In a turquoise pool of heaven up to my waist under a sun hat which flapped lazily in the wind, and feeling soft sand shift slowly beneath my feet, this is how I witnessed the first sunset that ever made me cry.
At that moment I wanted to run to the shore where my basket was to grab my camera. I wanted to capture the unique brilliant beauty of vibrant pastel colors against a backdrop of gold beams and silver sprinkles. I wanted to share this with the world, but no cell in my body let me move from that spot. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I let myself scream to the surf, sky and wind, “YES!”
Yes to happiness, beauty, friendship and paradise islands. Yes to sea turtle friends, amazing island food and the potential of a few days where I could explore the world alone, on my own time and in my own space . . . on a journey of solitary reflection.
My 49th birthday had just unfolded a week prior, so I took myself to Maui Hawaii for purposes of a writing workshop, friendship and personal retreat. Maui is where I allowed myself some escape, to slow down, to witness sun rises and sun sets, ocean waves and garden walks, and the many varieties of fruit trees, palms, plants and flowers- without a thought to time or worries.
In Maui I made the joyful discovery that at least one “marble tree’ exists, because I saw one with blue marble balls like plants growing and falling off the majestic shady limbs of a gnarly big tree, on a piece of land called Garden of Eden, just a turn off the incredibly lush “Road to Hana.”
The first few days I camped with a dear lifelong friend on a beach near the city of Lahaina where we attended a writing workshop. There I toured around the interesting shops and restaurants on Front Street and snorkeled the sacred waters of Black Rock. Later there was shared evenings of ecstatic dance, meals and conversation with the locals near Makawao at my friend’s home . . . and then there was a shift within me.
I was stricken with a deeper guidance to take off on my own agenda, and experience a solitary road trip around the island. I looked toward this with anticipation– the idea of camping, exploring, writing, eating, sleeping and snorkeling – enjoying only the company of my own thoughts and Maui, this was delicious.
In a sun-beaten wonderful old car belonging to an island native, and with borrowed snorkel gear, a small tent and bedding, I set off at 3 am to begin an adventure of solo self reflection atop the craters of Haleakala near the center of the island.
There was a time when only Priests and their students were blessed with the views on Haleakala Crater – Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. said “In ancient times the Kahuna po`o (high priests) knew the value of Haleakala as a place to view the planets and the stars, and as a place for meditation and receiving spiritual wisdom. Haleakala is a sacred place and must be treated with respect.”
A park ranger and three local women chanted welcoming poetic prose to the sun on the moment it was visible to the eyes. Their voices rose and fell in rhythmic Hawaiian intonations as spectators looked on at the glorious sunrise in silent respect.
Legend has it that the God Maui once lassoed Sun and trapped him, eons ago, until Sun agreed to offer longer time in the sky for all people. Since then, Sun has been honoring his word to Maui, by offering longer days. Their voices echoed over a dawn inspired colorful skyline, just as Sun burst over the top of fluffy clouds and crater tips – it was a brilliant round ball of orange arriving suddenly on the scene:
“E ala e Ka la I kahikina
I ka moana
Ka moana hohonu
Pi’i ka lewa
Ka lewa nu’u
Aia ka la.”
E ala e!
Translated to –
The sun in the east
From the ocean
The Ocean deep
Climbing (to) the heaven
The heaven highest
In the east
There is the sun
From Haleakala Crater I drove along the unpaved wild desert regions of Pilani Hwy, (Route 31) a remote back-road to Hana that travels through desert lands and mountainous regions. Most rental car companies warn tourist against traveling on Pilani Hwy because it is rough and narrow. I had not planned on going to Hana this way, and in fact my mind was set on traveling the traditional “road to Hana”..
I passed a winery and began to climb into desert cliffs overlooking jaw dropping ocean vistas, barely a person in sight, when it dawned on me that I had trusted a Google map phone application which had pointed me in the direction of the shortest route from Haleakala Crater to Hana, Pilani Highway.
I wasn’t in a rental car, and already half way to Hana, so I trusted the moment and kept driving forward. The idea of going in reverse back from the road to Hana was appealing, as I would be going toward the rushing currents of morning tourists the next day, on my return, thus I would have the sublime freedom of starting and stopping along the road as I pleased.
