Saturday, June 17, 2006

Waves Of Warning 01

Part One

The First Winds of Winter

Chapter One: A Wayfinder
- Chapter 1 of Part 1 of WAVES OF WARNING by Glenn Hening

[ Viewable in Word format: 01%20-%20A%20Wayfinder.doc ]

A star-filled dome of deep blue ran down to the horizon all around the voyaging craft, its three hulls slicing relentlessly forward through the waves of the South Pacific. A crisp north wind filled the sails as the last edge of the night’s storm swept away to the east. A sharp, thin crescent moon was setting in the west.

A lone figure emerged from the streamlined shelter on the deck of the center hull. For six nights and days he had voyaged across the Nebula Archipelago, a vast array of reefs and islands, with no charts or GPS to guide him. He was a modern man navigating with the knowledge and skills of ancient Polynesian mariners. He was a wayfinder.

He made a final course adjustment while the last of his guide stars was still visible in the sky ahead. He dragged his hand through the water and noticed a slight change in its temperature. Then he sat down in front of his mainmast and closed his eyes to feel the swell patterns now that the storm was gone. He waited to absorb and interpret all the motions of his voyaging craft before he finally smiled. He knew exactly where he was – and he would soon arrive at his destination.

The trance of his concentration softened. He envisioned his wife, her face glowing in the candlelight, looking down at their two children fast asleep. Then he saw the three of them standing at the edge of the lagoon next to his mentor, decades of knowledge in his wrinkled face framing a broad smile and bright eyes. They all raised their arms and voices in greeting as he drifted home across the still water.

The voices faded to silence as a low roar grew in his ears, bringing him back to the present moment and the tasks before him. He opened his blue eyes to the tinge of light in the east and the sight of spray rising from the open ocean dead ahead. Seconds later he heard the distinct explosion of a big wave breaking, like a herald announcing a message of power from the mighty spirits of the timeless seas.

The sun touched the horizon. The tri-hulled craft rose to the top of a rolling wall of water. From its summit he caught a last glimpse of his guide star and a clear view of his goal. The first bright rays of dawn lit up the sea. A wave of emotion flooded through David Helmares, a feeling of revelation and promise he had known only once before in his life, when he first saw the Pacific Ocean.

David was eight years old and his family had just flown across the country from New York following his father’s career to Southern California. They had arrived at night, and he was barely awake during the taxi ride from LAX to the Surfrider Inn overlooking Santa Monica Bay. His mother put him in his pajamas, and he was sound asleep the minute his head touched the pillow.

The next morning came cold and clear. It was January and a low winter sun brightened the room and opened the boy’s eyes. His family was asleep, but David was too excited to stay in bed. He got up, opened the sliding glass door, and went outside to the balcony.

Below him was a broad beach of white sand. Beyond it, the blue Pacific stretched away to a crisp horizon. Santa Ana winds whistled a breeze out across the sea. Small rip
pling waves lapped against the shore. David stood transfixed for almost a minute as the colors and the vista created a memory that would last a lifetime. Then his mouth opened wide. “Wake up, everybody! We’re here!”

The sun rises quickly in the South Pacific and was soon three hands above the horizon. David could see rainbows starting to form in the spray of the waves breaking less than half a mile off his bow. He looked into the transparent sea below him. The deep blue of the open ocean was giving way to the emerald and turquoise of Ka’unua, the most revered place in the wayfinding traditions of the Marulean sea people.

Located at the focal point of an underwater mountain range, Ka’unua transformed raw oceanic power coming up from the Southern Ocean into perfect patterns of wave energy. The reef was a timeless source and center for the navigators of Marulea. It was their Valhalla, and it was where David Helmares would perform rituals to become the next chief navigator of his adopted people.

He lowered his sails near the southern end of the reef and drifted in slowly. He needed an exact understanding of the challenge ahead. He saw the next set of swells approaching. He raised a sail for a few moments to let the wind push him a little closer to get a clear view of what he had to see.

The first swell was about twenty feet high when it peaked and split into two breaking waves that went in opposite directions and continued breaking down both sides of the elliptical reef. Each swell in the set was successively bigger, yet they all broke with the same symmetry. The waves followed the curves around the reef until, like soldiers closing ranks, they met at the entrance to the lagoon where they stopped breaking and re-formed back into rolling swells to continue their journey northwards across the Pacific.

David Helmares was in the presence of the ultimate surfing dream come true. Yet he was not watching with a surfer’s eye for riding the waves, but with a wayfinder’s gaze of study and respect.

He checked his position and set a sea anchor to keep his voyaging craft almost stationary in the current and the wind. He continued to watch the swells until the last and biggest waves of the set had rolled all the way to the north end of the re
ef. Having learned all he needed to know, he turned his attention to the first task that would take him into the heart of the energy at Ka’unua.

