An Old Tree, Self, and Narrow Streets

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 20 Mar 2014 11:30
Alongside Narao
Wind: North west F5 fresh breeze
Weather: overcast, occasional showers, cool

Naroa is a pretty little town. It has two harbours, the main one where Sylph is berthed serves the ferries, and the smaller one to the south is for the small fishing fleet. Apparently a large purse seine fleet once operated out of the major harbour but the fleet no longer exists due to depleted fish stocks. If you look at the way purse seiners operate, with a huge net they trail and draw in a circle to capture a whole school of fish in one hit, it is no surprise that the fish stocks have plummeted and made them uneconomical.

Like the harbours, the town is divided into two, separated by a steep spur of the surrounding hills. The two halves are connected by a tunnel that runs through the spur, and what looks to be more recent, a bridge runs around its seaward side. There is only a small section of flat ground on either side of the hill, and the township and many of its houses are therefore built on the surrounding slopes. The streets are narrow and as one climbs up amongst the houses, roads become impossible, so one enters a maze of narrow paths and stairways. It must keep the residents in pretty good shape just going about their daily fare.

Despite the small land area in which houses and shops can be built, quite a bit of land is devoted to gardens and vegetable patches. Included in the vegetable kingdom, and a main attraction of the town, is an old tree that is also the gateway to a temple, its bifurcated trunk, or maybe it is its roots, forming an archway over a path that leads to the temple's entrance. As I passed by, an old man passing by stopped and bowed in the general direction of the tree and temple before continuing on his way. I wondered whether he was bowing to the temple or the tree, and I wondered what was the relationship between the temple and the tree. Which came first? I expect the tree, and, like many religious sites, the temple's location was chosen because something about the landscape seemed sacred, in this instance the old tree. So whatever the old man was bowing to, it undoubtedly led to the tree. I was tempted to bow to the tree myself, but I was in a bit of a bad mood this morning, and did not feel inclined to bow to anyone or anything.

The reason for my bad mood was the lack of connection to the 'www'. Right next to the temple and tree is the town's library. Now a municipal library I have generally found to be a pretty good place to try when looking for an internet connection. The library did indeed have a computer with a connection to the outside world, but its internet access was so heavily filtered as to be next to useless. I was trying to access the Macquarie University's website, and this seemed an entirely appropriate portal for a library anywhere in the world to have access to. But it was not to be. I told myself, “Self, this is not the librarian's problem, do not take your frustration out on her, especially as she does not understand a word that you are likely to utter!” “Yes,” Self responded, “You are quite right.” I, and my Self, left, and left the library and its guardian in peace, but now, upon reflection, I am sad that I did not bow to the old tree outside the library's portal, even if the library's portal did not lead me to where I wanted to go.

You may say that a rough and tumble old sailor should not worry about being connected, but I suspect we single handed old sailors are, by and large, not such a rough and tumble crowd. Indeed perhaps the opposite. The rough and tumble world is too rough and tumble for the likes of us, so we ship aboard our self-sufficient craft and try and make the most of things, protecting our Selves against the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune as best we can. I am reminded of a single handed sailing friend, Issie, who is now lost, and I suspect his sanity went before him, due to a lack of a connection.. Such are the challenges of spending much time alone. It is one's own mind which is the greatest threat, and it is the tool one must use to overcome itself. The best defence I have found is to stay busy, and not to dwell on disappointment.

This afternoon I used my gifted trolley to cart forty litres of diesel, in two trips, from a service station nearby to Sylph. I also had a long overdue haircut and did some laundry. Late this afternoon I climbed up the spur which separates the two parts of the town, up to the public bath house. I do not think it is an onsen as such, as I am pretty sure the water is not of geothermal origins. Nonetheless, the location is good. One can sit in the large steaming hot tub and look out over the harbour and the surrounding countryside through the big glass window, though admittedly, like life, it is a bit foggy.

All is well.