There are approximately 5107 miles between Kona, Hawaii and my home town of Bath, Maine. Going that distance yesterday required 2 cars, 2 airplanes and 2 shuttle busses. It also took, for me, a deep breath and a few tears to initiate movement east.
Hopper, McGuckin and I spent the day on Saturday taxiing our guests to the airport, dropping off rented equipment, putting stuff away, packing up for home. Saying good bye. As we drove around Kona running these errands, I was flooded with something – a mix of relief, joy, exhaustion, satisfaction, recognition. We did it – a year in the making and we launched this thing. We took our guests to amazing places to swim. We showed them the best Kona (and North to Kohala and South to Kealakekua) has to offer those of us who look to the sea for restoration. We put them in a spectacular house, found the perfect chefs to feed them, the perfect lifeguard to be a member of our team and keep us safe. I took a breath as we returned to the guide shack after our last errand. I could barely believe it was done.
Packing was a slow and challenging chore – it was as if someone had put dynamite in my suitcase and equipment cases and the remnants had exploded all over the coast. I gathered it all up and had it packed in time to put on a suit and grab one last dip in the Pacific.
For this we managed, finally, to enter right from the rocks below our lawn – something we had planned on doing daily, but the aberrational “30 year Kona swell” had prevented it. Of course, on this, the final day, the sea was nearly flat. Hopper and i jumped in and swam just a bit out into Lyman’s Bay. We came across 3 turtles desperately feeding on algae from a rock they probably had not been able to reach for a whole week. They were singular in their focus. The sea finally permitted them back here and they weren’t about to be bothered by a few on lookers. We got back to shore, changed, packed up the car, left for dinner and eventually the airport – the turtles, still doing their thing there. The huma huma nuka nuka apua a (Picasso trigger fish) are still darting around coral heads at Kahalu’u. The dolphins are still cruising the coast, the mantas are still doing whatever it is they were doing while they weren’t visiting us last Thursday night. We have come and gone, and this island and its surrounding sea continues to be the special, magnetic, pulsing force it is.
This is a perpetual place. The Pacific is boss and the turtles and the trigger fish and the dolphins, mantas and surfers all know it. We know it. The Pacific gave us pounding waves all week and we went where she allowed us to. We discovered swim spots to the North we might have missed – a few of these we’ll keep – we got a pod of dolphins on a day we expected mantas, we tested our skills on a surge-y egress at Kealekeua Bay. We immersed in the ocean and made the most of everything it gave us. That is the Hawaiian way.
I feel most alive in the water. Specifically in the sea. Acutely in the Pacific. I feel at home on this island – the vibe, the sounds, the colors, among the people who simply cannot stay out of the sea. It’s hard to walk away.
Over the course of the week, Hopper and I have noted how in some ways, Hawaiians remind us of Mainers – we too are at the mercy of the elements around us, many of our communities are linked to the tides, our residents rely on this great, living resource. We too are drawn to and bound by the water. We also understand that Happiness comes from within when you live in a place where you are merely surfing atop the natural world’s plan. So we feel connected to our Kona hosts; feel at home among them.
We owe so much thanks to our new, dear island friends – Ali for the beautiful spaces he has created, Clare and Dan for the exquisite menu of local delicacies they prepared for us, Ryan (McGooks!) for his knowledge and stories, for his guidance in the water. Hawaii has welcomed us and pushed us and taken a little of each of us to add to her collection of shells.
Thanks also to the folks at Ocean Minded, for the sandals, for sharing and broadcasting our instagram feed, for promoting an ocean-minded way of life – it’s synonymous with Hawaii.
And of course, we thank our 7 intrepid guests – our first in Hawaii. You trusted us with your vacation, with your sacred time in the water. You came to swim untested courses with us. You were bold and game and flexible and very Hawaiian in your approach to this experience. Janine, Debbie, Marianne, Annette, Deb, Paul and Lisa – I’m so honored to have shared this with you.
We’ll come back. And somehow these friends and experiences we’ve shared makes the island seem not quite so far away.
Outside of my work for SwimVacation I am a photographer. I’m a month into a year-long personal photo project – a daily portrait of the kids in my neighborhood. My travel during this period will allow me to explore the definition of neighborhood and what it looks like. After my 9 days in Kona, I’m understanding that a neighborhood is anywhere you find it. Anywhere that calls to you, and when you walk up, at least part of you is home. I watched the Hawaiian youth intently on this trip, finding remarkable images as they flocked to the water’s edge. I’m so grateful to have been one of them for a while.
It’s cool and breezy in Maine today. I went for a run and was bowled over by the fragrant lilacs. They intoxicate my senses the way the plumaria and jasmine did just a few days ago. I round the corner for home and see my son and his ‘hood friends, building a teepee out of sticks that have come down in the wind. They too are working with what the natural world offers to find fun and joy. A big smile comes across my face as I realize how lucky I am to feel at home in so many places at once.
Aloha pumehana, Hawaii! With deep affection.