” Please, don’t. Not while other people are around,” I say miserably.
” But there isn’t anyone but me around,” they say as they glance at the stretch of beach we are sitting on. A lone dog ran along the edge of the water, pausing to bark in our direction.
” Nevermind,” I grumble and sit up, turning the music off. They, on the other hand, run in circles in the sand, kicking their feet up in the air with an energetic burst. I smile, remembering all the energy I had that I was told should be bottled up and sold to the sleep deprived. But, and here’s a secret: my ridiculous supply of energy did not always flow. Something sinister would cut it off, leaving me depleted and lost in whirl of troubled thoughts.
” So what do you have for me next?” they ask eagerly.
I laugh. ” Are you sure you want to hear more?”
” Do you not have more for me to hear?”
” Oh, I do. I just don’t know how long you want to stick around for. Eventually, people have had enough and they leave, usually without telling me and I do not understand. There is a lot I don’t understand about people.”
” Me too. So you’re saying it doesn’t get easier, does it? I have to keep waiting and waiting until people understand, until I understand,” they start kicking the sand, sending pieces flying into the air. As I child I would kick and toss sand to the point where the lifeguard almost had to escort me off the beach. Not a proud moment.
” It gets better, not easier. And if you keep waiting, if you keep yourself unlocked, then there might be people who will understand. Or at least try to. You just have to cling to hope in the same way you cling to your favorite tv show or favorite book or even your favorite color.”
“Hope? How can there be hope?”
” Let me tell you. You’d be surprised where you can find it. Now with this trip, I have had the privilege to visit three, no four times, that it all kind of blends together. I may need to come back and revisit later.”
I first came to the Big Island, which is where most people, especially Asians since it’s easy to get to from Japan, when I was an aloof child in a Harry Potter baseball cap and the classic ‘Hang Loose’ t-shirt. My attention span hardly lasted five minutes before I was off exploring like a monkey every square inch that wasn’t infested with people, which incidentally led me to the most cultural experience I ever had.
” Are you referring to the time you chased a bird so far you ended up in the temporary care of a Native Hawaiian family learning how to basket weave while your parents scrambled frantically about searching for you? Weird, that happened to me too!”
” And did we learn anything from it? I am ashamed to say I do not remember the family well, as my head so often wandered straight up through the clouds, but I do remember carrying on with business as usual, interacting with strangers in which years later I would hesitate to do. Ah, the innocence of youth, stripped away by the burdens of adulthood. Growing up sucks, kid, although it does strengthen you and you know what to look out for.”
” Like how to avoid a broken heart?”
” No,” I shake my head sadly. ” You can’t avoid that. And if somehow you do, consider yourself lucky and living somewhere in the clouds. Because if you really want to live, you need to learn from the good and the bad. No, you’ll learn its possible to heal. And what that looks like is different for everybody.”
Exploring Hawaii on all three or four occasions soothed the aches in my bones. After I got lost, which is definitely a specialty I excel at, I spent time climbing the dormant volcanoes and ducking beneath the waves of the wide blue ocean, a smile plastered on my face and not a single thought racing through my mind. Once paradise is found, there is no need to be swallowed unnecessarily unless it is to be inspired by new ideas or fantasy. How often did the ocean loosen the clogs and let a fantastical stream of new stories float and bob fluidly through the current.
But it wasn’t just the ocean that helped inspire new ideas; the volcanoes had their own methods, with their red-brown soil offering a different perspective on a land known more for it’s beach side beauty. Yet the climb up to the top, or the safest point possible for no volcano is truly ever dormant, was just as breathtaking as the beaches. I can’t remember the names of each I’ve climbed, for one was on Honolulu and the other was on Maui, which is an island a little less crowded because that would require a third flight in a much smaller plane and fortunately people are lazy to make the extra effort to unknown corners. All I know, through the bits and pieces of a hazy memory, is we took a bike to the top and road down the side of the volcano, along winding roads and dizzying switchbacks, with the wind rushing at our backs. There was a bit a magic in that ride, for I flew, wings suddenly appearing on my back and lifting me into a new world. But once the volcano flattened and the ride plateaued, leaving us weaving through towns and traffic, the magic disappeared. All that was left were disgruntled locals who didn’t want to dodge and stop for bicyclists.
” A good solid rule to stick to: Don’t tick off the locals. Also, if you see an animal leave it alone. Unless a giant spider lands in the car, then you send that sucker flying.
” Most people would have probably ran and never go into a car ever again,” they chuckle.
” Instead, I named him Leroy or something and he rode with us a good part of the way until the wind snatched him. None of us dared to touch him.”
Along the beach where the kite surfers and surfers split their time among a rocky shelf not meant for swimming, the sea turtles took the opportunity to sunbathe. On closer inspection, although not too close to reach out and touch their slimy heads, I noticed greyish chalk like growths spurting from the eyes, the shells, the fins of some of the purpoises. These growths, or fungus, are the result of humans touching their bodies. Some of them may die and some of them may be able to live with the fungus. It saddens me to know, however, that the world has so much beauty to offer and humans can be quick to destroy it. To be fair, humans are capable of preserving the beauty as long as we know where the line is. While standing there, staring at the creatures who just want to lay on the beach just like anyone else, I knew exactly where that line was.
