< back
Alluvion here and there

   I have loved beaches since I was a child. I go to a beach when Iím happy; it increases my joy.  I go to a beach when Iím sad, angry, worried; it calms me, gives me perspective.  For nine months of the year, I live on Retreat Island, and Retreatís small beach was among the first to receive its gift of tiny perfect pieces of shell.  Diana and I placed them there just after she received the beautiful bits, the remnants of shore creatures long past.  For over a year, I watched them disappear, reappear, change position, float and sink. Sometimes I have thought them gone for good, only to find them winking through the darker and larger bits of clamshell. I know now that they will come and go with the tides, and that as years go by they will change shape and colour, as the clam oyster and mussel shells that they have become integrated with do.  Some day, I will probably pick up a bit of shell, look at it for a long time, and be unable to be sure whether it is part of the Alluvion deposit, or a ďnaturalĒ shell.   But does it matter?  Will it ever matter?  The point of Alluvion is to make us look, to make us appreciate the nature of nature and the nature of beaches.   Retreat Islandís Alluvion has already achieved that.

   I brought some more Alluvion to Maui in November, and we have been distributing Alluvion pieces in beloved places on ďour other islandĒ for almost three months.  Most mornings when Iím on Maui, I walk on Kamaole One beach, otherwise known as Charley Young beach after the pioneer whose family home I still pass every Maui day.  There are rocks at the near edge of the beach, a hundred or more feet from shore, and one of them protrudes from the ground at the angle that fits my back perfectly. ďJillianís back restĒ as itís known by friends and family, was the first place I placed Alluvion. It was the day after George Harrison died, and the newspapers were full of war in Afghanistan, terrorism, trials and tribulations. Iíd filled my pockets with the tiny pieces, and thought I had enough to write ďImagine PeaceĒ around the back of my backrest stone.  But I ran out at IMAG, (Gs take a lot of shell bits) so left it, planning on completing the phrase the next day.  Every piece disappeared overnight. I looked all around, dug up the sand to see if they had been covered somehow, but nothing.  Not a trace.  Since then, Iíve often seen bits of shell turned up by the waves that look like Alluvion. When Iíve managed to grab one Ė and the surf doesnít make that easy, for every wave stirs up sand and makes the sea bed hard to see Ė they have just been bits of shell.  Or could they be Alluvion, smoothed to a different shape by waves, and ridged by the sand?  And if they are Alluvion, how did they get to the waterís edge?  The tides are small here, and the water only comes up to my rock during very occasional strong westerly storms.   No storm had come through on the night the Alluvion went missing. Perhaps one of the campers, some of them homeless people who go from beach to beach on Maui, moved them to place a tent.  Their disappearance will probably remain one of lifeís mysteries to me.  Before I leave, I will try again, perhaps more stealthily Ė maybe Iíll bury the Alluvion in the sand beneath my seat.

   Robin, Westley, Karolle and I also placed Alluvion near Keanaio, a beautiful beach oasis in the lava fields beyond La Perousse Bay. There are old houses nearby, a heiau (a platform where native Hawaiians performed religious ceremonies). A short distance away, there is a fishing shrine that Robin and Wes visited on winter Solstice.  Robin had noticed last year that the shrine seemed to be lined up with the south end of Kahaolawee.  Kahaolawee is the smaller island that lies to the west of Maui, once populated by native Hawaiians. The US armed forces took it over during World War two and used it for bombing practise for more than half a century. It was returned to the Native Hawaiians in 1998, after long years of protests and discussions. Itís being revitalized, slowly; the first step is cleaning up the mines and armaments that litter it. The recent rains are doing their part; we can see a bit of green now, when we look at the island through binoculars. 

Thereís now some Alluvion on another heiau, near Wailuku. Thereís no beach there now, but there once was one nearby.  Before the road into Kahalui was built, the Iao River ran from the West Maui mountains to Kahalui Harbour.  Above that harbour, there was a ceremonial ground and a lookout place.  You can see a long distance from there Ė down to Hana, back over the West Maui Mountains, up the Iao Valley.  Warriors used to watch for canoes bringing enemies from other islands from there, and priests and royalty staged ceremonies on the heiau.  Itís still in use Ė Iíve seen offerings placed there.  And I made my own Ė a cross of Alluvion. It was not intended to be a Christian cross, but rather a cross signifying the intersection of cultures and peoples.  Iíll go back sometime next year, and see if it has been disturbed. Will it be gone, or altered?  Will there be more offerings beside it?

                                                                                                 Jillian Ridington