I visited Cher and Clifford’s friend Stefano, who Cher calls an international rogue. There wasn’t much he could do for me. He’s living for free in a funky jungle hut, caretaking someone’s land, but the rules he must follow are restrictive. Not only can’t he have friends camp there with him, but he can’t have visitors in the daytime either. That’s pretty extreme.
Stefano takes the hippie/straight dichotomy a step or two farther than most, and characterizes people as good people and shit people. Sigh. When will people accept each other as just people?
He did suggest a couple of beaches for me to check out, and here I am at one of them, Koki Beach, a hippie, but not nude, beach. There’s a fair number of Polynesians here too. Here I met Debbie and Denny. Denny used to live near Whitethorn and knows some of my neighbors.
He suggested a number of other places I can camp, the same parts of the island that looked campable to me, i. e. around here, the Ahihi bay area, and the northernmost tip. Being another southern Humboldt resident, he seemed to understand me and my needs much better than anyone else I’ve met. So there’s a nude beach right in Hana? Great. Things are looking up at last. I’m learning where the hippie places are.
A ghost crab
marbled yellows and ochers
disappears when it sees me
like a Persian rug
Eyestalks to see
a moving pen
two feet away
Sidestep out of their
holes after a shower,
into holes again
Just a glimpse and you have to be already there.
golden crabs like Persian rugs, silver crabs
eyes that see all around
hundreds of them
in holes from pencil to broomstick sized
smaller than dimes, as big as a fingertip with legs
step step step step FLING!
swiftly vanish as a dream
run sideways fast as imagination
Crab color schemes—
olive green, black, silvery blue.
golden yellow, yellow,
black, silvery brown.
Persian rug inkblots,
as a human face
Movement seems mechanical
because the skin doesn’t
change shape when legs flex.
Eyes show no emotion.
The carapace pattern varies from crab to crab. It looks symmetrical from a distance but isn’t really. The top looks opaque. The sides and underparts, which you can see on crabs far away, look translucent or pearly. No one else notices them because no one sits still.
So here I am in this womblike little jungle bower which Stefano’s infamous landlord has put up for sale, next to Koki Beach. I’ve opened up the tube tent as wide as possible to avoid a stinky plastic steambath, but I don’t have much hope. Unbelievably there’s a breeze through here tonight. I wonder what little bugs will come to visit.
The sound of ocean waves
wind blowing through the palms
rain on a plastic tent
insects like high-pitched cicadas
Monday, January 12, 1981
There’s some some trees here with scales like a cedar, but bigger. Some things are easy to describe well the first attempt, some aren’t. If I repeat myself, it’s because I’m trying to do it better, This jungle reminds me of Yoda’s world from The Empire Strikes Back, except it’s not swampy.
A concrete gravestone
with no name on it,
beneath a tangle of vines
arching over my head.
A land snail, shell about 3 inches long, about the size of a banana slug, crawling on the grass beside Hamoa Road.
Shell cream-colored with a rich reddish brown body like the snails of Mendocino. The coils have less brown and more cream toward the spire, as I’ve shown here.
O that was a beautiful snail.
I’m back on Koki Beach. The tide is still pretty high. The ghost crabs are cleaning out their holes again. It must really be something to have two eyes, each one with a complete hemispheric view. They can see me make small movements from quite a distance.
It wouldn’t be easy for a seabird to catch one of these. I don’t see any birds around. Not only are there no gulls, cormorants, or pelicans, but there don’t seem to be others either. Ghost crabs, land snails, and cockroaches will have to do for now.
The crabs aren’t as easily spooked by each others’ movements as by mine, though they don’t approach each other too closely. The smaller one always retreats, of course.
I haven’t mentioned how Koki Beach is a prime hangout for surfers. The waves are quite large and I guess so is the current, because there’s a sign saying it’s dangerous. I’ll stay on land here. There were lots of Polynesian kids surfing in the rain yesterday. The hippies were only here while it was dry.
This is the first day I didn’t watch a sunrise.
I’m watching ghost crabs again. One claw is bigger than the other, but not always the same one. They’re going after food right now. I can’t see what they eat— something tiny in the sand. They mostly walk sideways but can walk in any direction. Their grace of movement and the way only the points of their feet touch the ground make me want to compare them with dancers. They hold their claw tips just touching the sand and seem to detect food this way.
Life is strange. Who would think of such an unlikely manifestation of matter as ghost crabs? What do they do? They dig holes, prance around on the sand, and run back to their holes at the first sign of danger— and all to no better known purpose than making more ghost crabs.
We humans don’t do that much more. We just have more roundabout complicated methods. WHY? That’s the question I spend so much energy trying to answer, knowing that even if I do find an answer that even partially satisfies me, no other human will believe me.
Why go surfing? Why swim? Why find a hiding place to sleep? Why walk down the beach holding hands? Because we need to or want to, but why? Enhanced survival? A better life? To praise God, as if God needs the ego boost? To admire ghost crabs and wonder about the purpose of life?
Perhaps, like some problems in Mathematics, you can prove that the equation has no solution. Perhaps you can’t even do that.
If I become a ghost crab, on the other hand, I am small and hard and smell like the sea. I see blotches all around and over me and panic when they move. I persistently drag clumps of sand out of my hole and fling it away. I am swift as the wind on eight stilts that coordinate themselves. I sample yummy flavors left by the sea between grains of sand. I hide in my hole and burst my skin and become bigger. I eat my old skin and my new skin hardens. I visit females and satisfy urges when the time is right.
More than that I don’t know. Life is sort of automatic.
As a man, I know where I come from, what the world has in it, that I will die, that I may or may not have children, that love is the purpose.
What is this island doing to me anyway? Heaven and hell aren’t places to go when you die so much as states of mind here of earth. I seem to be on some crazy pilgrim’s progress here. I don’t think anyone I’ve met here, except possibly Bob the first day, was interested in my spiritual quest. Of course. for all most people can tell, I’m just looking for wild beaches, pretty pools, and some sort of good time.