavior systems, ranging from plants to people. Point Maa, now steaming slightly in the sun, looks very picturesque. Unlike other parts of the island, the landscape I see here could be from someplace in southern France.
About 100 years ago Mr. Schmidt's father swam here, the lone survivor from a shipwreck. He managed to drag himself up onto this peninsula. To anyone watching (there was a tribe of Kanaks here) he was a single individual, but he was hardly alone. Because he had, in his head, thousands of concepts, ways to behave, inherited from his European culture.
His behavior 'rained' on the land here for many years. Each day he altered the trees, the grass, the kinds of animals. He imported fruit trees, willows, sheep, deer, turkeys. And each of these creatures had their own behavior patterns to alter the plants and the soil of Point Maa. Mr. Schmidt's father built a house and then another. He made a road to travel over and linked it with other roads. He married a French lady and had children. Together, they guided the children through the cultural landscape so they could reproduce the European behavior pattern and alter the island still more.
The European ideas, encapsulated in the Schmidts and their imported plants and animals, were control systems, built of an enormous ocean of behavioral experience. The landscape-changing behavior flowed through the people, plants and animals but emanated from trade winds of concepts blowing from Europe. The white sheep standing under the flame trees before me are genetic ideas shaped by the Europeans. They, in turn, shape the grasses and the land by their constant browsing.
Walking around Point Maa, it is as if some sort of magic lantern was projecting an image of southern France onto the hills of New Caledonia. Mr. Schmidt's family are early morning clouds over the land. From the top of the mountain you can see Noumea shimmering in the late afternoon in late summer, a mirage from the Mediterranean. The season of the trade winds is almost upon us, the weather is hot, there are many concepts in the air.
I see culture-shaping winds sweep in over the ocean and rise into towering, dark summer thunderheads over the island. Through these, mankind projects shadow images of warships and military facilities onto the landscape.
Within the black depths of the clouds there are lightning flashes: thoughts of murder. I hear the shuddering thunder of violence. I see shapes of control systems linking men with secret ambitions. In the rain forest of New Caledonia, I hear the jungle noises of economics and the whisper clicking of hard steel, molded, polished, oiled into guns. There are apes dressed like trees and apes in terrorist disguises. I see make-believe fishermen who are sensory input nodes for the system, feeing information into the cultural shadowplay to direct its phantom movements.
A dark, hot calm augurs the hurricane clouds of war lurking just over the horizon. Cyclonic War, generated by the heat of industrial/military economics, swirling down from the northern hemisphere to create deluges of tears, floods of terror, and insane winds of hate to reshape the cultural landscape into another one of those pathetic third world cesspools ruled by local thugs.
Maybe this pessimistic scene is a combination of Louis and his war stories and the absolutely beautiful perspective of Point Maa haloed by a three ring rainbow. Gloomy thoughts in paradise. But the model fits well with my thinking. Even Louis is clearer in this view. There he is, an ape with two behavior systems flowing through him: the Hungarian electrician marching doggedly through the giant 'State' factory and the free roaming yacht captain lounging in paradise.
The idea also works well with the old controversy about how much humans inherit via the genetic system and how much they acquire by experience. How much behavior, that is.
There is really no difference between 'acquired' and 'inherited' characteristics. Genes are cellular memories interacting with the existing communication network of hominids and their actions in the global environment. Humans acquire genes the same way they acquire experiences. The union of parental gametes to dictate cellular behavior (the embryology, growth and function of a body) is part of a basic, harmonically nested, behavior pattern. It is much the same as food and oxygen joining and reacting with mind to form selves.
Language, like food and oxygen, like parental DNA memories, comes from the environment - from an inherited communication network. In fact the two, DNA and Language are the same inherited communication network at different levels of complexity. Hominids inherit language, genes, and the environment. Using their inheritance, they perform the required acts of awareness to survive. All their inheritance represents the sum total of the development of the planet at any given...
"There you are," Freddy comes running up the path, frightening the sheep. "What are you doing? Come on, George wants to get back and I've got stuff to do." We head back to the dinghy, get in and motor out into the bay.
"Hey, you guys wanna have a Bar-B-Que on the beach tonight?" Louis shouts as we come alongside the Dragon. "We'll cook up some Rudolf."
Rudolf is the name we gave to one of Mr. Schmidt's deer: the one they presented us as a gesture of friendship, all done up in nicely butchered cuts.
"Do you?" I ask Freddy. She nods. "OK. What time you want to go in?"
As Louis and I cook Rudolf over the hot coals, I mention the area around Point Maa looks like a projection from Europe.
Louis looks up from the venison stakes, "Yeah, you know, I seen the same thing in New Zealand. Boy, the people there are so dumb you wouldn't even believe it. In England you go look at a farm house. Which way do you think the door faces?"
"I give up. I guess it depends on the guy's property."
"Nope. I mean this is a farm house. Way out in the country. The guy can build the house anyway he wants to. Don't know? Well, the doors face the south cause the cold winter winds blow from the north, right?"
"If you say so. Makes sense." I turn one of our steaks over. Rudolf sizzles nicely on the grill.
"So, in New Zealand, where the really cold winter winds blow from the south, the farmers still build their houses with the doors facing south. There they are, thousands of them, out in the countryside with the doors facing the coldest winds so when you open them, in comes a blast of freezing air. You can't even imagine. People don't know why they do what they do. That's the custom, so that's what they do. Right or wrong makes no difference."