Hawaii was a strange experience--I have never been much interested in tropical climates, being a child of ice and pine and snow and wind. But since I've learned to snorkel and dive at the tender hands of justbeast , my attitude has changed. Seeing a place form underwater is like seeing it naked. It's so blue and intimate and alien. And the colors just can't be expressed by kitschy tropical art. Plus, my parents took their honeymoon in Hawaii, which makes it somewhat fascinating to me, as are all things involving my parents' mythical-to-me (They divorced when I was a baby, I've never seen them in the same room) marriage.
But I did like it there, more than I expected to. So! Listing.
1. The turtles. We had turtle-luck like wow. Every time we got into the water we saw a turtle--and turtles are the money shot for Hawaiian snorkelers. Everyone wants to see one. justbeast 's parents were swimming with us and they didn't see them. But they were on us like...green rice, I guess. The first time we saw one, it was paddling along, and then turned 180 degrees around and starting swimming right for me. It got so close I started to back up, but it just turned to the side and held my gaze, floating and watching me. It was amazing. I'll never forget that black eye, how knowing it seemed. I feel like I should know what it meant, to be so surrounded by turtles, as though they were drawn to us, but I can't quite put my finger on it. (We even drove by a beach once, and 5 or 6 turtles popped up out of the surf to have a look at us.)
2. The dolphins. I lucked out and was given a trip to see the dolphins as a present. I got to hold them in a lagoon, and kiss and hug them, and swim alongside them, holding onto their fins, eye to eye, again. Dolphins' skin is surprisingly like wet human skin, and they aren't as big as they seem, but very, very heavy. Unfortunately, these dolphins were so used to tourists that their general attitude was: "yeah, yeah, kissy kissy. Give me fish nau." Their mouths were instantly open for fish the minute they turned away from us. But still, I got to hear their echolocation underwater, and hold them, and swim with them, and that's pretty awesome. If slightly less awesome than a turtle deciding it wanted to be BFF.
3. Hanauma Bay. EPIC FAIL. It was so hilariously bad it sticks in the mind. Not only do you have to pay to snorkel in this "protected" bay, but you have to watch an "informative" video beforehand. That video completely reset my lame-scale, and I went to public school for 12 years. justbeast and I just burst out laughing when the fish started singing "Don't Feed Me" to the tune of "Under the Sea." So after all that, you'd think the snorkeling would be awesome, right? NO. Not only did some guy literally shove me in the water so that I wouldn't block his video of a turtle (see: turtle, money shot), but the current was incredibly strong, the water murky from all the people kicking up silt, and it was so shallow I got scrapes all over. See, you're not allowed to touch the coral, because it's alive and touchy about that kind of thing. But the water is so shallow and the current so strong that you basically can't help it. I fucked up my knee pretty good. And all for snorkeling that wasn't half as good as the free Shark's Cove on the other side of the island. (Which was full of bright fish we christened Web 2.0 Fish, as they were orange and grey and iridescent purple and black.)
4. The food. The best was Chinatown and this place called Indigo that abartelby (yay meeting abartelby !) took us to--we had fish wrapped in banana leaves and swimming in cacao bean curry. And a saketini that just beat all, as pure as cucumber/ginger/orchid tinged water. And there was this place called Lappert's that had astonishing caramel coconut macadamia ice cream, the most delicious ice cream on planet earth. And Giovanni's White Truck shrimp, and and and. Needless to say, the diet died a quick death. Oh! And stopping by this roadside house that sold us two whole roasted chickens and a bowl of pickled mango, and then served us big slices of blueberry cake because it was their 50th anniversary, and the husband in question had survived 5 cancers to make it to that anniversary.
5. The red soil, how bright and rich it was.
6. The Byodo-In Buddha, which reminded me so of Japan, and made me quiet for a long time. The mountains were so like Japanese mountains--in fact, the mountains in Hawaii felt so Asian it made my head spin. I miss Japan in some ways, so much. And I hate it. And I miss it. I wish there was a Buddha in Maine. Maybe I should save up and get a substantial one to put outside my house to feel...protected, as I always do in the presence of large, placid Buddhas. Also there were black swans and giant koi and a cat whose water tray announced that his name was B-Chan. Awesome. I got a brass buddha carrying water to remind myself...well, of myself, I guess.
7. Kanaloa, the phallic cthulhoid Hawaiian octopus god of the dead. Enough said.
8. Bodysurfing on huge waves on an abandoned beach under stormy skies. The waves in general were the biggest I'd ever seen. Also hitting my face on planet earth during one of these episodes with slightly too-large waves for my own good. Bruised septum. Ow. And the volcanic rocks hunching blackly down to the sea near All Souls Leave the Earth (a stone staircase leading into the crashing waves). And the sea itself. I never felt, as I often do on coasts, like I was at the edge of the world, but rather at its secret center. Sometimes you just look out and realize how isolated this place is, how far from anything, how surrounded by serious drown-you-in-a-second ocean, how close to the navel of the world, and how huge, really, huge and fertile and eternally giving and taking from the humans who live there. It feels like a secret place, but also exposed and naked.
9. The Puu O Mahuka Heiau, a sacred site of the ancient Hawaiians, where human sacrifice may or may not have taken place. They definitely killed a bunch of white guys there. I have never been in any place so still. You couldn't even hear the ocean. Everything was red and green and blue and silent, old power and sleeping things, long garlands of flowers and shells still draped over trees. We were the only ones there, and it was...different than any place I've been. It's hard to express, how stillness can seem so totally unique, how a place can seem so separate from the world, and yet a part of it. That goes for all of Hawaii, I guess.
Somehow, I think I fell in love with a tropical island. How funny, after all this time chasing snow.