I made sure to toe that line as I snorkeled through a crystal clear bay, simultaneously terrified and awed at what might be beneath me. Fear can be good; it can feed a healthy respect into a mind that doesn’t know when to pull away from the edge. It’s panic that is dangerous; it provides no conscious control over reason, in fact reason becomes overwhelmed and decisions are lost. My decision was not lost as a sea turtle approached me. Yes, I froze in spot only because I didn’t want to hurt it. Slowly I glided with it, and for a moment we were friends sharing the wondrous depth of an ocean full with majestic creatures.
The only thing not so majestic is the people. Once again, they are capable of taking away the magic. Locals do not like to reveal their special spots because it will be swarmed by noisy crowds who don’t always know what they’re doing. Common sense: if a sign says do not swim there, do not swim there. To be fair, no signs are fair game which is how I ended up following a sibling through a muddy cow pasture searching for a waterfall that did not exist, or at least did not want to show itself. There are many waterfalls throughout the islands of Hawaii, although not all are easily accessible. It’s the easy access places that are overflowing; the harder to reach are the ones where I can really submerge myself into the feeling of the land.
When she was a child she used to Climb and climb like a monkey Along the thick branches Of trees that grew so wide and So tall She could see the sea stretched out Miles and miles before her Showing the edges of a new Tomorrow. When she was a child she didn't Hear them scream and laugh and Play games without her She was too busy climbing, Climbing, climbing Towards the yellow sun sprinkling Gold between the waves of the sea, The leaves of the jungle, the cliffs Of the waterfalls They were too busy to see But not her, who brought herself close To the edges belonging to a new Tomorrow. When the years slipped by She stopped climbing, climbing Climbing like a monkey Along the branches of trees That grew so wide and so tall She could see the sea stretch for Miles and miles before her And saw no further than the Vines wrapping around the trunk Of a tree who begged her to come Back and see the edges belonging To a new tomorrow When she didn't come back The sun and the sea and the tree Promised to wait and wait For the child who was no longer A child Who could no longer see the Gold sprinkling between the waves And the leaves and the rocks Holding up the world And they waited and waited Knowing the child couldn't see Beyond the thick cloud that grew And grew from the voices that Scream and laugh and play games Without her Blocking the edges that fall into a new Tomorrow. When the child was no longer a child She found herself lost but not among the Thick branches of trees that grew so tall And so wide that she could see the sea Stretched out towards the edge of the World That brought a new tomorrow Instead she was caught inside a Cloud whose heavy smoke choked her Until she couldn't breathe But she wanted to breathe And climb, climb, climb like a monkey And find the sun sparkling gold between The waves of the sea, The leaves of the jungle, The cliffs of the waterfalls So she breathes and climbs And climbs and climbs Like a monkey until her head pokes Out And the tree and the sun and The sea smile As she once more hangs over The edges of a new Tomorrow.
The water is cooler than the ocean yet it does the same trick. I dive over and over again, sometimes reaching caves, and swim my way over to the edge of the waterfall where I jump, my feet playing with the air before landing with a splash. A rippling joy rushes over me despite the fact that I am sharing the water with strangers. We all keep to ourselves, holding onto a piece of our own private paradise even as we sit on the rocks drying ourselves off and listening to the silence. Well, that is until a helicopter comes to rescue a poor man who slipped on the muddy trail and fell, dislocating a disk in his back. Then we all just watched in fascination as the man was lifted into the air by a rescuer hanging on a rope.
The best time to think was at sunset, when the day quietly lowered under the blankets and the surfers finally came in, dropping their boards on the sand and joining in on a barbeque on top of the hill. Or maybe they drove back in their cars and spent the coming evening at their house, shoes off while basking in a cool but friendly breeze. Still, there was the option of exploring Paia, a town in Maui which boasted delicious flatbread pizza and a ranch-style restaurant known for carrying an array of live bands, from sweet and soulful to questionable hard rock.
No matter where I went, it was impossible not to have a good time. Even at Mama’s Fish House, one of the most expensive places to eat yet worth it maybe once if you can splurge, where I have to dress somewhat fancy, I couldn’t be completely uncomfortable. Because wherever I went there was sand in between my feet and an ocean so wide it was easy to forget where I was and where I’ve been. I was just there, in the moment, which is hard when my mind goes a million miles a minute.
” Don’t forget to stop. Stop and pick up the hibiscus that would make a could centerpiece at dinner. Stop and try the poke even if it may be a little pricey- it’s an island, everything will be expensive because everything is imported except maybe sugar, although its last major sugar cane plantation did shut down a few years back. Stop and drive the long, winding roads, making pit stops along the way to explore for the sake of exploring. Don’t always try to have a concrete plan, which I know is hard for a inflexible brain, but a concrete plan makes you miss the smell of pineapple wafting from a fruit stand, the sight of lizards scuttling across windows, and the taste of fresh rain pouring beneath a double rainbow.”
” Okay, but can be forget about those roosters that scream every morning? I know I should enjoy each day, finding a silver of something even if there’s a whole lot of nothing, but I can’t do that cranky and angry and tired,” they say as they drop the pen.
” No, you’re right. Don’t stop and enjoy the roosters. Screw the roosters; they need to scream somewhere else,” I say. Then I stand, stretching my legs which grow stiff in the sand. ” What do we say we take a walk and grab some lunch? I imagine you’re starving.”