My body returned from Hawaii days ago, but my thoughts linger there, circling in meditation like a coconut rolling in the shallows. On arrival at Oahu I unfolded limbs from restrictive airline seats like a new butterfly drying its wings. Outside the airport I found transformation in the island’s nature.
The Southwest’s earth is parched, river beds lay bone dry and the plants on the landscape scrimp and pinch to get by on minimal moisture. In Honolulu rain pours down almost every day, moisture plumps every cell and the air is heavy with humidity.
Reunited in the airport baggage area with Mom and Megan, we found we were all in one piece and glad to see each other. Megan drove us across the mountains to her home on the windward side of the island.
On the pass dramatic pali rake moisture from the sky and gather it around their peaks like grey shawls, until the heavy mists swirl into low hanging clouds. As the rain falls it carves fissures in the shoulders of the pleated mountains, forming impossibly long waterfalls, one after another. Here the water cycle is a tangible expression of infinity.
Unbridled competition for sunlight spurs the tropical shrubs, vines and trees skyward where they unfurl extravagantly large leaves. When we reached the windward side prevailing breezes had driven the clouds back against the mountains, revealing sunny skies and providing relief from the humidity.
In the coastal town of Kailua the ocean immediately dominates the senses. Even in town where we stop for acai bowls the breezes are weighted with salt. On the beach near our VRBO, the mild surf rolls onto immaculate sand, only as gritty as whole wheat flour.
The surge of the waves is unceasing, regular as the breath of a sleeping beast. Two shades of blue meet at the horizon where the imagination conjures tossing ships, islands lost and mythical sea creatures from clouds and air.
Here in Hawaii the charismatic mammals are not tethered to the earth. Sea turtles frolic in the surf, humpback whales nurture their young in warm waters and schools of otherworldly fish browse among coral reefs. We thrilled to songs of birds new to us and tried for photos of frigate birds soaring overhead on crooked wings.
We too let go of earth and embraced the salty buoyancy of the sea. Floating on the surface in a protected cove we stared wide eyed through snorkeling masks at fish and sea urchins, the crusty sea bottom sliding away as currents pulled us.
Perhaps instead of transformation it was an enchantment, as the island not only inhabited my imagination, but on my return, cast a pall over the charms of the desert. But yesterday I heard a bird song new to me and wondered who was migrating through, hidden in the palo verde trees. And today I saw a flock of finches chase a raptor across the sky. The glorious cool temperatures of fall beckon.