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Day 7 – Refuge.

Yesterday I boiled some eggs and today I turned them into egg salad.

If you know me at all, you just said What??. You are rubbing your eyes and going back for a reread. Look at me! I cooked!

Yup, it’s true. I did it right here in my kitchen. I kind of live here. I know where everything is. I jump in my car to meet someone at a place with Hs and Ks and I know how to get there. I know it’s faster to take Lako to get to Kahalu’u beach than to take Kam III, even though it’s longer as the colorful birds fly. I go to the grocery store here. I buy things I have no idea how to prepare. Then I bring them home and eat them anyway. Yeah, I live here. So if you’d seen me today, standing up, leaning against the counter, eating egg salad that I made myself, happy and satisfied, you’d say, huh, she looks like she lives here.

Let’s back up to this morning. I woke up tired. I had intended to get to Two Steps (35 min south) for a swim by 830 but I had a very slow and lazy start to the day, puttering around, answering e mails, connecting with home, and didn’t get in the car till almost 9. I put on my bathing suit and packed clean(er) clothes to go see houses afterward. Did I pack food? No. Did I pack water? No. I guess it’s the optimist in me.

I hit a new-found house along the way, way up high on the mauka side of the highway (Mauka {mow-kah} means on the mountain side of the road and Makai {mah-kigh} means on the ocean side of the road in the context of directions. You may think I’m being a pretender but believe me you need to know this if you’re living here and trying to find things).

This place (found through a friend of a friend) had nice accommodations, if a little too removed from potential swims, I fear. But the care taker is a great guy named Adam who is a wealth of local knowledge. This guy could be our guy! Our guy on the ground guy! Boom. He’s in the address book. This is how we do it. This is how we put this thing together.

Back onto the road heading south on the HI belt road. All the way to Napoopoo (Tee hee). Oh grow up. It’s actually pronounced Na’ po po, and it’s the road that takes you down to the amazing Kealakekua Bay. I decided to see houses before my swim since i was running so late. Call to tell guy I’m coming. He gives me directions over the phone and I turn left up the steepest hill I have ever climbed in a car. It occurred to me that I might roll over backwards. I summited and walked into a beautiful B&B. An interesting thought – renting an entire B&B. Got the quick tour and discussed our SwimVacation program and a few numbers, hand shake, back down the (scary) hill. Only 3 miles to the great Bay swim, but I have a hard time imagining anyone actually wanting to run this thing. If i tried I might fall and roll and not stop till I hit water. That would be one way to get there.

On to the next place – I had been really excited about this one as it was described to me, and I’d kind of put all of my hopes for the day in this basket. Another insane hill (this little Hyundai sure can climb! And it only slightly smells like burning!). Hit the top and am blown away by the view. I can actually see dolphins jumping in the bay amid kayakers.

I want this place to be perfect, and it has so much potential to be perfect, and if i were just here with my family, say, camping, it would be perfect. Very rustic, romantically so, balinese style, everything screened and open on the makai side. Roll over in bed, see the sea. My fear is, that unlike other open air living homes i’ve seen, this one is a little too much like camping. It’s wonderful, I just can’t imagine all of our guests here. The person showing me around is effusive and energetic and so welcoming and takes me on a sweeping tour of every cottage in the place. She nearly dances as we cross scrubby paths from hut to hut. There’s lots of hugging and gratitude. She has a wonderful spirit about her and I really do like her. But it’s getting later, and I’m hotter, hungrier, thirstier, getting devoured by mosquitos, and really, I know we’re not going to stay here. But I have a tough time leaving. By the time I hit the car, I’m discouraged, frazzled, itchy, dehydrated and befuddled. I don’t know what to do.

I hit the bottom of the hill cursing myself for not having provisions. What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t i take care of myself? And where the hell is the perfect seaside home for SwimVacation Hawaii???! I pull out my note book and start flipping furiously through all of my notes. There. I’ll try that one. Find it, drive by, it’s not going to work. Another. Same thing. The more I cruise around this area the more my mind is telling me the answer will be back in Kona. No! I want to keep looking here! Still thirsty, still cranky, still hot, I make another turn. Miles of lava. I know we cannot have miles of this between us and the sea, but I feel like I can’t not go see a place. So I drive a little further. Finally, something stops me. I pull over. This is nuts. I need to go for a swim.

