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observing native life

November 24

It was a sunny day today, all day. Gloriously unusual. The ocean sparkled. The hills were brilliant, the now-leaveless trees casting sticklike shadows, like a lattice work on the bare ground.

Also it was unusual in that the Ama was not diving today. Instead I saw her puttering around outside her shed, arranging things. She hefted herself up by one foot onto the roof and undid some kind of latch, and now the entire side of the shed fell forward, giving me a view of what was inside.

Was I snooping? Of course. But it was in “plain view”, as the American police say. I had to know how she lived. So I trained the telescope on it, using the most powerful lens.

The ama, according to the article in the encyclopedia, get ready for their dives by praying in a special hut with a little stove which heats the inside so that it’s almost like a sauna. The idea is to save up heat before the cold plunges outside. Indeed I saw a little stove inside the Ama’s shed. But very little else. There was no bed, and no blankets, just a cleared area of soft sand with a lump built up to rest her head on. No electricity, of course. A few shelves with maybe food or some books. The place was pretty empty. And of course -- I expected this by now -- no sign of any clothes or shoes. She really does live a naked life. And a solitary one. From what I read, ama support each other and to sweat together next to the stove, praying, is a bonding experience. This one has no one to bond with.

She swept out the inside with not a broom, but a dried up bush that she has found. Does she ever bathe? I suppose she doesn’t need to, being in the water so much. But I was wrong -- I saw her dip into the ocean, and stand at the edge, smearing wet sand all over her body. It’s a natural exfoliant. She rinsed herself off. Then went into the shed and reached over to what looked like dried seaweed hung on the wall, which acted as a towel.

No bathroom. She must relieve herself outside, somehow.

The shed is pretty sturdy. She was able to climb up on top of it, her prehensile toes skittering up the side. Even though it’s just rough unfinished wood she lay down on the roof, her face up to the sun. It must have seemed like a warm day to her. I smiled as she basked on her shed, eyes closed, legs a little open. She was enjoying this. She certainly deserved it.

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