The whole concept of layers of organisms got off to a bad start.
Entomologists, back in the 1940's developed the "super-organism" concept to explain how termites and ants and other social insects coordinated their construction projects. But other biologists, and finally the entomologists themselves, put the idea away because they didn't know what to do with it, and because everyone immediately saw the parallels between and super-organisms and human civilization.
The more I work with the idea of communications forming layered associations, the more the concepts lace together. Moirae's tangled web of threads begin to look reasonable and lovely to me. I can't say it too well, yet, but the image is very strong and clear in my mind now. Freddy and I amble along the beach and find a delightful collection of driftwood.
I find, if I do my time lapse meditation technique, the images get much clearer. We humans are so provincial in our time aspect, completely locked in to viewing our world as it changes at one 25th of a second.
By getting my mind into other time intervals it all becomes so different.... I lie back on the smooth white texture of the driftwood log, relax, allow my mind to experience all of my senses, move deeper into awareness of the world around me.... The sound of the surf, the smell of the sea, the soft wind blowing through the trees washes over me...
Sparkling colors of the lagoon contrast vividly with the dark ominous squall line sweeping the southeast horizon. An electric beauty colors the air, surrounding everything with a crisp border. Tropical plants glisten golden-green as they guard the white beach. The colony of frigate birds consider the approaching squall and respond in a fantastic tornado of soaring wings.
Waves assault the ramparts of the windward reef in slow motion catastrophe and capsize into snowy foam swirling through the coral canyons.
The atoll stirs with excitement at the coming storm. Trochus shells nudge deeper into the coral, nestling under ledges, their powerful foot anchoring them against the increasing surge. Gorgonians, short and scrubby near the seaward surf zone, strain back and forth, wafting dizzily with the waves. Coral polyps forming the massive flattened coral heads of the outer reef edge are already pulled in, expelling their internal water, flattened to reduce abrasion from sand particles. Fish move nervously, stay close to the reef. Some abandon their reef-top haunts and form schools of multi-species gliding close formation into deeper water, ever mindful they are temporary trespassers in deeper fish realms. Their caution excites those who live down there.
I feel the texture of the sun bleached wood, emerging from the vision to check the progress of the approaching squall.
We have time before the storm gets here. I stare at the beach, the green vegetation, the soaring birds, the lagoon, the reef, the approaching blackness, the cascading waves, trying to see beyond the individual beings to the delicate web of interacting behavior of the whole ecosystem. I close my eyes and visualize the history of the island, a scenario of its birth and growth becomes vivid in my mind.
Eons ago, when the earth was hot and volcanos rose from the depths, the Australian crustal plate moved north and collided with the fringes of the Asian crustal plate. The edge of the plate uplifted in a ring of fire to become the islands of Papua New Guinea, the Louisiades, the Solomons and Vanuatu. On the southern edge of this plate, just east of the massive volcanos of Papua New Guinea, the sea floor uplifted to form a long platform of basalt and sediment, speckled with small volcanos.
On one small part of this platform was an irregularity; perhaps a small bubble of basalt. The sea rose and fell with the ice ages and, some 16,000 years ago this place was a rolling plain with hills and valleys. The sea was 100 meters lower than it is now. As the ice caps melted, the sea rose and covered the planes and valleys and finally the small hills. Corals began to grow in the shallower areas, building upward as the sea continued to rise, forming a thick calcium carbonate skeleton of reef on the hill-top of the Louisiade plain.
In my mind I see the growth of the corals in time-lapse; a thicket of Acropora blossoms and expands like a flickering crystal fire.
A giant yellow coral head balloons into life on the white flats and is immediately surrounded with a host of smaller corals budding next to it, gradually changing the sandy area into a rounded oblong patch reef. This reef slowly converts into a ridge and later blends with the whole structure of living corals as they grow, die and move, generation after generation, from one area to the next.
Stony corals emerge miraculously from the clear sea water, like flowers erupting from the soil. Their skeletons build the reef framework and the skeletons of all the other reef creatures fill it in. It is cemented together by calcareous algae.
The very island I lie dreaming on comes alive; eroding on its windward side, building on the leeward side, slowly advancing from sea to lagoon in a great slipping, sliding dance of life - a celebration of sunlight and sea. The island and its reefs is a graceful and purposeful architecture. Life above and below the water dances in an interconnected zone of behavioral counterpoint. Birds range far out to sea in search of food and beneath the sea plankton-feeding fish form huge vibrating nets hovering over the coral while predatory fish make sinuous tunnels far into the clear sea. Tentacled arms of filter feeders sweep the water - all gathering food for the megabeast.
The glittering array of life moves atop a massive skeleton, secreted by coral and algae working in concert. The whole is a biological construct, the complicated shape, its passes, circular lagoon, wave-destroying buttresses, islands, are the end product of the flickering behavioral network between all the reef and island creatures responding to ancestral behavior patterns encoded in their DNA. The living cells forming the corals, fish, lobsters, birds, algae, all take part in the on-going biological symphony. They come and go as individual beings. Only two things remain from their passing, the skeleton and the ancestral memories; the behavior patterns and their result.
Freddy calls me and I open my eyes. "Yow!" I shout. The storm is almost on top of us. We run back to the dinghy, fire up the outboard, and roar out to the Moira. Just as we arrive, rain washes over the lagoon and engulfs us. The wind shrieks and Moira dances on the anchor chain. Rain crashes down and a bright bolt of lightning flashes a soul rattling boom of thunder. Walter cat crouches on the deck inside Moira, his tail immense with fear.