Monday, May 4, 2009


Of course, the rainbows rebuilt themselves. That is the good thing about being a dreamer; although the lows are very low, the highs are amazingly high, and the cycles continue to repeat themselves. We settled into the rhythm of our new life, accustoming ourselves to building the day around the high and low tides, whether or not the sun was shining, and the twice daily ringing of the church bell. After home schooling in the morning, my sister Anna and I would venture out into the village and see what fodder we could find for our imaginations.

One place we loved to play was the women's beach (called the ikua in language), at low tide. It was on the outside edge of the island, the one facing the open ocean. When the tide went out, it revealed the reef which circled the islands in the atoll like a shelf. It was a smooth expanse of rock, with indentations in the coral which held trapped whatever sea creatures and treasures left behind by the retreating waters.

One day, Anna and I sought out the ikua, with its steady, cool breeze coming off the great ocean, to take refuge from the heat of the day, and to find entertainment in exploring the tide pools. We picked our way out across the naked reef, collecting treasures as we found them; an odd shell, the purple spike a sea urchin left behind, bits of blue and green sea glass.

Together we spied a particularly large shell. We both grabbed for it at the same time; I got there first. "Danica, I saw it first! It's miiiiiine!" my little sister complained.

Knowing I had the upper hand (possession is nine tenths of the law, after all), I raised my eyebrows archly and didn't say anything.

"Dan-eeeeeeeek-ah!" I could see her grow frustrated and smiled smugly to myself. It was fun to bait Anna and see how far I could push her frustration until she finally exploded in anger. We continued to argue as our feet led us further out towards the edge. Anna made a snatch for the shell I was holding, and I bounded away from her, stretching my legs to leap from one exposed spot to the next.

Except, I didn't land on dry, protruding reef. I landed in water. I landed in something's home. A long, slippery, writhing something, that shot out from under my bare foot clear into the air and splashed into the next tide pool over. It was an eel, two feet long and as round as a coke can, twisting itself angrily into frenzied figure eights as it sought refuge from my rude intrusion. It was as if Jello had solidified and come alive under the arch of my foot. A great shiver of horror spread in a wave up my leg, body and to the tips of my ears. My sister and I shrieked as only little girls can, dropped the sea trash we had gathered, and sprinted to the beach, skimming the exposed reef on our tippy-toes until we reached the safe sand.

There is an island word for what happened to me that day: koa. It means 'it serves you right', or 'you got what was coming to you'. If only Anna had already learned that word, she would have said it to me.

"Koa, Danica."

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