The moon glittered on the rippling surface of the black water.
Bobbing in his canoe alone on the endless sea was a young man.
Tuwok the fisherman was clad only in khaki cargo shorts and a tie- dyed bandana around his forehead to hold back his blunt cut, medium-length hair. Suddenly Tuwok dove out of the canoe, springing upwards and making contact with the water in one fluid motion. He broke into the water in a perfect arc, leaving only the rocking of the canoe as visual testimony that he had ever been there. Erupting out of the water and grinning, he triumphantly brandished the fish he had caught with his bare hands. Grasping the edge of the rough-hewn canoe with one hand, he heaved the fish into the bottom of the canoe.
Tuwok paused, letting his slender body go limp in the warm water while laying his head back to look at the stars. So many, so bright. Airplanes blinked overhead occasionally, but his part of the South Pacific wasn’t heavy with air traffic. Most fascinating to him was watching the International Space Station fly over his tiny island. A bright light would appear in the west, steadily and soundlessly glide its way over to the east and then suddenly disappear from his view. It was a thrill every time to think that this man-made object in which people could live for months at a time was flying over his head. Tuwok tried to imagine what it would be like, the cramped conditions, being with the same people in the same tiny capsule for days on end, but with having the incredible opportunity to glance out a porthole and be transfixed by space and the breathtaking views of the Earth below.
When Tuwok was a student in the small K-12 school on the island, his favorite subject had been science. He had excelled in that area, winning the science fair year after year. He sometimes wondered if he should try to go to college.
Once, he had seen a fountain on another island that was a huge globe floating in water, continents and oceans clearly illustrated, the water burbling up from below turning the globe slowly on its axis.
Climbing upon a wall nearby, he had watched the seven familiar continents turn slowly below him. Was that what it was like for the astronauts?
Tuwok’s knowledge of current events was limited to infrequent broadcasts of the BBC, or conversations overheard among the tourists who brought their laptops and accessed WIFI at the local hotel bar. He loved to hang out in the bar helping his friend Fain the bartender by collecting glasses and clearing off tables, listening to the international conversations going on around him. Overhead, the large blades of the fan looked like burnished banana leaves, spinning slowly. Tourists were mostly yacht owners, making their way from island to island through the South Pacific. They loved to stop here, replenish supplies, touch base with people in the boating network, and spend some time on shore doing maintenance or laundry.
The local children were both fascinated and shy around the strangers. A gaggle of little brown kids hung around in the sand just outside the bar, racing back and forth to the water, shouting and laughing, frequently peering in the doors and open walls.
Tuwok found no awkwardness in the juxtaposition of the 21st century and his ancient culture. He felt just as comfortable chanting with his uncles in ceremonies with origins from prehistoric times as he did crowding around a laptop watching a Youtube video with friends. He loved his remote island home, but was open to the possibility of living somewhere else if opportunity presented.
Remaining curious and aware of all influences around him, Tuwok loved nature and the science that helped explain some of its phenomenon. His inner spiritual journeys broadened his world view because he knew that observation and science simply couldn’t explain all things.
The doctors at the clinic had posted schedules of the ISS flyovers, so Tuwok memorized the times for the nights of and near the full moon, when he knew he would be out fishing. He considered it a marvel that such technology existed to so precisely track the movements of something so far away. Much better use of technology than building military weaponry or noisy machines.
To be able to fly above the Earth and obtain that marvelous perspective of the planet as a blue, white and green ball floating in space – ahhhhh – how he would love to see that for himself. But he also loved his special view, head back flat, ears covered with the calm water so any sounds from shore were muffled, dots of starlight starting at the water level on either side, culminating in the star-studded dome overhead.
He shook himself free from the water’s cradling grasp and gracefully pulled himself back into the canoe. Poised to reenter the water, he glanced skyward one more time before returning to his task. Silently thanking the Great Spirit for the many blessings in his life, he felt more spiritually attuned after taking time to honor the night sky. It gave him a feeling of kinship with beings everywhere on this planet in space. Looking upward and seeing the vastness of the endless stars in the galaxy, it represented for him the unlimited potential for positive human advancement on Earth. The moon glittered on the water, and once again, he was gone.