Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Paradisical Musings

I’m rocking to the rhythm of crashing waves in a lime green hammock on Four Islands’ Beach, Brazil. The incessant thunder of those restless waves creates a strange sense of timelessness. There has never been a day that water and sand haven’t kissed. I am awed to think that before I was born these waves were already pounding this beach.

I could easily think I was alone with nature except for the smell of meat cooking on the neighbor’s grill right below my deck. The clanking of silverware, the pop of a soda can opening and muffled conversation occasionally drift my way reminding me I am not alone. And moments ago I heard a parrot squawking, “Where’s my father? Where’s my father?” Ah, but I want to think I am all alone in Paradise.

The sky is overcast, a gray canopy covering ocean and land; an occasional sea gull glides by looking for dinner. Sadly, the sand crabs have gone into hiding and I miss their sideways running for cover. In the distance, a huge rock looms out of the ocean looking strangely like a loaf of freshly baked bread. And the waves keep rolling onto shore. The beach curves gracefully like a crescent moon, but is stopped abruptly by a green hill flanked by huge boulders. My husband and I climbed that hill yesterday and it took us inside an idyllic island—maybe it was Narnia—of lush green trees and vines that created tunnels and winding trails before suddenly breaking into a clearing on the top of the hill. We looked down on dangerous rocks whipped by angry waves spewing foam and spray upon them. I felt free high above those rocks and water and could look across the ocean to other islands and rolling hills far away.

Today we headed down the beach in the opposite direction and at the end of the beach came upon a group of fishermen playing cards. They were waiting for the tainha or mullet fish to show up. During the winter months these fish migrate from the southernmost waters in Brazil swimming north all along the coast. In good years fishermen can hope to catch thousands of them, but this year has been disappointing—hence the card game. We watched as a couple of optimistic young fishermen pushed their boat into the water and sped away, then stopped to chat with an old fisherman who was mending nets. His name is Vital and for all his 78 years, he looked spry and vigorous. He started fishing when he was only seven and it was his son and grandson who’d left in the boat. When we asked about the lack of mullet fish he said that in spite of all his years of experience, there were still things he didn’t understand.

We left Vital, after asking his permission to photograph him, and hopped from rock to rock along the shore until we found a path hacked out of the hill beckoning us upward. With the help of Tarzanian vines, we grabbed branches and slipped and slid along the wet trail, following the terrain up and down. It opened onto boulders and beautiful glimpses of ocean and after twenty minutes of walking came to an abrupt end. We sat on some boulders gazing out at the gray day, yet drinking in the beauty of rock, waves and water. Our hike back was quicker, but often interrupted to photograph an exotic flower or colorful tree moss. Back on the beach we found Vital still mending his nets and a few fishermen still playing cards.

Tomorrow we have to leave our idyllic world behind.