A little over a week ago, I was on a jet boat adventure in paradise. Certainly when the word paradise was invented, the person was in French Polynesia. I have never seen so many gorgeous shades of blue, and green, aqua, turquoise. I couldn’t pull my eyes off that amazing water. It was mesmerizing.
We were on The Lady Pearl II with our knowledgeable Tahitian guide, Clark. Clark is a cute, curly haired, dark skinned Polynesian from Bora Bora. When he recited the ancient tales in his thick accent, legends passed down generation to generation, his cheeks exposed adorable dimples and he had this little twinkle in his eye.
These stories of his people, of Polynesian gods, queens and princesses, of Tahitian kings and warriors, of how islands were formed and wars fought, stories of love and life were intoxicating and we couldn’t help getting caught up in them.
At one point dark clouds passed over. Clark set us out in the middle of the water and cut the engine so we could let the tropical rain storm pass. We were in view of the island of Raiatea (above) and Clark started in on the story of a beautiful young princess named Tiaitau. She was desperately in love with a fisherman who went every day to fish off the nearby island of Taha’a. Every day her lover would leave and return at the same time. Except one day he didn’t return on time. Tiaitau climbed to the top of Mount Temehani and looked out to the island of Taha’a and there she saw her fisherman in the arms of another woman. Tiaitau, devastated by her lover’s betrayal, cut off her arm and buried it there on the side of the mountain. The flower that grew where Tiaitau had planted her arm would never leave the sacred mountain, just as Tiaitau had never left it, and would never grow anywhere but there.
The tiare apetahi flower is the emblem of the island of Raiatea. The enduring legend of the beautiful Tiaitau, as well as the fact that the flower can only grow on the most sacred mountain of the most sacred island in the vast Polynesian archipelago, truly makes it a symbol of Polynesia.
The tiare apetahi flower is one of the rarest and loveliest plants in the world. With distinctive white, five-petalled flowers shaped like a splayed hand, and a magical, heady scent, this flower has never been successfully cultivated anywhere else than on the slopes of Mount Temehani, to the continued bafflement of botanists. (Telegraph.co.uk)
As Clark told the story, chills ran through my body and I looked down at my arm, the long scar and the floral tattoo covering it. I looked up and Blue Eyes was staring at me with understanding, compassion, and love in his eyes. It was a special moment in time. I know I’m not alone in my pain, but my life is beautiful despite and in part because of what I have endured. There are other versions of the folktale of Princess Tiaitau, but on this day, Clark chose to tell us this version, the version where the beautiful flower grew from the princess’s betrayal trauma.
Clark then brought out a delicious snack of macarons, because, French Polynesia!
Life is good!