The Place of Refuge has great importance in the history of the Big Island. In ancient times, common folks were governed by a dizzying number of seemingly trivial laws. The penalty for breaking most of them was death by an astonishing number of grizzly and creative options. You had one shot at asylum back then. Run as fast as you can to The Place of Refuge. If you reached this area, you could perform a few priest-mandated rituals and all was forgiven. No harm no foul, on your way, Sir. Sort of like touching base in freeze tag. Only with much higher stakes. Today the area is a national park, and it is forbidden to bring food in or swim from its beautiful beaches. But just before the park, adjacent to an ebony beach laden with tikis, is a giant platform of lava which steps into the Pacific. The Hawaiian name for this place is Honaunau. Some call it Two Step for its easy lava-terraced access to the water. Most call it simply Place of Refuge.

I nearly skipped it, so hot and tired and thirsty and cranky. All i wanted to do was go home and sulk that my balinese dream had not come true. But Something called me to go, so I turned right in the barren blackness onto the road to the sea. I arrived at this place and it was full of people – snorkelers, divers, beach sitters (actually lava sitters – there’s no sand so spread out your towel on the hot black lava and bake). I had to drive a quarter of a mile up hill just to find a place to park. I almost quit on it again. I put my head back and closed my eyes for a minute. Yes. Grabbed cap and goggles and down the hill i marched.

 

 

I weaved through all manner of folk who’d come to the water for relief in this forsaken stretch of island. I put on my goggles and jumped in. Took a few strokes and immediately collided with someone in way too much gear for enjoying the sea. She was snorkeling, clearly ill at ease in the water, and running into me hadn’t helped. She screamed at me. I sunk underwater and swam below for while, where it was cool and quiet. I surfaced where no one was around me. Then I put my head down and just swam and swam away from the melé, along the wall, over the most magnificent reef i could imagine. Picture huge scoops of ice cream – rounded mounds of yellow and green and orange, speckled with multicolored sprinkles of tropical fish. It was like I was cruising above some fantasy world where massive living coral colonies take the shape of whatever you need to find peace. I continued on alone to the point. Thought about rounding it, when a turtle swam right at me. A young Pacific green. I swear he came within two feet of me, looked right at me, never balked. So i turned around and swam with him for a while, because he didn’t seem to mind, and I was happy for his kind of company. We traveled like this nearly back to the entry. I said good bye and cut across to the other side, where another turtle picked me up. Same thing, coming in close, swimming side by side for a while.

Everything quieted in my head – the spinning of notes and details and leads to follow and calls to make and places to go and need for water and sleep and all of it. Respite. Refuge. I had created a storm in my brain, and here at this place I let it go.

The clouds seemed to be threatening and the surge picked up just a bit, so I worked my way back to the steps. Happily I noted that this is a place where Pelé has made it easy to enter and exit even in a little bit of swell. I also know that when we bring you here, to swim in these sacred waters, we will do it early in the day, before the throngs of people show up. Swim here between 730 and 930, and you swim with dolphins. That’s what the daily kama’aina swimmers tell me.

 

I ambled back to Kona. Answered a call and saw another house, it wasn’t right, but it didn’t matter. Got home and drank a liter of water. Made my egg salad and sat at my table and found that i had energy to organize and write and get stuff done before my dinner

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date with Karlyn this evening. I’ve even gotten the blog done. I may read a book in bed tonight. Not likely, but possible.

Hawaii is filled with these things – these places and moments and surprises that save me from myself. Just when I start to take everything a little too seriously, it calls me to turn left or right and leads me to just where I need to be. Reminds me that I can do what is needed and that is enough. Teaching me to live in that space, inside me, where it’s been all along. Nature’s pull is strong here. It won’t be ignored. When you come here, you’ll feel it too.

With Aloha,

Heather

 

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