Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Inland Soul

One of my favorite things in this wayward life is the moment when the hidden ocean surprises up on the horizon as you're driving down a winding road. That's the splendid thing about living on an island... the ocean is all around you and never far away.

"Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea..."
~Emily Dickinson

Saturday, April 24, 2010


You know those days when everythings seems to fall apart, when beloved memories burn to ashes and all you have left is an empty storefront? I recently had one of those, literally. After saying goodbye one morning to a family who was moving back to the mainland, I was wandering around a certain outdoor shopping center. Starving, almost broke, carrying someone else's baby around on my hip, I trod circles in the cement as I waited for the baby's kayaking parents to come home and take their baby back. It was hot too. The kid had already spit pulverised squash on my formerly white shirt. I became so hungry that I splurged and bought myself a seven-dollar smoothie. Let's just say chocolate-and-banana is almost worth that much. The baby got water - clear and stainless. To top it all off, my favorite store (besides Borders, that is) was closed. And not just closed, it was empty, abandoned, dark - a black hole in the wall.

Weeks later, I had somewhat recovered my sense of loss when I was once again wandering around a different street shopping for a birthday gift. Tired, still broke, and out of birthday gift ideas, I happened upon what seemed a miracle (dramatic, I know, but hey that's what it felt like). There, with those familiar letters inscribed at the door, was my dream of a store reincarnated. I walked by bashful as I am, but forced myself to go back and intrude on the empty store. The ship paintings, the glass case of scrimshaw, the oil lantern - it was all there, waiting for me. Sure, the store space was much smaller than before, but still, something inside me lept up in joy.

(photo courtesy Jlahorn via Wikipedia Commons)

The lady who kept shop was talking under her breath on the phone when I entered. She hung up and politely offered her help. Her sad eyes roved the wall as we looked for my favorite painting. As we talked, she told me of the death in the family that closed the other store, the pain that was all too close. Here we were, two strangers, talking of the tragedy that had brought us together for ten minutes in an obscure little shop. Something wide and unspoken, something loved and lost, something human and lacking. To be a friend to a stranger... I had only a moment. I don't know if perhaps I bridged the gap for her on an aching afternoon... probably not. I do know, that the moment for me was real. It was a moment of human reality. Two strangers, one tragedy, and a room full of hopeful dying words.

My favorite painting wasn't found. It was a seascape, dotted with icebergs off the coast of Cape Horn, I believe. A ship solitary in the frigid wasteland struggled against the surging sea. The ship was the HMS Resolution. Someone bought it, took it home, and hung it on their wall. Someone else. I think I can forgive someone else... and maybe someday my painting will find its way back to me.

(the Resolution, but not the painting)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hiking Adventure

An adventure was proposed. I hadn't been on one of those in a long while. So I jumped at the opportunity. We were going to hike to a waterfall, jump in it, and hike home. A total of 9 miles. Perfect adventure length. The morning was overcast and threatened rain, which isn't a good thing when hiking in Hawaii. Rain makes mud, which makes slippery trails and eroded cliffs. But no worries, brah! The sun came out by the time we hit the trail.

The first part of the trail follows a cliff overlooking the entire Pacific Ocean. I could practically see Japan over that big blue lovable body of water. Up and down, in and out, the trail winds down to a beach where swimming is prohibited. Well, no one actually guards the surfline... but the way the ocean sweeps parallel to the shore in foamy white cascades should convince any sensible person not to swim.

After we rested at the beach, we took a trail mauka (towards the mountains), following a river. It was rather comforting listening to the murmur of the stream as we hiked along it - water makes me feel safe. The trail mostly lies straight within earshot of the water, but it sometimes crosses over the boulders in the middle of the river. This, I was told by a fellow hiker, is really fun to do - jumping from rock to rock. I tried to have fun jumping (and I almost did), but eventually found myself, head against the warm rock, sprawled flat after a daring jump on a wet boulder. Jump on dry rocks. Oh.

The hike up the river was strenuous, but eventually the prize, the El Dorado, the waterfall was spotted. A hundred feet high and icy cold, the waterfall sprayed mist on our faces even when we stood at a distance. We set our cans of Mountain Dew (see, thinking ahead makes for happiness) in a cold shallows to chill while we chilled ourselves swimming in the pool. At first, I was determined to swim for the falls and get my hair soaked in paradise, but dipping one toe in that water convinced me otherwise. Almost instantly, my feet were numb from standing in the shallows. I waded in further and my legs were senseless. I jumped in completely (except my head) just to say I did it, but jumped right out as soon as humanly possible with useless frozen legs. It was hours before I was completely thawed out. It felt like swimming in the Arctic, and this is supposed to be Hawaii!

Hiking home is always the hardest part. There are no waterfalls at the end. Between you and your car ride home lies a seemingly insurmountable stretch of mud, hills, rocks, and heat. At least we had the cool Mountain Dew. Needless to say, I did survive the hike home and relaxed my sore and aching body in the hot tub. Days later, I am finally not quite so sore, and I'm ready for another adventure!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New-found Treasure

I discovered a new beach today. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera, and so cannot show you what it looked like. But then again, a camera wouldn't be able to capture with its finite lens the beauty and splendor that today was - it just couldn't - and I don't really want to share the identity of the place with anyone. Selfish, I know, but perfection needs to be left alone, untainted by change.

The beach was quiet and hidden, like all perfect things are. On the surface, it looked imperfect, lonely, forsaken. But imperfections are what make up perfection - and so I have named this place "Perfection."

Perfection is out of the way of tourists (forgive me, but you do get in the way sometimes), down a narrow winding road. The sea does not break directly on the beach, letting crystaline ripples slowly drift to land and back out again. The sky was soft and smiling; it opened on me and gave me the air that I've been needing. I felt like I was breathing for the first time in years.

Perfection is one of those places that are so desperately beautiful that you simultaneously want to stay forever and leave as soon as possible just so you can come back again.

Pirates were there before me. It was the sort of place where they would hide their smuggled bottles of rum in the stunted trees that lined the shore; it was the sort of place where a pirate ship could slip in close to land at midnight unawares. I was only a couple centuries too late to see the Jolly Roger shading the moonbeams that gild a surging sea.

Oh, hello - back to reality... I apologize. I discovered something new today. And I am reminded that life is always new, even when it feels like death. There is sunshine even in the darkest nights - you just need to pull your sunglasses off to see it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Not Enough Suntan

"You look kind of pale to live in Hawaii." Gee, thanks, you're so kind.

This is the sort of remark that I generally receive from random strangers I meet here in Hawaii. No one seems to think I look like I live here. People ask me where I'm visiting from. When I say that I actually live here, they either look at me funny or tell me I don't look like it.

I'm not that pale am I? Ok, so I don't get tan. I get sunburned. So I put on sunscreen. Who wants to get skin cancer or look like a suitcase when they get old anyhow?

There was a time when women who were tan were considered vulgar. Now, those who are not suntanned are treated like albino tourists.

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