The Tuna Turn

There has been plenty of rain this year, which is a god sent for the islanders, like everything else in their beautiful minds is sent or made by god; but then that should probably be a God written properly, with a capital letter that is! The rain comes down in short squalls, sometimes a couple of them a day, but in between it’s sunny and breezy, good enough to just lie around, or go fishing a bit, hunting for a coconut or two, swim around the anchorage with the handsome blacktip sharks examining you from a boat length away, and the bigger and more mysterious brown nursing sharks circling below, or, what’s even better, take our vaka over to the beach and chat with the lovely folks of the tiny dying village of Tautua. We’re doing duty at the school there twice a week to do a performance project with the kids, preparing a little show for the beginning of April before our planned departure. Beatriz is teaching them the wicked dances of South America and I’m trying to coax them into telling the stories of their ancestors, viewed through their own big open eyes.

We are diligently going ashore every Sunday morning to have our minds tortured in mass. Thank God (theirs that is, since mine slipped out of my spiritual portfolio a good while back, as you might have guessed) for their frenetic, almost possessed way of singing, which overpowers the constant coughing of the ever spreading bronchopneumonia that ghastly clings to the most vulnerable in the village, the babies and the most elderly. The minister’s lonesome last surviving upper tooth rattles through a list of bible verses, while the congregation stares out the windy windows, their gaze lost and void of any trace of curiosity amongst a complicated set of rules tacked orderly on invisible cloth lines strung between the coconut trees.

The villager’s generosity is simply overwhelming as if wanting to underline the fact that beliefs, ideas and mindset are the least important stakes of the weathered fences we build between them and us. They exuberantly share not only the fruits of the sea and land, but also passionately instruct us in the elaborate techniques necessary to collect and harvest them. The tuna fishing sting out to the Flying Venus reef is still fresh in my mind.  Saitu sternly sits at the stern of his forty years old aluminum skiff, tillering the outboard and chanting tantric rhymes under the pouring rain of yet another pitch grey squall. Boss and I each with one hand on a line trolling behind, clinch our eyes to scan the horizon for more flocks of birds skimming the waves. A lazy lifting of the arm and pointing the finger towards it has Saitu change course to race towards it, pursue it in a wild dance of lifts and bangs and we cruise right through the frenzy in hopes of another one of the sudden jerks of the line. If that does occur a brutal aerobic exercise follows wheeling in the line with bare hands. You have to do that fast enough so that no shark has the chance to bite off the catch before we gentle and brain heavy humans get our go at wielding the short gaff, whacking the head of the magnificent creature to create a bloody mess on the floor plank before shoving the violently trembling creature into the hold in front of the boat and gingerly resetting the line aft while the adrenaline ebbs away in our own streaming blood, letting the soothing patches of technological superiority settle back onto the many wounds of our many unimportant psychological battles.

The following day little rounds of burgundy colored fish flesh are shrinking under the tropical sun on Aluna’s foredeck after having been soaked in a salty brine overnight. Two days of that are capable of reducing the muscle mass of a seafaring bundle of flesh to chewy crusts almost completely immune to the powerful forces of decomposition. They are now fit for storing long term in the holds of our galley for times when fresh fish fillet feasts will be unavailable for some unfortunate reason or other.

It has been a great shock to me in our extended excursion into the realm of human subsistence existence, to discover just how much of it is accomplished by beating the very tenacious life force out of many magnificent creatures, that otherwise frolic so frivolously and mostly peacefully in our surroundings. Apparently that is, of course. The ability to catch and eat other creatures quite obviously is the most efficient way nature proposes to fatten up your belly and your brain. While grazing on greens seems to do it for the belly, it doesn’t seem to do too much for your brain. Here goes my beatnik intelligence, literally out the window frame. Quite literally as we speak, it is being radically redefined through the learning and inventing of ever new ways to lure and corner muscled creatures into coming within the brutal reach of stones and sticks wielded from my arms to smack their brains to smithereens and hence expel them for good from the golden ladder of evolution. While my old moral carcass shudders in its frugal free fall towards oblivion, my index finger’s tactile tips tenderly explore yet another slimy cavity of fishy innards, consistently improving their agility of preparing freshly slaughtered carcasses for delicious and frankly quite healthy consumption without making a total mess of everything five feet downwind of their troubled master. That master’s movable mind is reborn while scraping scales, turned inside out and upside down, nurtured from scratch with hopes of not only clinging stubbornly with one hand to the present rung of that rusty rope ladder hanging from the stormy skies of psychological growth, but gingerly extending the other one upwards towards the dizzying heights of the elusive next one dangling just as stubbornly above in the eternal realm of things unreachable. All this is done, I wish to insist, not to become any more or better or whatsoever miserable measure of success, but simply as a means to move away as far and as fast as possible from the numbing and morbid feeling of staying the same.

 

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