Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Different Kind of Love Story

I thought I’d start off with some much-needed levity:

Last night I dreamed I was making love with Kevin Costner (my serious heart-throb for many years, back in the Bull Durham, Dances with Wolves days, before he became a caricature of himself) and it was really nice, I mean quite nice, except that he was a terrible kisser. I mean not just bad, but really bad…! Yucky bad. I woke up with a fat grin on my face. Kevin Costner yum, Oh! Kevin Costner a bad kisser! Ha! But oh... life's disappointments!

Anyway, I remembered something this morning that I think is pretty interesting. I was thinking back to my first ever trip to Hawaii. I was 23, my older sister and her family lived there and I visited them on the windward side of Oahu, the town of Kailua, during the last two weeks in November. Their two boys, my nephews, were 2½ and six weeks old at the time.

Because my sister had a toddler and a newborn, we didn’t get out much. But every afternoon while they all napped, I’d ride their bike a few blocks to a small, nearly deserted beach and lay in the hot sun, watching the sand crabs scurry from hole to hole. I remember stopping along the way and taking pictures, with my first ever 35mm camera, a brand new Sear’s model, a big purchase for me at the time, and that took surprisingly good photos. I remember being especially drawn to all the green: the steep mountains and cliffs (the pali), the trees, and the water that flowed lazily through the canal I passed on the way to and from. I'd get off the bike, lean it against the bridge rail, and take shot after shot; each day the same, like it had somehow changed overnight, or like I was somehow trying to get enough of it, take it into me in some way, so that I would never forget.

That trip was not love at first sight, though I was enchanted enough to know that someday I wanted to return. But the truth is, I don’t think I gave it a fair chance. You see, I was enchanted in a completely different way. I’d just started dating a man that I was feeling pretty excited about. In fact, he was picking me up from the airport when I returned. I’d sent him postcards, and bought him a mug with his name on it in Hawaiian (and a matching one for me…hmm…daring!). I was smitten, and eager to get back and see where this was going.

Three years later we were married. He picked me up when returning from Hawaii, we spent thirty-four years together, now he’ll be taking me back to the airport the morning I leave for Molokai. Full circle, and pretty incredible when I think about it.

It took me 25 years to get back. The year was 2000, our oldest had just graduated high school and we took the trip we had been saving for for years: two weeks in Hawaii, the first week on Maui, the second on Kauai. To say I was unprepared for my response when I looked out the window of the plane on our approach is an understatement. There, in the middle of the beautifully variegated sapphire Pacific, sat stunning emerald green Maui, the Valley Isle as it is called, and seeing it, I started to cry. Deep, involuntary sobs that started in my belly and rose, becoming fat tears that slid silently down my cheeks. My daughter, sitting next to me, was mystified, mom, are you crying? why are you crying?? are you okay??? Maybe it was enhanced by the dimmed lights and uniquely island music that flowed through the cabin of the jet, maybe by the sweet faces of the flight attendants, or the scent of the leis that fell from their necks, but whatever it was, yes, I was crying. From somewhere that was bigger than me and beyond me, and that I’ll never fully understand except to say that in some mysterious and inexplicable way it was like I was coming home. The prodigal daughter returning, after a very, very long absence. I cry today just writing about it.

Such was (and is) my love for Maui, that a week later, when we left her for Kauai’s north shore (which, by the way, is stunningly, amazingly, mind-bogglingly beautiful) I missed Maui like one misses a new-found lover. The whole week in Kauai, I pined for her soft breezes, her rainbows, the cool dawn sand beneath my feet, her startling pink, purple, and coral sunsets. I could not understand it… I was in paradise grieving for paradise, yet it was what it was. Maui, the island that I learned later represents the heart in some spiritual tradition, had stolen mine. I’ve been back twice since, once again with the four of us when our youngest graduated high school and then again, when my husband and I took a Hawaiian cruise two years ago. It was on that cruise that I knew, if somehow the unthinkable, unimaginable happened and our marriage ended, that if I could be there—in Hawaii—maybe I could actually survive, my soul not just nurtured there, but singing in tunes and melodies I never knew that it knew.

So, why Molokai and not Maui? It's easy, a no-brainer, as they say. There was no way, in my present state of being that I could go there, where my only memories are of marriage and family, and not disintegrate completely. Nor was I interested in going where there are throngs of happy touristy families, freshly married couples on honeymoon, older ones celebrating significant anniversaries. Besides Molokai is right across the channel, and part of Maui County. Plus it did sound breathtakingly perfect: A remote, tranquil, non-tourist destination—exactly what the doctor ordered. And here's the thing: its affordablility is what has made the three months possible. Three incredible months in paradise.

Eighteen days and a get up. The butterflies are at it again. Every time I think about it. A few more added, it seems, each day. Yet writing about it helps make it more real, bring it into sharper focus. And here's another thing: Some of the butterflies, the newer ones coming on board, are more of the excited variety. I don't know how exactly I know, except maybe their flutter is just ever so slightly different. It's subtle, a nuance, really, except that something down there is changing, shifting... if just a wee bit.

Three months in paradise they seem to be saying. Yippy!

Aloha for now...

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