We don’t often get to see this island or this life we live from a distance. We live on and in it after all, and in Kaneohe these days we it means we live among the constant construction cones and we can particularly get annoyed at having to stop, go, go around, go a different way. We also are living in almost constant rain, as we are close enough to the mountains to catch any water in the clouds that passes over them.
When I was in the hard days, the long days after Eliot was born, and could barely get us together enough to leave the house, Joe would sometimes try to cheer me up by reminding me that “We live in Hawaii after all!” but I wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t live in Hawaii, I lived in my house, with the laundry that was (is) never done and the doors that are sometimes so hard to leave behind.
From this vantage point, from the closeness to our streets and ourselves, we forget how the mist lays on the mountains behind our house, in the morning, evening, and sometimes all through the swift nights. We miss the growing up of the little people, the beauty of beautiful new smooth roads, and wild flowers watered by the rain.
We often go to the beaches on the weekends and look across the ocean to the idyllic little islands off of almost every calm coast, surrounded by the blue green water, and think if we could have a hammock and a day, we would really know what Hawaii was, and how it feels.
Last week, Joe and I had a couple hours, and instead of reading, or walking, or sleeping, we decided to do an extremely quick and unprepared trip out to one of those islands. Because, let’s face it, extremely unprepared is the only way we do adventures. (We believe in maximizing the adventure aspect in every trip, after all.) So we got a kayak and we rushed and we unloaded its bright and heavy weight, and lugged it in an unsteady, zig zag path (I’m bad at carrying kayaks, and I’m especially bad at carrying them straight) down to the waters of Chinaman’s Hat. As always, the rain threatened from behind us and the wind blew stronger than an ideal morning for kayaking.
We tied our slippahs to the back and put all our important belongings in a Ziploc bag that magically happened to be in our car, (we didn’t plan for that either) and shoved off into the strong wind. We hadn’t looked where to land on the island or where to climb or what to bring, but we figured it couldn’t be that bad; the island was small and right out there.
The bright orange front split the cresting waves and didn’t even tip once, which was something of a miracle because we kept hitting them sideways because we like to pretend we’re professional ocean kayakers, but really we SEE a lot of ocean kayakers and think that we can do it because we watch other people. We circled around to the back of the island, but saw the waves barreling through small volcanic openings, strong enough to carve away the side of the island, so we came back again, getting pushed by the wind and waves until we were right beside the strange, hat shaped volcanic rock that hotly erupted out of these cool waters however many years ago.
We landed, pulling it up onto the side rocks, facing Kualoa Ranch and the mountains behind it and then turned towards the climb.
Very soon we realized that a little research would have definitely told us to bring tennis shoes for the climb, but we didn’t have them, so we climbed up the sharp boulders and hard dirt trail barefoot, first underneath undergrowth, and then pushing our way into the open, the clear sky above.
From above, the water that had almost tipped us over looked calm enough to drop and pebble in, and still enough to hold a million concentric circles, rippling out to the sand where we had launched, out to the far mountains, with barely an interference but an occasional sea turtle.
How things look from a distance, after all! Their hard edges softened, and all their colors spread out before us, the lovely mountain tops rubbing the sky and the valleys often hidden in the shadows. Like how we remember Eliot’s first smile the most in the long months after his birth, like how despite all the construction and rain in our town I can close my eyes and always remember the mountains. Neither the constant sleepless nights nor the constant street construction in Kaneohe shows from this place. A year later, an island away.
Like that story of the small boy who, dazzled by the bright windows every sunset, climbed towards the diamond windows through the dusk, only to find it was a house exactly like his own, only to find that the other in the house thought that the boy’s house was the beautiful one.
It is the beauty of distance, that shows us that often the rocks aren’t as sharp, the rain recedes, and the waves diminish, and it is the finding the distant place that can keep us content where we are.
Sometimes the best way to do life is to just travel back and forth, trying to catch the diamonds before they leave.