Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Seeking The Whole Nautilus

Seeking The Whole Nautilus

May have told you I was doing some landscaping consulting down here. After all this new post-tsunami reconstruction, what comes next? Landscaping, right?

Digger and Mel put in a bunch of new plants around their front porch, and when I rode up on my motorbike, they asked me what I thought. 'Looks good,' I told them.

Two doors down, Michael, recently returned from Sweden, and his Thai wife, Pom, put in new plants around their new fish ponds and asked, 'How do you like?'

'Looks good,' I told them.

Michael is also officially the owner of Bovi, who has now bitten ten people, according to Michael, who tends to tell the same story three of four times in a sitting, and each time he sees you.

"I tell them, 'He not my dog, but they say 'you feed him,' but I tell them I feed all da dogs, and they not belong me. I feed da cats, and they not belong me. I feed the Thai people also, and they not belong me,' hey?" he said, nodding his head as if to ask me if he was making sense.

"They tell me, 'He your dog. He sleep in your house'," said Michael, shrugging his shoulders with a look of resignation, like, 'What can I say to that?'

"So, I guess he my dog," he continued, followed by a vignette I'd already heard sixteen times. "He come here puppy after tsunami," he said, showing me with his hands how small the dog was. "He choose me. I not choose him. I feed him, and he stay. He only survivor of all dogs here. Before tsunami, he never make with anybody. Now, he make shit with everybody who come by."

As he told the story, a Thai man and his son rode by on bicycles, the little boy trailing a few meters behind his dad. Bovi, in the street at the time, began to make a move on the little boy. Michael shouted out, "BOVI! MAI!" and the little boy, watching Bovi all the while, screamed out in mortal terror.

Bovi eased up after making three or four stiff-legged aggressive steps after the kid, smiled, and returned to the yard, relaxing his muscles, lowering his ears, wiping the smile off his face, and glancing up sheepishly at Michael, who was giving him a tongue-lashing in Swedish.

The guys sitting on their porch across the street chuckled, and another Thai man, sauntering down the street, smiled and shook his head as Bovi left the yard and approached him, wagging his tail.

"He likes that guy," I said.

"He likes some people," said Michael. "Other people, he don't like."

Just then another motorbiker came by, the man lifting his feet off the foot pegs and onto the frame, gunning his motor as Bovi chased him down the street, Michael screaming, 'BOVI! MAI!" and Bovi ignoring him.

"That guy," said Michael, nodding his head in the direction of the biker, "he don't like."


When just arriving or just about to depart, don't you like to pay one last visit to your 'favorite spot', a place where there are no footprints, nothing to disturb your thoughts, and only the sounds of nature?

The other day, while walking the beach up around the Cape, I saw a piece of coral that looked "just like a chicken's foot," I told Digger.

After a few moments, he replied, "A chicken's foot? There's only about a million or so of those. You see them all the time."

"...and another piece that looked just like a brain."

He just laughed and shook his head. "You must've been up around the Cape."

"...and another piece of coral that looked juuuust like a cloud."

So, we look selectively for the perfect specimens, bypassing by all those fragmented or common shells, like Augers, Cones, Olives, and Arabian Cowries, and all that stuff collected by the tourists who are here for just a few days.

I've seen only three Nautilus shells, but they were all broken and much less than complete. The Nautilus, very rare, a cephalopod, found in the tropical Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. A weird, tenacled creature when occupying it's chambered shell, unchanged in 500 million years of evolution. I sure hope you and me don't take that long.

So, the Nautilus, or the piece of coral in the perfect shape of a heart, the 'cardium cardissa' or heart cockle, or something else unsual that might catch the eye in an early morning stroll down the beach before sunrise.

And then, washed up by last evening's high tide, there was that big piece of coral that looked just like a human skeleton; skull, rib cage, the pelvis, the whole bit, about the size of a German. The tide left it looking funny, as if it had dragged itself ashore. At first, I was shocked by the uncanny resemblance, teeth and all, on a piece of coral like none I'd previously ever seen. I approached it and said, 'People been looking for you.'

I thought it would look good propped up against one of my palm trees, legs crossed, kicked back, maybe holding a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. Maybe grinning, mouth agape, holding up a tiny roach. I could see it, couldn't you? like that skeleton on the rez that Misty said had the house burn down around it, and they found it sitting there on the charred springs of a stuffed chair, holding a beer.

The only way I could get it home was to drag it up the beach and strap it onto my motorbike, on the back, with it's feet on the foot pegs and securing it in place with a bungee strap around my waist. I draped the arms over my shoulders and let the chin rest on my back, reminding me of how the Japanese girl, Lulu, used to ride over the mountain to work at the volunteer center last year, hitching a ride from the jungalows. She'd put her chin right on my shoulder blade, and I always wanted to ask her, 'Is that the way they ride in Japan?' but never did.

But Lulu was very small, and this piece of coral was quite large, like I said, about the size of a German, although not as rigid. In fact, it was flexible enough for me to ride quite comfortably, which I normally can't do with someone on the back, because of my knees.

About a mile from the house, I turned and asked it, 'How you doing back there?' and I couldn't get home quick enough because the early-morning traffic was getting heavy, and people were staring. I felt somewhat self-conscious and embarrassed as they looked at me, laughing by myself as I rode down the road.

The Laundry Girl and the chicken-on-a-stick lady, and the people at the shoe shop all told me they saw me driving down the road with a skeleton on the back of my bike, and I had to tell them, laughing, 'No. That was a piece of coral.'