The Sleeping Giant

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The Island of Andros is known as the Sleeping Giant, by Rosi Birch

Only the Eastern coast is habitable, lying between the reef and the vast stretches of low and watery land to the West, where no man has walked, where arms of water reach in from the sea and curl across the earth in labyrinthine forms, misty at dawn and flaming with the heaven’s reflections at sundown, deepening with mystery with the sudden dusk, dark and primal knowing through the clear nights with the moon’s arc shining on its broken and watery face.

The limestone rock plunges 17,000 feet beneath us, with huge caves in its depths, some still with water in them, some with stalagmites and stalactites in them, silently telling the story of the invisible movement of the growth of the earth.

The limestone face of the island is covered with an organism that has not changed its structure in three billion years, lying in various dormant and active stages, performing, still and now, its original function which has made earth habitable to man; the production of oxygen. This blue-green algae appears dead, crusty like long fallen leaves where it lies on the rock, dormant. And then it lies rich and ripe in the watery hollows between the rocks and moves and bubbles with the release of oxygen.

All across the face of the island the rock catches and holds fresh rain water like a lens, in some places as deep as 140 feet where it meets with the salt water below it.

Wild boar, the color of rust and the size of a pony, with long hair and trumpet like snout, range the interior, their ribbon tracks weaving across fifty miles, circling the water holes and disappearing into the dark patches of pine forest.

The circadian clock moves the land crabs from their shallow holes in the rock in the interior for their annual odyssey to the sea to give birth. It is as if the earth itself moves with their numbers, rustling in the undergrowth like the sighing of the wind as they struggle to the sea.

Just inland, all along the eastern coast, lies the mangrove swash, offering another face of the riches and mystery of the island. The mangrove swash is the nursery for the great reef offshore, pulsing with microscopic life, tiny mud creatures building nutrients, medusa like jelly fish throbbing along as the tide washes in and out at the mouth and swirls through the roots of the mangrove and pulls seaward again, exchanging new life with the sea with each tide.

The mangrove offers sanctuary for the birds which flourish in this space where land and sea meet. Tiny sea birds skim the surface, darting in and out, calling in their high voice. Elegant heron appear, magically, in their majestic flight from one hidden place to another, or stand serene and aloof absorbing the mysteries of life in this ancient place of birth.

Seaward, to the East, is the Andros Barrier Reef, the third largest barrier reef in the world, guarding 140 miles of the coast of Andros, forming both the lagoon within and the awesome underwater mountain range without. The reef plunges with spectacular suddenness, Over the Wall, past an ancient beach at 185 feet and down down down to 6000 feet. The deep, deep blue beyond the reef tells of this great depth, where large sea creatures glide up the face of the Wall to meet the long fingers of sunlight, like a starburst reaching down, mystery touching mystery.

Seaward, to the West, is the Grand Bahama bank, one of the shallowest places in the earth’s oceans. The white sand, pure, untouched by so much as a single blade of seagrass, shines up through the clear aqua water, the clouds above reflecting a gentle green. The shallow sea stretches beyond the eye’s reach, one color of turquoise, shallow and silent, for 100 miles. Stillness. One is surprised by the movement of a bird, and one hears the rustling of feathers in flight.

A small rock, grey and gnarled, harsh against the brush of fingertips, when turned over is soft, wet clay with tiny living shells embedded. Against pressure, it snaps. Is it rock? Or is it clay? It is the earth, becoming.

The sea hisses softly against the shore and sucks back a cloud of white clay-sand which lingers, suspended, pulses and settles, becoming one with the sea.

And here, the sea spits a tongue of living shells onto the shore, so small that their form is lost to all but the closest gaze which reveals their dazzling design, hurled ashore, crushed into the waiting clay, becoming one with the earth.

Is the sea reclaiming Andros? Or is Andros rising from the sea?

Growth and decay. Ebb and flow. Like breath itself.

The vast stretches of untouched space hold the secrets of Andros and emanate a sense of mystery and wonder of this primeval place, sleeping in the interface between earth and sea. Brooding. Moving. Dying. Sighing. Growing.

Andros is Man. Rosi Birch 1969.


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