He paused and considered his timing and the conditions. The winds from the north blew clouds of spray off the peaks of the swells coming from the south. The rays of the morning sun were shining out of the east at a perfect angle. He smiled with well-earned confidence, dove off the bow, and began swimming west to see the crystal circle of all colors.

The impact zone was quiet except for the foam swirling in eddies of white and turquoise. He heard the call of a bird and was no longer alone. He looked up to see the kindred spirit of the Marulean wayfinders, a wandering albatross, circling on motionless wings.

He swam into the shallow waters until he could stand on the reef. Breathing rhythmically, he riveted his attention on the horizon to the south. He thought of the countless times he had scanned horizons as a surfer, impatient for another thrill, and realized he was now waiting for something of much greater meaning.

He did not wait long. The horizon itself seemed to rise up. The next set of waves was approaching Ka’unua. He began swimming with all the strength he’d built up in anticipation of this moment.

He made it over the first swell before it broke, and reached the crest of the next with seconds to spare. Then he saw what he came for.

The third swell was much, much bigger but he knew where it was going to break and he knew he was in exactly the right place. He became one with the last moments of silence all around him, watching as Ka’unua transformed raw oceanic power into exquisite natural perfection.

The wave began to break. A thousand tons of water arched up and out into mid air, forming a translucent arch high above him. For an instant he was inside a wondrous liquid cathedral. Then gravity and momentum began to change ineffable beauty into deadly force.

One last look and he dove deep.

A massive liquid guillotine slammed down behind him and detonated an explosion. Shockwaves bounced off the coral, but David was ready. With his long arms stretched above his head and his body streamlined for maximum speed, he was propelled out of the impact zone and towards the surface.

He surfaced kicking hard with his arms raised high. He was surrounded by the cloud of spray left hanging as the wave roared on down the reef. The sun was to his left. He looked to his right.

A fantastic prismatic vision was revealed in the cloud of spray. The crystal circle of all colors was about twenty feet from him, a completely round rainbow floating just above the surface of the sea.

His hands reached out as if he could touch the circle’s apex. He opened his arms wide and lowered them slowly tracing the rainbow from top to bottom. When his hands finally touched, he stopped kicking and settled back down into the sea.

He quieted his mind and soul to secure the image in his memory forever. Seconds later the spray began to dissipate in the wind. The vision slowly disappeared until suddenly there was nothing left for him to see.

Now it was time to survive.

The next wave of the set was even bigger and already breaking. David exhaled all the air out of his lungs and dove quickly to the bottom to firmly grasp handholds on the reef an instant before exploding turbulence enveloped him. He released his consciousness and banished panic from his mind while he waited for the maelstrom to subside. Then he rocketed to the surface.

He inhaled three deep breaths, emptied his lungs to reduce his buoyancy, and dove to the bottom. Once more he held on to the reef with all his strength to withstand the energy scouring across the coral. Then he surfaced, inhaled, and dove again, and again and again and again, matching his cycle of survival with the rhythm of the set. Though each wave was successively bigger, he held his ground through all of them by holding on to Ka’unua.

Finally he surfaced and saw nothing to the south but the flat line of the horizon. He smiled, and then began to laugh loudly. But his laughter was not of arrogance. He was full of life’s purest joy, and it was close to a minute before he returned to the world around him.

David swam back to his voyaging craft. He lifted himself up on to the low deck in the stern, water falling off his tan body in warm clear rivulets. He looked to the south and saw another set of swells approaching the impact zone of Ka’unua. He did not watch them break. They were no longer a part of his quest. He went to the bow and pulled up the sea anchor. He stepped to the foremast and raised a small sail. He walked back down the center hull and sat with his hand on the tiller. He brought her around and headed north, staying well clear of the breaking waves, using the unbroken faces of the swells to push him to other end of the reef and the passage through the coral.

He reached the entrance, lowered the sail, and drifted towards the center of the lagoon. The roar of the huge waves breaking around the reef was incessant, but there was an exquisite quiet of protection surrounding him. The wind blew a low song through the rigging of the voyaging craft, and again David heard the cry of the albatross, now circling directly above the center of the lagoon where he would perform his next task.

David ducked into the shelter and moved the sleeping mat and pillow where he had taken his short rests during the voyage. He lifted a small board from the deck and reached down into the hull to retrieve a polished box of wood, its blond and purple grain smoothed from centuries of care. His mentor, Taveka, had given it to him when he began to teach David the history of the fifteen chief navigators of the sea people. While learning about each of the men who had voyaged throughout the Nebula Archipelago back through the centuries, he carved fifteen small objects out of black coral. They were all distinctly different, and after the three years of his apprenticeship the box was now full in anticipation of this day when he would present them to the fifteen souls swimming in the waters below.

