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The Toki Ponist on the Mountain
Chapter 7: Rope

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October 2020

Kalisa rested her back against the mast of her raft. There was not much wind, but there was a current, for sure. And her ship was moving. But for the rest, being here was madness. Instead of running around and exploring, she drifted aimlessly on this prison of wood. Instead of chatting and teasing anyone in her path, she was stuck talking to herself. She had imagined being better company.

People came back to the island after years of being away. She had seen it with her own eyes. The procedure as explained to her many times by father was simple enough. In between the season of storms and stagnation was a brief window of a few weeks. If you entered the water on a raft during those days and paddled far enough offshore, there would be a current that would take you to new land within a few days. Kalisa took it as truth but here, now, on the raft alone, she could not help but doubt the children’s tale. What if she left too early or too late? What if the current changed for to one reason or another? What if she fell asleep and missed the unknown land. She’d be lost.

Kalisa sighed. Just before she had left, Sapa had taught her a way to calm down. She decided to try it out, if she could only remember how to do it. It had been early in the morning of her departure.

“Life is not only about growing up and growing wiser. It is also about making the universe grow.”

“The universe is growing?” Kalisa had asked.

“Yea, no,” Sapa had sighed. “Making it better, I mean. You can make the island better by taking care of the plants, but that is like taking a left turn with only the right side of your body.”

Kalisa had cocked her head to the side.

“We must take other parts into account,” Sapa had said. “kiwen, ko, telo, kon, ala, remember? The five states of matter.”

“You have sijelo kiwen and sijelo ko“, he had jokingly poked his stick into Kalisa’s buttocks. “But there are also the sijelo sewi, sijelo kon and sijelo ala, and they all need to grow.”

“What are we going to do again?” Kalisa had said.

Sapa had looked around as if to see if they were being watched. “It will help you calm down,” Sapa had said. “Just follow my lead.”

He had gently pushed Kalisa’s shoulder, so she’d lie down on the sand.

“Step 1, nanpa wan, is breathing to calm down into the simple mood. o pilin pona. o kon insa, o weka kon, o kon insa, o weka kon. o pilin pona.

After ten minutes of this breathing exercise had followed nanpa tu. Sapa drew the sitelen suwi of suno in the sand. “o lukin e sitelen ni.“, concentrate and look at the drawing he had said.

They stared in silence at the drawing until their eyes had become watery. The wind had played with the hair of both Sapa and Kalisa, but they had shown no reaction to that. There had only been the drawing.

nanpa mute. Step three. o pini e oko. taso o lukin e sitelen. Close your eyes, but see the drawing. You must see what is there but without using your eyes.”

After a few minutes, Kalisa saw both the sandy outlines of the word suno as well as an intense lack of anything. “Who is doing the seeing?” Kalisa had wondered. She had seen fear float by but was unable to feel it.

pona, jan Kalisa“, Sapa had reassured her as he had noticed the changes in Kalisa. He had appeared to be holding his breath and had laid his hands on top of Kalisa’s.

nanpa pini, the last step. o lukin e linja. o kama jo e linja kepeken luka. Visualize a cord in front of you and try to grab it with your hand.”

Kalisa immediately saw a twisted rope floating between feelings and sand drawings. In her mind, she had raised her hand to catch it. But Kalisa’s hands had remained firmly rested on her thighs, held in place by Sapa. She had pulled harder on the cord. It had snapped. Kalisa had opened her eyes, immediately aware of here and now. Then she breathed in, coughed and yelled: “pakala!

She had remembered Sapa smiling and reassuring Kalisa with the phrase “jan li lon la jan li tawa ala.“, a man who is already there has not traveled. “You try again, sike suno poka, tomorrow.”

With this last piece of advice still in Kalisa’s mind, she became aware again of the vast emptiness of the ocean. She was not there yet, that much was certain. She tried to sit down and do the exercise according to the steps Sapa taught her. But the burning sun, her parched throat, the anxieties of being left here to die made it impossible to get even to nanpa tu.

Something was missing in her memory. An itch replaced the mental cavity. Also, it seemed much easier when Sapa was near. Kalisa took water from her reservoir. There was plenty left still. Enough for at least another three days. Then she started fiddling with the cloth attached to the central mast until it cast a bit of shade to sit in.

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