Sunday, July 3, 2011

"The Most Beautiful Places On Earth."

Bora Bora . . .
Where it takes a village to raise a child.

"The most beautiful place on earth."

Have you heard that old aphorism: No one ever complained from their death bed: "I regret not spending more time at the office." When my last moments are at hand, I'd like to be able to tell my grandchildren and their children, the important things I've learned along the way.
First, make your LIFE LIST. While you do, let me tell you a story.

In 1960, John Goddard, a widely acclaimed world explorer, presented his Amazon Adventure documentary at my junior high school. Alone, he’d taken a long canoe down the length of the Amazon River. He told us a story of how he was asleep in his anchored long boat one night when attacked by a giant Amazon anaconda. Wrapped in the grip of this predator, only one arm free, he grabbed a machete and hacked at his nemesis until he lost consciousness. Still wrapped in giant Anaconda coils, he awakened hours later to find dead his attacker.
Follow this link to his website.

Coming down from the stage when the film ended, he stood two rows before me speaking softly.
His last words: “Make a list of all the things you want to do during your lifetime, then set about doing them.”

Inspired by his philosophy and film, I began work on my list, which I later divided into two phases: the things that required full mobility like climbing Kilimanjaro, or skiing the Alps and those that I could save for later in life when travel becomes more difficult, like wandering the galleries of the Louvre to visit Venus de Milo or wondering about the mind of Michaelangelo before his 17 foot tall marble masterpiece David at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, or walking Japanese village streets ‘neath cherry trees heavy and pregnant in full blossom.

An excellent plan had I.
Now, starting phase two, I’ve gone on my first cruise, and am looking forward to the Colosso di Rodi (the Colossus of Rhodes), in Greece and treasures closer to home like Off Broadway in New York City. I’ve always wanted a romantic trip to Trevi Fountain from the 1954 movie Three Coins in the Fountain. I’d love to have someone I treasure, to share the romance of Trevi, perhaps then, on to Paris.

So many things to do in a lifetime, so many ways to define ourselves.
Though no one previously suggested placing: “have grandchildren” on my LIFE LIST, I certainly do now that I have two. It is a remarkable experience.

Family is good place to start.
My grown children Leandra, and Jason, have come to possess such remarkable qualities. I never imagined I'd admire them so.

Lea has also brought two breath taking treasures into my life: Samantha, first grandchild and Cameron, first grandson. Since I was "the first grandchild", I’ve come to understand why my grandparents were so loving, kind and tender with me. There was never a moment in my childhood that lacked for affection.
There was always a lap and a warm and genuine embrace waiting for me. I felt …
unconditional love and it has shaped the person I am today and the man I’ll come to be in the future.

Along the way, I've included stops along my LIFE'S LIST, and I encourage each of you to stop what you are doing by listing five things to start your LIFE LIST.

Here's one from mine . . .

Watching a gorgeous golden, glittering on South Pacific water-setting sun,
a group of extremely well traveled American’s were having dinner with me
on the little Fijian island: Malolo lai lai.

We were there to study coral growth after a hurricane, the year before,
had scrubbed away the surrounding coral reef.
That evening's dinner talk settled into a discussion about the most beautiful places in the world. Being so young, I jotted down a few quick notes.

"Bora Bora is the most beautiful place on Earth." said one very well heeled traveler.
"Hong Kong harbor at night." added another,
and on into the twilight did they share their stories.

Bora Bora went to the top of my Lifetime List.
And I agree
it was my experience
of the most beautiful place on earth,
but what made it an extra ordinary experience . . .
was it's incomparably gentle people.

From Papaete, most visitors take a small plane to Bora Bora,
Being that Tahiti is one of the most expensive places to visit
and that I had only a humble teacher's income,
I discovered a local freighter that cut a route between Papaete, Huahine, Taha'a, Raiatea, and Bora Bora. "Take a grass woven beach mat." I was advised.

Of the three freighters, take the "Hawaiki Nui”, the best, by a long shot but not a honeymoon voyage.

That overnight freighter trip introduced me to the wonderful people of Bora Bora who were returning home after their all island dance competition in Papaete.

Watching the sun set,
and twilight paint the sky,
we prepared for the evening as the local people
sang softly in the evening breeze. . . . . .

It takes a Village.
Each island carries to this annual competition it’s children’s dance groups, adult dancers, and musicians, and on that South Pacific dreamy night, a few musicians strummed their instruments while a soft chorus of voices floated across the deck.
Listening, relaxing with each resonant note, I watched a three year old boy climb into his mother’s, and later his father’s lap.
Such a charming and handsome lad, I noticed how he was warmly embraced as he continued to gather the affection of so many adults that I began to wonder, which one’s were his actual parents.
And there
was I struck by the epiphany:
Here, in Tahiti, in Bora Bora,
it takes a village to raise a child.
I see it now, that little boy felt that each of those adults loved him,
cared for him.
That each was a parent to him.
Therein lies the magic,
the beauty of Bora Bora.

Over the communications loud speaker, our Captain notified tourists:
“For those interested, we’ll be sailing into Bora Bora’s lagoon at sunrise:
an experience well worth the early hour."

Under a breathless canopy of a South Pacific Starry Starry Night,
songs and faint laughter floated on a cool breeze, families began unrolling grass mats onto the expansive steel deck. I unrolled my mat and gazed up at the Southern Cross. A family from Bora Bora quietly moved in next to me.
A southern sky shooting star, was the last thing I remember before falling asleep.
I awakened just after 5 am wanting to be on the bow when we sailed into Bora Bora.
From the grass mat of the family next to me, a four year old, in his sleep had drifted on to my mat and was warmly snuggled in by my side. I was forever charmed by the gentleness, authenticity and tenderness of these people.
I'd become part of the village it takes to raise a child.
Moving ever so quietly, and oh so slowly, I rose from the sleeping child on my mat and made way to the bow under early morning light.

Off to the distant eastern horizon lay Bora Bora emergent from the night, eager for the dawn.

The captain from his pilot house
and I on the bow
expertly piloted his lumbering freighter into Bora Bora's fringing barrier reef's winding channels. At his first slow turn starboard, a stunning American expatriate quitely joined me on the bow, her hair lifted softly by cool morning's breeze. She felt like a beautiful but lost actress who'd run away from Hollywood's madness.

But I could not take my eyes long from
the 17 shades of breathtaking lagoon blue as we plied reef's waters,
bow waves lapping below
and made way for landing.

Oh my God,
it's true
the old sailor's myth
"the gates of heaven
'b lost in the South Pacific."

Heavenly waters,
heavenly island,
and loving
gentle people.
Paradise found.

Below, is a video clip link that includes scenes from Tahiti and French Polynesia.

No one ever complained from their death bed: "I regret not spending more time at the office."

Ah. Remembering my 2006 visit to the Great Buddha in Nara Japan . .

And for the future:  Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls)

Sculpt in White Carrara Marble

Kyoto, Capital for 1,000 Years