Sand and brush, abandoned houses and goat country turned lush and green again after a few hours, and I entered Kipahulu Valley on the coastal side of Haleakala National Park. Here is where I set up a tent at the Oheo Gulch, often referred to by locals as the Seven Sacred Pools.
Before exploring the pools, I drove to Hana and ate a hamburger of local beef with a Hawaiian brewed beer, then found my way to a locally protected area known as “Red Sands Beach” – where I sat by the breakers I watched the waves and wind toss a determined yellow butterfly up and down along the shells and sea rocks.
At the seven pools I sat on a beach among dozens of cairns, most were knee high in height, all human made rock towers, stacked by fellow spiritually minded travelers. Some of them were stacked on cliff overhangs, some on large rocks constantly being sprayed with ocean water from crashing waves, and some on the sands where I sat and looked out at the water. I privately named this place the beach of “a hundred cairns”.
The waves and current were intense and powerful at the beach of a hundred cairns, too much so for swimming or even wading. In one of the largest natural pools in view of this magical beach of “a hundred cairns”, is where I experienced the thrill of a Hawaiian water fall pouring over my head. I swam and played for an afternoon in those fresh waters surrounded by lush green mountainous wetlands.
Rain pounded my little tent that night and I could still hear the surf through the roar outside. I stayed cozy and dry in the dark on my sleeping mat with a single sheet worked perfectly for warmth and comfort. When I felt the calling to write or read I turned my lantern on with no thoughts of disturbing someone’s slumber.
The joy of peacefully following the rhythm of my own body, of going when and where the spirit said to; of eating and sleeping, wandering and stopping, playing and writing and snorkeling, whenever I felt the urge to, this was beyond pure bliss. This was a much needed, divinely guided, unabridged, untarnished, positive sparkling gift of solitude and self exploration.
The hours began to blend into contentment and smooth individual moments, one beautiful moment at a time, as I sank into the environment. On snorkeling excursions Honu (sea turtles) swam along beside me and underneath me, and I observed a little Nemo striped salt water fish among coral reefs and sand banks. I navigated rocky bottoms and sandy surfs. When I was done with that I’d body surf on giant waves until my body wanted to stop, then I would pull my salty sun and water drenched body onto the shore on my towel to rest on the soft sands.
Koki Beach between Oheo Gulch and Hana was where I bonded with some of the multitudes of wild chickens who freely wander the island. A beautiful rooster shared a breakfast apple with me as I dried my tent on rocks and fallen trees by the sea one morning and nearby black cows with their enormous dark eyes and long lashes drew my attention to them, as my pink sarong was blowing in the wind drew their attention to me.
On this journey I walked two miles on a garden high above the oceans, I saw a Buddha statue larger than life at a place where I completed a labyrinth maze by a bubbling creek. I also ate island venison which had no after taste, and tried spicy Poke’ (raw tuna), along with fresh coconuts, mango and apple bananas right from the trees.
Twice I snorkeled in the waters of Hookipa Beach Park among wind surfers and sea turtles. Once I sat reading at an outdoor coffee shop during an afternoon in Paia, and three times I wandered through the isles of a local co-op grocery store looking for road snacks.
By the time my sea kissed tan body rolled back into Makawao at the home of Lafluer and Leanna’s, my inner battery was refilled, my intense thirst for solitude, creative space, meditation, prayer and soul passion had been re-quenched. I sensed a deeper emotional healing and renewal had taken place.
Journal time continued each day, but my social life picked back up again. It was breakfast with a friend at French bakeries and seafood on porch decks with locals again. It was sun bathing on sand banks, skinny dipping in the private sections of Iao River at Iaos Needle in Iao State Park with Leanna, and ecstatic dance at the local “Hippy Church” near town again.
Here was where every evening included a glorious sunset and each morning a pristine clear, inviting crystal blue array of waves to dive into and to devour mind, body and soul.
It was at Baldwin Beach next to a Honu sea turtle in the water, when I looked up at the sunset in clouds over the Maui shoreline and began to cry at the site of a dozen golden rays reaching into the pastel pink, yellow, purple, blue – green skies- all over turquoise surf where I stood.
Everything felt connected and sacred and perfect. A divine moment during a poignant journey of solitary reflection.
May the light of your soul guide you and bless the work that you do
(¯` ´¯). *
`*.¸.* ´* peace * ´¯`•.¸¸. Love
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