Here below the Tropic of Cancer, Orion sits high in the sky, threatening to hit red Mars with his club. The tail of the Ursa Major is in the water, and tail of Ursa Minor, Polaris, is straight out ahead.  At home Orion stands nearly atop the horizon of spruces, and the Bears and Cassiopeia, tied to her chair by Poseidon, run around each other overhead.  The Sun is just journeying back from the Tropic of Capricorn, far enough to begin to lengthen the days at home and tan us and warm the aqua for extended snorkels here.

A few observations from under its surface:

The hurricanes have deadened so much coral, which lies in jangled sticks amid the sand. There are some heads left, staghorns and brains and fans and all, enough to draw me on from one to the next, swimming after the small colorful fish like the lugubrious red snappers, and all the little purple and yellow whatever-they-ares, and the silvery ones with the yellow stripes darting away in schools.  The water is exceptionally clear, 30-40 feet of absolute visibility.

So how can the gun metal grey barracuda appear suddenly and silently without my noticing them arrive?  They look huge under water, though they are no more than a meter long. I close my hand around the little golden pendant on my neck, lest they try to strike it.  They should be wearing fedoras as they cruise beside me, eyeing me coldly like Cosa Nostra goombahs protecting their little charges in the neighbourhood.  I swim toward them boldly, and they move off, but resentfully, disdainfully, their underslung jaws just open enough to show their angled teeth.  (Quan has a friend who looks like this; I call her The Barracuda, her predatory air and manufactured breasts having landed her a rich husband and a dose of paranoia.)

Today I spotted five lobsters – I have learned not to look for their backs but rather the thin ends of their super-long antennae peeking out from under their lairs beneath the jumbled rocks.  I said if I found a sixth, I would bring it home for lunch, but luckily for them I didn’t.  Feels wrong anyway.

Many conches, shells furry with growth, struggle along over the bottom a few centimeters at a time with their one claw foot, googly eyes sticking out beyond their tapered trumpet end. Pick them up and they retreat along the supersmooth inner shell of sunset pinky-orange.

For a bit I track a stingray with his friend a black fish swimming just above him – YouTube makes much of these cross-species friendships, but I find them quite common.  After zig-zagging a bit they realize I will not attack and they cruise away together, blasé and unhurried.

Against the sandy bottom about 10’ down I spot a tropical flounder (don’t know all these names – it looks like a flounder – flat and thin like a crepe pan, two eyes akimbo on the upper side).  I dive down to touch it and it swims away, fluttering its little handle of a tail.  While it swims, it goes beautiful with florescent blue rings on its upper surface and an iridescent tail and fin edges, but as soon as it stops it adopts in a mere second the colours around it in perfect camouflage.  Disturb it again, and it flies off blinking neon for another haven, adopting those colours as soon as it lands.  How does it do that? And how does it know the hues around it?  Near brown coral it goes brown; on the sand it goes speckled off-white such that if I do not keep an eagle eye on it, I lose it entirely.  It is not like the stingrays, burying itself under some sand with a frump of its wings; this little guy just changes color and blends with whatever’s around it.

Back up on the beach, I can track the characteristic little Morse code to the crab’s hole in the sand, or farther up the herringbone tracks of the little lizards coming down from the waxy shrubbery.  By night the wind smoothes the Etch-a-Sketch again for another day of footprints large and small.

From the top of the dune, I look out over the reef to the unending sea.  Cuba and America’s bete noir Guantanamo lie just over the horizon, the world is too much with us, early and late.  But I love that this sea and mine are joined, as well as the Japan Sea and the South China Sea I will be gazing over soon – all one world ocean, everyone on an island.  I think of Kurt Vonnegut’s ice-nine, launched from a little tropical island such as this (in Cat’s Cradle, an absolutely seminal book if you haven’t read it) to freeze the entire waters and signal the end of the world.

I cannot leave this word until we also sound it with a long 0 – troh’-pic – the desire of all living things to grow toward something.  Sunflowers are heliotropic, root systems geotropic, tap roots hydrotropic, vines phototropic.  And what about humans?  Kids are momotropic, teenagers troubletropic, youth adrenotropic or even thanatotropic in extreme cases.  Scholars are sophotropic, those getting older in our society are neotenotropic with botox and plastic surgery.

We healers must thank God that all humans are hygeiatropic.  Throw a bunch of sticks into the air, they are very unlikely to come down more ordered than when you threw them up.  But perturb a human with your intervention, symbolically throw them up in the air, and they are very likely to come down in a more orderly state than before you intervened. Periods regularize, headaches disappear, constipation eases – and all we were trying to do was get the lower back loose.  It is called ‘placebo’, but the phenomenon is  more profound than that – in spite of the many cul-de-sacs we get trapped in, humans trope toward health.

Thank goodness, because we rarely, even now, know precisely what we are doing, yet often our well-intentioned but fumbling interventions succeed anyway, sometimes the way we meant them to, sometimes in unexpected ways.  If you cannot heal your clients, at least disturb them; perhaps in rearranging themselves to their new camouflage, they will heal themselves.  Do this for a while, and you will get more clever in your ability to poke the system minimally for maximum effect.

Maybe we should call it systematropic, rather than healthatropic, but we who sculpt in a medium that gets up and walks away should bless this tropic yearning in biological systems, whatever its source or name.


One Response to “Tropic”

  1. Fiona Williams Says:

    In my cluttered mind which quickly gets overwhelmed with all the things I have to do to survive you continue to remind me of what is actually important and what I still wish to accomplish in my life, treating people in effective ways that relieve their pain and continually striving to do it better! After 26 years as a physio, still as puzzled as ever how it all works and long to treat like the masters of the trade like your goodself.
    And in life, just wishing for close, healthy relationships and to maintain an open and enquiring mind that continues to seek growth.
    You are very inspring Mr Myers, thank you for your blogs!

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