December 27, 2002 Maravagi Resort, Solomon Islands
I’m snorkeling in water as clear and blue as a summer sky. The gentle pull of the tide carries me along a wall of coral. Fish are everywhere—minute clown fish, gray with two frail white stripes; robust parrot fish, teal and purple and lime; and some wild fish, striped orange and white with a purple tail like God was on acid that creation day.
I drift like a cloud over the world of fish and they ignore me, like I ignore the clouds. Water trickles past my ears, a tiny waterfall sound. My boys are arguing on the beach, far far away.
The fish are silent, except for the parrot fish, gnawing on the rocks, a distant scratching, small and insignificant. In the quiet, all my senses are trained on the visual feast: darts of electric blue fish; undulations of white and purple anemones; spiked sea urchins, mounded coral; a blue starfish draped over a rock; a giant clam, patterned in purple and blue, that flinches when I block out the sun; fringed Christmas tree corals, the size of my fingernail, orange and yellow and green and blue and white, clustered on a rock.
We arrive back from the clean quietness of Maravagi to Honiara, noisy and dusty and strewn with debris. We wait on the oil-stained beach, littered with glass and rusted tin cans. A dump of plastic wrappers, broken bottles, pieces of flip-flops marks the high-tide line. But Michael spots a shell hidden in the mess and digs it out—whole and shiny and beautiful.
The Persian poet Rumi puts it like this:
“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.”