He returned to the open deck, sat on the bow of the center hull, and opened the box. He extracted the first of the carvings, closed the box and dove off the bow. The water was crystal-clear and David could see concentric rings of colored coral below, and then around him as he went deeper and deeper. It took him almost twenty seconds to reach the final center of the formation and touch the white sand. There he buried his offering to Taveka’s father.

He began to sense the presence of Taveka’s ancestors all around him. He exhaled a long breath, and suddenly he felt as if he was surrounded by happy children watching bubbles dance to the sky.

With a broad smile on his face, David floated to the surface. He retrieved another carving, angular yet balanced, for Taveka’s grandfather. Again he dove to the white sand. This time he thought he heard laughing comments about the carving from the souls surrounding him. And for the next two hours the banter never ceased as an unmistakable presence of a brotherhood filled his soul while he honored each of Taveka’s ancestors.

Finally, the ancient box was empty save for one last object. It was for the navigator who first ventured out into the Pacific from the coast of South America. The stone carving flowed and curved from bow to stern, replicating a sea-going craft made of bundled reeds, shaped to voyage the oceans as the crescent moon sails the skies. David made his last dive and placed it gently on the white sand. He paused for a second, almost as if he expected to see the black coral craft float away and set sail for a distant shore.

Then he rose from the depths slowly, his heart filled with the gratitude and approval of the navigators as their souls spoke to his.

He surfaced to see the albatross gliding in a wider circle. He swam a short distance to the south until he was above the coral rings that encircled the heart of the lagoon. The coral formation had expanded with a new ring growing outwards during the lifetime of each navigator. He dove, touched the inner ring, and surfaced. He swam around its circumference, diving now and again to touch the coral, until he was back where he started. Over the next hour David repeated the ritual above each of the rings until there were only two left, the ring that had grown during the lifetime of Taveka’s father, and the outer ring of Taveka. This time he dove to find the most sacred object in the tradition of the chief navigators of Marulea, placed there by Taveka’s father at the end of his life.

When he came to the surface, he was wearing a heavy necklace carved from a single piece of aquamarine coral, its links symbolizing the unbroken spirit of the navigators and sea people of Marulea.

David found himself struggling as he swam the last lap above the ring of Taveka. Diving and touching the ring became more and more difficult until he found himself almost completely exhausted. But as he traced the lifetime of his mentor, he saw the beginnings of another ring that would grow during his own lifetime as Taveka’s successor.

Finally he completed the last circle and looked down into the depths at the apex of the ring. There Taveka would soon place the necklace where it would remain until David’s successor would find it a generation from now.

The sun was now low in the west, and as he swam back to his voyaging craft his thoughts ranged back and forth in time. He had seen the crystal circle, brought gifts to the souls of the navigators, traced their rings of coral and retrieved their necklace. He had arrived as a wayfinder. He was departing as the next chief navigator of Marulea.

He lifted himself out of the water and began his preparations for the voyage home. For a moment he had another thought of the future, of a day many years from now, when he would take his final voyage to this very place with the navigator who would succeed him. He looked up at the albatross circling ever higher above him, its effortless flight a graceful reminder of life’s eternal transitions through time in this world and beyond.

Then his body stiffened and his world stopped. Far above the albatross, metal wings began to shine in the golden light of the setting sun.

His heart froze. His mind reverted to logic, his first thought one of assessment. He was near the edge of the Nebula Archipelago and many hundreds of miles from all commercial, military, and cargo transport routes. There was no reason for a plane to be flying anywhere near Ka’unua.

Yes there was. There was a reason, and a jolt of recognition told him exactly what it was. Someone was looking for perfect waves - and had just found them.

His heart convulsed like the sea in an earthquake. A raw bottom of deep and painful emotions was revealed. Then a tsunami filled with the dredged slime of his past slammed into his soul with an unstoppable force.

The selfish and thoughtless aggression of so many surfers, including himself at his worst moments, filled his mind. The nobility of the Marulean navigators was swept away in a tidal wave of black rage. Like the violent cursing locals of so many great surf spots, he began screaming at the intruder.


As the words left his mouth, the metal flashed even more brightly. More obscenities filled the air. Then the wings banked towards the northeast.

The raging screams continued until the plane vanished into the sky. Only then did David Helmares begin to gain control of himself. When his voice finally went silent, he realized the albatross had vanished. No waves were breaking around the reef. All was quiet except for the echoes of his own words.

Then it hit him. The toxic suspicion and fear that had contaminated so many surfing communities around the world had now been brought to this holy place by his outburst.
His heart was overwhelmed by a surge of shame and remorse. The surfer in the plane had done nothing wrong. He was not the man whose actions had now brought hate to the waters of Ka’unua.

The last rays of the sun had long disappeared below the horizon before David Helmares began to compose himself by thinking of Taveka. His mentor had always talked about the importance of recognizing one’s failings, of being honest with every part of one’s self. David now realized the utter truth of those words, knowing he would live to the end of his days with the fact that his own selfishness had stained the most sacred day of his life.


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