Sleepy Saturday is a good way to describe the last day in Hawaii. We sleep in later than usual after our late night of dancing. We pick up some interesting donuts from a Holy Donuts in Kona—our favorite was the lilikoi (passionfruit) meringue. We relax on the seawall watching swimmers follow the buoy-marked path that is the beginning of the Ironman. I have a lot of memories here. I first saw this place in 2007. I notice a group of homeless people convened at the seawall and I remember the feeling of waking up early in the rental car. The relief of the morning, of escaping the cramped cocoon of night spent in the car, feet swollen from sleeping in the front seat. Sleeping horizontally in a bed is a simple pleasure not lost on me.
We take off on Mamalahoa Highway. All roads that circumnavigate the Big Island feel like putting your arms around someone that is just slightly too big to hug. We pass by coffee plantations, kayak rental stands, and a theater advertising live performances of Mama Mia in the coming weeks. We stop at Painted Church. It’s a romantic little white church tucked into greenery on the pervasive hillside. The interior is painted with lovely, bright murals of mostly horrifying scenes–one of hell, one of Eve crying over Abel’s dead body as Cain looks on. If that gets upsetting, just direct your eyes to heaven and you can view serene coconut trees over a sunset sky covered in little tin stars. Ahhh….that’s better.
The scenery changes as we get farther south. We drive through a massive a’a lava field dotted with scrubby looking trees, then short grass and mature trees. We are headed for South Point, which is the southern-most point in the US. I want to share this with Cass because I remember it being a full sensory experience when I was here before. I realize that those are my favorite type of travel experiences—the ones that transport me with smell, touch, taste.
We pass through some green pastures crossed by low rock walls and Cass remarks how it reminds her of the fields in England. When we reach the parking area, really the end of a dirt road topped with fine yellow dust, the wind is howling. The ocean is such an intense blue here that it’s almost indigo. We emerge from the car and push through the wind to the sea cliff. I open my arms to the wind and the sea and the wind presses against my chest, maybe this is what skydiving feels like. We laugh and take turns taking pictures.
The point has a few structures of interest. There is a metal ladder dancing around in the wind as it drops to the frenzied waves below. Our guidebook suggests that one can snorkel here but emphasizes the requirement for calm seas—definitely not today! Next to the ladder is a winch for lowering boats 20-30 feet down the cliff…Also seems inadvisable on a day like today. The guidebook tells us that this area is likely the original landing place for Hawaiians and people stayed in spite of the wind and lack of fresh water because of the rich fishing grounds off this point. Early Hawaiians anchored their canoes to the shore by drilling holes in the rock (still visible today) and tethering the boats with rope. This was necessary, according to the book, because there is nothing between here and Antarctica but the strong ocean currents (yikes!). Canoes lost here were considered lost forever!
We step carefully over the rough rock, wearing Birkenstocks, getting sprayed by the heaving seawater. I hear Cass, “Here we are, back on the damn lava rock!” This cracks me up! Our tender, winter feet ARE pretty thrashed after days of hiking outside on the damn lava rock. The wind swirls my hair in all directions. Eastern Wyoming, where I was raised, is also a windy place. Growing up, I never thought much of it, but now the sensation of air’s frantic search beneath my shirt, through my hair, in my ears and eyes feels a little like home *sigh*. The relative sensory deprivation, once I’m in the car with the door shut, is a stark contrast that also seems familiar.
We take our time on the way back, winding along the high riding belt, singing along with the Dixie Chicks and swapping stories. Cass is easy to be with. She is an uncommon blend of intellect, humor and integrity. When we get back our condo we are beat. I settle in for a nap—a nap! A REAL nap—so unlike me that it has to be recorded!
The sun sinks, a pale disc bleeding into the watery horizon, behind a bank of gray clouds. The violent sea throws itself against the rocky shore and seawall exploding to the sky and then dissolving into the wind. It’s a stormy night this last night in Kona.
Cass finds a recommended seafood place, down the street on Ali’i Drive so we head out to have one last dinner on a balcony overlooking the sea. We discuss the Chinese New Year that just turned over on Tuesday. My therapist recently told me that the Chinese New Year was actually better timed. She suggested that I could treat January like a soft opening for 2019 and I loved that idea. After spending January talking to psychiatric patients and dealing with my own feelings, I concluded that because of the colder weather and reduced daylight, I should embroider a sampler for my office that reads, “It’s January! You’re supposed to feel like crap!” This trip has been a delightful antidote to that.
2019 is the year of the earth pig and Cass and I were both born in the year of the pig—so THIS is our year, people. I attempt to make sense of the writings of a Chinese astrologer that I find online, but the best wording we take away is that 2019 is slated to be a “dirty muddy pig year.” Astrologers predict wealth and war for native pigs like Cass and me. We decide that sounds perfect!
I think my favorite thing about this vacation has been my intention. I feel a little woo-woo saying this, but I think this was my big win. When I left San Diego, I had Brandi Carlile’s chorus in my head:
Hold out your hand
Take hold of mine now
Round and round we go
Don't you wanna dance
I'm a dying man
From the moment we began
Hold out your hand
My intention was to hold out my hands to all the good around me. Open my eyes to it—like really see it. Dance with it. Let it fill me. And don’t put this off for another second because death cannot be outsmarted—it can only be outlived.
“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze