Sunday, May 9, 2010

Independent Time Ends in Malta

My independent time ended on a little rock in the Mediterranean. The islands of Malta and Gozo had been calling since the beginning of the pilgrimage with strange stories of Calypso and the Sirens, incredible histories of ancient human culture, and a band of loved ones stationed there, working on a boat-building vision that I love. Knowing that my brother Sam and other good friends would be joining the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation's (PCRF) quest to resurrect a 100-year-old sailing vessel ("Mir") was the beginning of Malta's calling hile at Tamera, visiting the ancient stones at Evora, learning about the Neolithic cultures which so influenced their philosophies, Malta came calling again. My curiosity about these old cultures and ways (likely ancestors of mine) was peaked. The call to visit these strange and unlikely islands came more and more, so just after the holidays Laura and I flew to London where we spent a jet-lagged delirious night before heading to Malta to begin our exploration of the place and our work volunteering with the crew of PCRF.

The Planetary Coral Reef Foundation and Beyond Boundaries are both projects of the Biosphere Foundation, and I knew that this meeting in Malta was neither the beginning or the end of the collaboration. I have spoken about the Biosphere Foundation earlier in this blog, but for a good look at what they are up to now (some of which BB was a part of -- like the launch of the Indonesia projects), see their new website:

All aboard... This is what walking on to Mir looked like when I was in Malta in December, and what you see here looks MUCH better than what it had looked like before. This old boat had to be brought onto dry dock and completely overhauled. The work that this crew has done to bring her back to life has been truly grueling and incredible. To see more of what Mir's journey has been like, and to have a generally great time reading a blog written by someone who is much more entertaining than I am, go to my brother Sammy's blog about his time with Mir and Malta at: (seriously, this blog is worth reading -- it's great). Also, see: which is another blog my brother has been keeping for PCRF full of lots of news on this project).

The picture to the right was sent by my brother a few weeks ago. It gives an idea of the transformation that's taken place. If all goes well, the Mir crew plans to set sail in the next few weeks for their maiden voyage to Indonesia, to begin Mir's new life as a vessel dedicated to the study and protection of the planet's vital and sensitive coral reef habitats.

The PCRF crew had been working long days for months prior to our arrival. Laura and I jumped in as soon as our jet-lag would allow us and began working too.

There were many things happening all at the same time. Welding, wiring, engineering, carpentry, dismantling, rebuilding, cleaning, organizing, visioning, completing the masts and raising them, mending and sanding the cap rail, and so much more was done during our time there. Including a new years eve party on the boat in the shipyard.

Being non-professional at anything associated with carpentry or boat-building, Laura and I were set to the task of mending and sanding the boats cap rail, as well as sanding off all the old varnish from the wood on the cabin. Simple, menial work -- yes, but still, quite a task! The costume you see me in here is pretty much what I wore day-in and day-out while at the shipyard... hands tingling from the vibrations of the electric sanders. Our task didn't require specific skill, but it did need to be done, and was incredibly time consuming. What we were able to offer allowed others on the crew to tend to more technical matters.

Working, traveling, and spending this part of the BB journey with Laura was a gift. And in addition, to be with my brother, along with another BB pilgrim (Shay), and many friends including the dear and wonderful PCRF crew, added all the more to a significant weaving of 'home' into this journey. (Above is Laura, Clarence, and Sammy on a sunny day at the shipyard).

The time in Malta was a perfect combination of service to a great project, time to explore the place, be with loved-ones, and prepare to re-join the BB team for the final phase of the journey. (We were not on nearly as demanding a schedule as the rest of the Mir team was)

With that exploration time we were able to visit some of the old stones and ancient structures of past human civilizations (some of the oldest in the world -- if not the oldest). There was a palpable feeling being with the rocks, still standing after all this time. Since it's impossible to really know why they built what they did, we took to making our own interpretations, which invariably seemed to come around to very simple and beautiful things: how to live in an extreme climate, how to organize community space, where to store food, where to have rituals... it was so easy at times to imagine them, living peacefully on the cliffs above the sea.

One of the highlights of the whole journey for me was towards the end of out time when we took a trip to the smaller of the islands, Gozo. It was a moment of many worlds weaving together for me when I found myself on there for a weekend away from the boat with my sweetie, my brother, and some great friends, old and new. Friends, family and lovers! One day in particular was an incredibly windy in Gozo and we took an amazing walk... wild and exciting with incredible seas and wind -- one to remember.

Sammy and Zeya on the shores of Gozo

The Azure Window (with Laura walking across the top -- don't get blown off!)

Xlendi Bay, Gozo

By mid-January I was preparing to say goodbye. Laura (who had decided to extend her stay to work further as a crew member on Mir) and my brother drove me to the airport on a dreary Maltese morning. Sad to be saying goodbye yet again, I boarded a flight to London, where I met 4 other members of the BB team (each of them a sight for soar eyes). We spent a night together before flying to Chennai, India the next morning.