Amazing what you notice on that innocuous piece of roadway when you’re on foot. Not zipping passed spewing exhaust in the face of Old Grandmother, but strolling along on bare feet that know the Earth it treads. How the soil rends itself with age and the dry heat of summer, making stretch marks in the red hillside flesh. How the little things become beautiful, like a dragonfly humming to himself as he cruises the dry grass or a small butterfly flitting among the reeds with a coy flash of blue. The zen-like nectar seeking of the bee with a voice that sounds like he is saying ‘Ohm’, harmonizing with songs I cannot hear. With infinite patience he makes his way from on pua aloalo* blossom to the next, pausing briefly to appreciate my red tank top.
How the line of cliffs grin sharply into a steady trade wind, like the fond smile of an Elder with blackened teeth. Whispers and murmuring comes wafting faintly from the sculpted angles and caves, or perhaps that is the voice of the Alii** who’s bones still reside there. Melting in with the bee’s music in perfect harmony as a cardinal joins in with gusto. I can smell nectar and green life so strongly on the breeze this I can almost taste it on my tongue.
Chickens, don’t forget the chickens. Clucking and muttering to each other in the guinea grass, scratching and hunting for anything small enough to fit into their mouths. A few human generations ago they escaped captivity when a hurricane tore through backyard fencing across the island, and they have found an easy living in the jungles of paradise. Having no natural predators (the wild pig could care less) they are free to gobble centipedes, ants, beetles and all sorts of creepy crawly tropical morsels- as well as beg at park benches like a shameless hobo. It was strange at first for me to see previously domesticated fowl running around breeding, quarreling and throwing themselves at passing traffic (puts a whole new meaning to the term ‘playing chicken’) but now I see the symbiotic rightness of it as a hen teaches her clutch how to scratch by the roadside.
A balmy sky above me is blue and perfect, with a few fluffy silver clouds running off to the south. Too far from the ocean to hear the waves but close enough to feel it in the air, where egrets take wing with a flash of white and pheasant nonchalantly stroll. I am sweaty and happy, overheated and slightly footsore, but energized by the songs and the breath of the sea. I am feeling the warm concrete, slightly sticky, and the hot sun has his arm wrapped around my shoulders. I choose a tree in the distance, and decide that it will be a perfect destination.
A mockingbird melody joins the swish of my skirt and the symphony of Puhi road, and I pause to enjoy his performance when I spot him on a Eucalyptus bough. “Well done little brother.” I say to him, and he dips a bow before carrying on. This makes me smile widely as I continue along the white shoulder line, with my toes stained by Brazilian plumb and a round white shell shifting in my pocket.
I look up at the tree line above me festooned with lilikoi*** vines sporting nearly ripe yellow fruits. They are too high up for a poet’s hands to reach, but ideal for the multiple colorful birds who will arrive to feast very shortly. The half eaten bits that fall to the roadway will be claimed by chickens, and the droppings of the birds will scatter the seeds on another branch elsewhere in the forest, thus completing the circle… So evident in the contained ecosystem of an island the importance of cooperation and symbiosis with your neighbors.
A large fat toad interrupts my chain of thought with his abrupt appearance a few paces ahead of me. He hops out of the jungle foliage directly into my path and sits there with his eyes half-lidded. He looks in no hurry to go anywhere, just practicing the patient squat and taking deep breaths like a meditating monk, this pale throat distending and relaxing with regularity. I slow my tread as I come upon him, squatting down to view him more closely. He is a handsome fellow, very dark green, which pegs him as a fully mature specimen, and a little red mud clinging to his webbed feet. I see that he has filled his body with water from the creek down the little hill and has just made it up onto the flat surface of the roadway. Poor fellow is feeling quite full and in need of a rest after hauling his heavy body 15 feet up an embankment, so I skirt around him and leave him to catch his breath.
A dozen yards later I have reached my chosen tree and gratefully sit in the shade a moment before turning back. As I settle into the inviting crook of an upraised root, I feel a deep and abiding satisfaction. Contentment washes over me with the unexpected force of an epiphany, and I am left to grin Half-lidded like the toad. I did not make a special trip, I did not start my feet ambling down this road in search of happiness, but I found it nevertheless. Just a few encounters with mockingbirds and solitude was a balm on the raw flesh of my heart… To think it was right outside my backdoor the whole time…
No words capture the moment, this meager scribbling on a winded page articulates none of the damp sea air and a whisper of spirits. The page is far too one-dimensional to hold a small stretch of pavement and the millions of beautiful moments it contains. A pen will yearn to tell of the most crucial, flawless, quiet, soul shattering, pristine and yet most simple happenstance, and find itself unable to communicate exactly why a spider web that held a drop of dew was so incredibly important.
* Pua Aloalo is the Hawaiian name for the not-so-official state flower, the Hibiscus
**Alii are the Hawaiian royalty
***Lilikoi is a sweet fruit that grows on a vine in Hawaii, mostly in tree boughs