Passage Hawaii to Vancouver - Day 12
22 July 2013
We are completely shrouded by low, dark clouds that reach down to the water. Cold and stark, the scene reminds me of a damp winter day on the west coast, a day to sit by the fire with a big mug of hot chocolate and a good book. Intensifying the feeling is a chilly west wind of 20 kts that has whipped up the sea into blackish green rollers with frothy, wind-blown crests. Yet inside our enclosure, our BUBBLE of TRANQUILITY, Beth and I remain comfortable and warm as Sarah Jean charges along through this January-like day, wing and wing, making tracks for home, her mast top scraping the ash colored sky.
Let's now turn to Joanna. I am new to writing stories, as you can probably tell. I have much to learn. But one thing I have recently discovered is that it is helpful to have a reader in mind as you write; a certain listener to whom your story, hopefully, will appeal. VISION OF JOANNA is a story for kids. In particular, it is written for little girls with big imaginations and a love of adventure.
In Rarotonga I met a precocious six year old girl named Saylor. One day, together with her family, we hiked into the jungle, over mountains and across rivers to the other side of the island. It was a long and arduous hike. I found it hard to keep up with her as she charged along the precipitous trail. At one point she fell badly after stepping on a slippery rock. Saylor wailed for a moment, I think more from dismay than anything, but quickly picked herself up and set off again at the same blistering pace. Sharp as a tack, tough as nails and cute as a button, she reminded me to never underestimate the capabilities and resilience of little people. With two older brothers to contend with, and currently in the midst of her own adventure sailing across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to Vancouver with her family, Saylor has much in common with Joanna; in fact they could probably be the best of friends.
Saylor, this next chapter, The River, is dedicated to you. Thank you for being my special listener; for being so interested in Joanna. It makes my telling of the story much more fun knowing you care and are eagerly waiting aboard your sailboat, Long Shot II, for the next installment to see what will happen next!
VISION OF JOANNA - A Continuing Blog Adventure Set in Vanuatu
CHAPTER 6 - The River
A great white bird swooped low over the sea, skimming across the wave tops, its long wings spread wide. Suddenly changing direction it soared upwards towards the cloudless blue sky only to dive down towards the surface of the water again. Joanna rode on its back, her arms wrapped tightly around the bird's neck, her face pressed deeply into its downy feathers. She leaned into the next turn and hung on, laughing as the bird's wing tip touched the water, sending spray flying up into her face, cool and wet.
Joanna blinked. She sat upright, awakened by the droplet running down her cheek. She looked around and saw she was sitting on a bed of dried leaves below a huge banyan tree. Gnarled, broken vines dangled across the entrance of her small sleeping hollow. She looked up and watched another large droplet of rain fall towards her from the leafy canopy above. Slowly rising to her feet, Joanna struggled to get her bearings. As she held up the sharply pointed boar tusk in her hand, looked at her torn and muddy T-shirt and felt the pain of many cuts and bruises, yesterday's ordeal suddenly came back to her. The reality of being lost and alone in the jungle then hit her with a mighty blow, almost knocking her off her feet, but not quite. Joanna was far from defeated. She stooped down, picked up her knife and stepped out into the clearing.
Joanna was hungry and very thirsty. She had missed dinner last night, and had had nothing to drink since lunch yesterday. Looking beyond the clearing Joanna saw what she thought was the blurry outline of tall coconut trees. Watching and listening for the possible return of the boar, she walked cautiously across the clearing towards the grove. Soon Joanna found what she was looking for; a brown coconut that was not too old. She quickly removed the husk with a sharp stick and then whacked the middle of the coconut with her knife, going around and around several times. With a sudden crack the coconut split apart into two halves, each full of clear, sweet coconut water. She held the shells to her lips, quickly draining both. Then, using her knife she carved out the coconut meat in bite size chunks and then sat down to enjoy her breakfast.
Near the coconut grove were several pandanus trees with their long slender leaves that were ideal for weaving. Joanna had learned much from Mama and was a good weaver, her hands fast and skilled at bending the fiber into many useful items. Joanna broke a leaf off the pandanus tree, still covered in dewy rain drops, and cut it into long narrow strips using the tip of her knife like razor. Within minutes she had woven the strips into a rope-like lanyard. Reaching into her pocket she removed the boar tusk and wrapped her lanyard around and around its base so it was securely held. She then formed a loop with the remaining length of lanyard and hung the completed necklace around her neck, grinning in satisfaction with her handiwork.
She stood and looked in the direction where the wounded boar had limped away yesterday. She shouted at the top of her voice, "Can you see this you mean old boar . . . can you see what I am wearing? Let it be a warning to you. Don't chase me again! If you leave me alone, I will leave you alone!" In a quieter voice she added, "And I'm really sorry I hurt you."
She then sat down and continued her weaving; this time producing a heavy belt from which she slung Papa's carving knife like a small sword. With the tusk around her neck, the knife strapped to her side and a look of fierce determination in her eye, Joanna resembled a miniature warrior princess ready for battle. But there was no one for her to fight. Her quest was simply to find her way home.
The sky was still overcast. Joanna had no sun or shadows to steer by when she headed off into the bush. The heavy rain last night had washed away all her tracks from the day before. All she could do was set out and hope that she was walking in the right direction towards the trail and her village. She was sure Mama and Papa and her brothers would be out searching for her. Hopefully they would find each other soon, before night fell again.
After many hours of tramping through the dense undergrowth Joanna heard the urgent babble of running water. Pressing on she found a stream cascading down a small valley, the water dark and muddy, full of sticks and leaves, swollen from recent rains. Knowing intuitively that this little stream would lead her to the ocean shore where most of the island villages were located, Joanna decided to follow it. It led her down a hill and through a long valley where it flowed into a bigger river, which was also muddy and turbulent. Joanna continued along the bank of the larger river with greater and greater difficulty. The valley walls were steepening, becoming more a more like a canyon. Rocky outcroppings blocked the way here and there. Joanna was forced to hang onto roots and rocks and inch across slippery mud patches.
Gripping a large root firmly with one hand, reaching for a rock handhold with her other hand, Joanna heard a sudden snap! The root had given way! She toppled backward, cart wheeling down the steep embankment into the raging river below. As Joanna surfaced she swam frantically towards the shore, hoping to grab onto to something, anything, to pull herself out. Up ahead she could see the vague shape of a small log projecting from the bank. Kicking and pulling with all her strength she swam towards it. Breathing hard, with huge relief, she reached the log, wrapping her arms around it, clinging to it desperately as the current tried to pull her away. Then, without warning, the log was ripped from the shore, carrying Joanna into to the middle of the raging river, downstream deeper and deeper into the narrowing canyon.
Joanna looked about wildly as she held onto the slippery log, her grip weakening by the second. She searched the shore for a back eddy of calm water or something she might grasp, perhaps a fallen tree, but all she saw was a blur of brown and green as the current swept her along, holding her firmly in its chilly grip. The canyon walls had now become so steep they blocked out the sunlight. Up ahead a vertical wall of black volcanic rock rose up creating what appeared to be a dead end, blocking the path of the river. But that would be impossible! The river had to flow somewhere!
Then Joanna heard a deafening roar! She suddenly realized with horror that the river was not going around the rock wall, it was going underneath it! Up ahead she could see the turbid rushing water disappearing, pouring over the edge of a dark hole, disappearing down into the ground! She wrapped her arms and legs tightly around the log, took a deep breath and then felt sudden weightlessness as she plunged over the edge of the waterfall, falling, falling into the gaping jaws of the earth itself!
TO BE CONTINUED . . .