The Birds of Taveuni, Episode 60, Odysseys in Paradise

“I wish it were possible to speak with Pavel or Yuri,” Rich thought. “I would ask if that were the work of the Soviets? Would they be so morbid and thorough as to stick around? Would they want to see my bloated body laying on the deck being baked by the sun and scavenged by the gulls?”

Taveuni Island lay nearly 50 miles due west. Rich grabbed the almanac and it mentioned the island was one of the more populated in the Fiji group.

Rich reached someone by means of shortwave. They informed him of a small village on the eastern side of Taveuni called Salia Levu. They assured him of a place to dock and the area is considered one of the most beautiful in all of the Fiji Islands.

Rich did not find a dock, however, a jetty that looked as if made by bulldozing volcanic rock protruded into the shallows. He tossed the fenders and tied the lines to a couple wooden poles.

The shore immediately met with the lush green growth of the island. Rich walked on a gravel road no more than 150 yards from shore before coming upon a dozen homes made from wood with tin roofs. However, palm branches covered the tin. Rich had seen it in Samoa and told it lessens the sound of the rain.

Over the next three days, Rich spoke to some of the residences from the village. They directed him to waterfalls and forested areas where some of the most colorful and luxuriant flowers grew. He hiked with his military backpack brought with him on his trip from Ohio to Maine. He found a can sardines and a couple of cookies. He smiled. “In principle, not much has changed. I’m still running from what I can’t control toward something that is unknown. I suppose, though, that is everybody’s journey; it’s just that mine has less probability of predictability.”

Rich sat in a shallow pond fed by a streaming waterfall surrounded by a protective wall of earth, rocks, and green growth. Colorful birds above dazzled Rich with song and flight. Their curiosity abounded as they flew from one vantage point to another. Rich laid against a rock and watched. He emptied his mind of the past and the future. “It is only now,” he thought and smiled.

Time elapsed. It could have been a heartbeat, it could have been a lifetime, or something in between or beyond each. It made no difference. “When you stop for a moment the routine rigors that makeup life, the contemplation always leads to existence; for what reason do we exist?”

“Do the birds know? Their lives are filled with impulse and instinct. I’m not sure they think about existence other than the present. We snap photographs in our mind from the past and design great edifices for the future. There was an island I once visited, nothing but birds. If they had vision and creativity they would have constructed a magnificent skyscraper by now. Instead, they’d rather fly and be free. What a trade-off.”



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