I visited the ocean once on a day that was calm and
still. It was early, and the day had the virgin texture of new stationary.
Two old men were working together by the water. They sang a song
that I had never heard, in a language with words that were square
pegs in the round holes of my ears.
The taller of the men walked waist deep in the water. He was carrying
a calico bag. He was picking up the shards of light that the sun
had thrown onto the surface of the ocean, and carelessly throwing
then into his bag. "Hunna Hoona Hopp Hopp" he sang melodiously.
He didn't seem to care if he missed the bag. There was 245,830 pieces
of light around him, and those that missed the bag floated.
Back on the shore his companion was sewing. For thread he had the
sound of the seagulls that complained from above. He had carefully
spread out on the sand sheets of the hissing sound that exhausted
waves make as they retreat from the shore having spent themselves.
He was making a sail. It dawned on me that the men were building
"Hunna Hoona Hopp Hopp" they sang. Whenever a colossal
wave crashed they scurried to heave the explosive noise of water
on sand to dry land. They groaned and grunted through their song,
bending this crashing sound to form the planks of their craft. The
taller man reached into his calico bag and used the light he had
gathered as nails. He hammered them into the boards of noise with
A geyser of water erupted way off shore - a whale surfacing to breathe.
The old men jumped up and down with excitement and waited for the
lazy noise to reach them. When it did they fastened it to the bottom
of the craft as a keel. There was some of this majestic sound left
over, and it was thriftily fashioned it into a mast. They fixed
their sail and tensioned it with more fibrous cries from the gulls.
Now that the boat was built their pace slowed and they set about
decorating the vessel. As everyone knows, seashells contain the
sound of the ocean. Not many people know however what fine paint
this resonance makes. The men sang at a more sombre tempo "Hunna
Hoona Hopp Hopp", dipping seaweed paintbrushes into various
shells. Once the hum from the shells was dry they boarded the craft
and set sail. I could still hear their song long after they had
vanished from sight.