from torrential rains would increase, building up silt in the coral reefs
and preventing recharge of subterranean aquifers, which in turn would
cause springs to dry up. Indigenous plants of unknown pharmaceutical
promise would disappear forever, as would species of animals supported
by the island’s forests.” It’s a familiar story in these islands, in the world.
On New Caledonia, in a shrunken forest, we heard the distant ringing of
crow honeyeaters, big glossy black birds with orange facial wattles. We
searched for hours, but they wouldn’t show themselves. A recent survey
found only nineteen honeyeaters left on the island, their only home.
At lunchtime a crowd is milling around the lobby. A Samoan film
crew is filming a New Zealand crew making a documentary about
Dave’s son, Ventry Parker—Poetik to his fans—a rising hip-hop star
coming home to his roots. Dave, his mane now orange, is being interviewed about his influence on Ventry. Dave’s a celebrity, the MC at the
welcome-home celebration when Dwayne Johnson, the Rock, Samoa’s
favorite son, returned to his birthplace. I catch snatches of the interview.
Dave’s proud of his son; he encouraged Ventry to play music, but he can’t
take credit. Hip-hop, rap, that’s not his thing. He’s an old-school guy, a
crooner. Mary thinks that Dave sounds brusque on the phone, but that’s
just his way, matter-of-fact. Malama wouldn’t marry a coldhearted man.
After lunch I spot a flying fox heading straight toward the balcony.
Here’s my chance. I pull out my smart phone, then realize it’s a black
drone cruising over the forest. Below me, on another balcony, Ventry
stands tall with his head back, eyes closed, and long tattooed arms outstretched to embrace the trees, the bats, his childhood, all of Samoa. The
drone, with a camera, hovers above him. Behind him stands his crew,
tattoos winding across torsos, intricate designs, swirling or spear-like, a
flying fox on one calf. In the old days, tattooing was a rite of passage, the
needle-shy derided as “tattoo cowards,” a disgrace to their families. Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, bathing with
Samoans on a beach, felt naked with their
“plain white legs.” I try to get some photos, but my “smart” phone seems to think
I want to take selfies. Why would I want
In the canopy, many-colored fruit
doves perch amid snoozing flying foxes.
I gaze out to sea. On our last full day,
Adam hired a fishing boat to take us out