The shore of the island was a slow slope that acted as a social avenue for centuries. The villagers spent many hours a day in the waters, playing, working, socializing, hunting in the clear-blue ocean, their footsteps quickly disappearing as the bright white sand moved around them.
Sail-boats were the lifeline of the village, the waters that carried them out to sea had earlier flowed through the veins of the island, from the snow-covered peaks. The villagers understood the complex water cycle, saw that the water flowing down the mountains and through their delta and out to sea was a force that had kept their village alive through the ages.
The elder of the village taught the young men, he showed and instructed as was done in his own teenage years. The men chopped bits of wood out of a long tree trunk. The trunk had been shaped into a slender angled shape, and now more chunks of it would be ripped away, as it was done for the longest time. The canoe was taking shape at the water’s edge.
The elder walked around and inspected the work, directed his unmotivated crew. He was the last of the builders, these were boys and young men who built the canoe out of tradition, not out of desire. The elder had prayed for students, he received those who had no thirst for learning.
Over the centuries the village had produced a fleet of ships that sailed to other islands, to other villages, brought back trade and information. A fleet that spanned time, saw the villages expand and their populations double, time and again. The fleet saw hundreds of thousands of men and women be born, grow up in and around it, and die. The stories that those ships would tell, if only they could.
The canoe that the elder and the young men are carving will be the last of that great fleet.
Outsiders came to the shore for the first time when the elder was a child. He remembers and talks about that day whenever anyone asks him. Nobody asks, not anymore.
The elder’s father once explained the world to him: “Look out over the sea, past the islands, all that water, unbounded. You sail too far from shore, lose your way, find strange shores from your worst nightmares. You fall into the dream, you never wake up.”
Strange men showed up in strange ships. They did not speak the language, but brought with them one who did. It was a man from an island nearby. He explained that these were nightmares who sailed from far-away shores, and they were bringing the rest of the nightmares with them. The elder did not understand.
The strange ships returned every so often. They brought with them strange textiles, small fires, ships of all shapes and sizes made from some clear-skinned trees. Some of the villagers went with the ships. Few returned.