There is a little place in Hawaii
where I stay when I visit. It's in Captain Cook
. It's a Japanese hostel
that was built in the twenties
during the sugarcane
farming era, and it is now a small working plantation. Banana
trees, lots and lots of fragrant tropical flowers, brilliant technicolor finches
- all these things (and a million more) combine to create an illusion of Eden
A clean, TV-and-telephone-free room will run you from 25.00 US to 55.00 US per night. I shit you not.
The proprietor is third generation, and is known as "Papa" to the locals. The small restaurant in the hostel is packed to capacity at every meal, mostly by in-the-know locals who go there for the famously juicy pork chops and the criminally fresh ahi, ono, and butterfish. An enormous breakfast of a half papaya or juice, toast or Japanese rice, meat of choice (ham, bacon, sausage, Portugese sausage, or spam), eggs any style, and pure Kona coffee will run you 5.00 US.
Lunch and dinner are served with entrees plus three side dishes, which are delivered to the table as appetizers. One side is always the traditional Island starchfest - potato salad with carrots, peas, and elbow macaroni in a mayonnaise base. The other sides vary at the whim of the chef, but I've had things like Japanese seaweed salad, chilled vinegared field peas, steamed taro in ginger soy sauce, and mixed tropical veggies. All of these sides, plus an enormous helping of rice, are included in the price of the entrees, which run from 7 dollars US to 10 dollars US.
For about 25.00 US, you get a clean room with access to a communal bathroom and sauna. If you splurge on a 55.00 US room, you get a second- or third-story room that overlooks the Pacific Ocean from a dizzying 2,500 feet. Check in at night, and you're in for a breathtaking shock in the morning: the entire impossibly blue Pacific Ocean kissing the sky at the far horizon. If you get a third-floor room, you can also see Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, the ancient Place of Refuge, to the south. There you'll find the best snorkeling on the Island - some say the best snorkeling in the world.
The hostel reminds me of nothing more than summer camp at the beach in Charleston, South Carolina. It has a warm, homey atmosphere, and its sparse amenities conspire to focus your attention on the beauty of your surroundings. A traditional koi pond with a small waterfall burbles in the central courtyard, and the garden's atmosphere makes you feel a million miles away from civilization. You could go to this place for a Hawaiian vacation and never leave the balcony except for beer runs.
I've been to this place on three separate occasions now. They also rent by the month for about 530.00 US, and I've considered going there to live for a while. That might be a pipe dream; I'll need to get my massage therapy license before I set my sights on living in Hawaii.
But I've had an idea lately, an idea enthusiastically supported by panamaus. With accomodations this inexpensive, a Hawaiian noder meet might not be a pipe dream!
Think of it: we plan a few months in advance. We save money. We choose a week. We make our reservations. We find cheap airfare to Hawaii, the Kona airport (cheap fares are available if you scour the travel sites). You can get great deals on rental cars if you act ahead. We meet one another at the airport or at the hotel.
We spend a week indulging in the inexpensive delights of the hostel's cafe and the absolutely free activities of snorkeling, hiking, swimming, and sunbathing. Hawaii has a law that every single beach on the entire island must have public access. That leaves both the quiet black sand beaches to the south and the very active sugar sand beaches of the massive Kohala resorts to the north at our disposal.
Think of it: a relatively small group of noders on a trip to Hawaii. The culture and scenery on the Big Island are utterly unique. For those willing to travel off the beaten path, for those willing to let the Island speak to them, it is a place where magic makes its home.
It's like this. Every single solitary person who has relocated to Hawaii carries with them an amazing story about how they got there. No one simply "winds up" on an Island 2,000 miles away from anywhere else. In the months that I spent living in Hilo (a town on the eastern, wetter side of the Island), I met dozens of people who have inspiring and entertaining stories about how they found their Island home.
There was Kaira, the itinerant woman who makes her living acting as a freelance interpreter for the deaf. I had a lovely, well-spiced conversation with her one long November afternoon. I met her on a Hilo beach and, in the true spirit of Aloha, she shared her stash and her story with me.
She was originally from Ohio, and her boyfriend surprised her with a trip to Hawaii eighteen months prior. She left the boyfriend but never left the Island. At twenty-five years of age, she sleeps on beaches and occasionally lodges at the houses of friends. She is graceful and lovely. She swayed and twirled as she spoke to me that afternoon, dancing to her own private soundtrack or perhaps just to the song of the breeze in the palms.
I told Kaira how the Island had bewitched me. How I wanted this to be my home. She smiled a dreamy smile and took one of my hands in both of her own. She kissed my hand and said, "Ashley, if you open yourself to the Island, She will open Herself to you." And in that moment, in a golden, languid haze of excellent marijuana and the joy of finding a kindred spirit, my heart swelled with hope and belief. In that precise moment, anything at all was possible, attainable.
Then there was Charisse. I met her in the parking lot of the hostel. She was entertaining her mother, who had come from Oregon for a visit. It was early morning, and Charisse was packing her Honda hatchback for a day of hiking with her mom. I was headed to Honaunau for some early snorkeling, because the dolphins and sea turtles wake up early and get spooked by the tourists once the day really gets started.
I noticed her because she was beautiful, and one tends to notice beautiful women. She was strong-limbed, lithe. Her skin shone in the newborn sunlight like caramel satin. She moved like a dancer. She glanced at me as I blearily stumbled into the parking lot, caught me watching her, and smiled the open smile endemic to people in Hawaii. As I headed to my own car, she walked over to me and took my hand. "What is your name?" she asked me. Slightly taken aback, I said "Um...Ashley. My name's Ashley." I set my snorkeling gear on the trunk of my car and returned her handclasp with both of my hands.
Her hair was earth-brown with natural honey streaks where the sun had kissed it. The soft places around her eyes carried the echoes of past laughter. She looked at me, really looked at me, in a way that would have been disconcerting had her eyes not been such a rich shade of gentle. "My name is Charisse," she said, still holding my hands. She regarded me kindly. After a moment she cocked her head, nodded.
"You've been blessed, you know. Very blessed."
My vision blurred; tears welled. "How can you tell?" I choked.
"It's all over you. You're moving in the blessing." She thought for a moment and I collected myself with some difficulty.
"I know you've been through something traumatic lately," she said quietly, tenderly. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. "But do you know about Madame Pele?"
"I know...I know She's a goddess, that She loves these islands...She calls them Home..." I said shakily.
"Yes, yes, that's right. But did you know that She's a Healer? The Healer? She destroys and creates. She wounds and she heals."
I smiffled. "No...no, I didn't know that..."
She smiled into my eyes. "That's why this Island is known as The Healing Island. It is la'a - sacred; holy. It is where Pele does her work." She released my hands and gestured - vaguely, gracefully, expansively - at the simple, exquisite bounty of the sea, the sky, the sun, the lush vegetation all around us.
I was a little shaken, so I leaned against the trunk of my rental car. Nothing to me is more sacred than a story, and so I asked her, "How did you get here?"
Her smile ripened into a grin. "I was a high school English teacher living in Portland, Oregon," she explained.
"Oregon!" I interrupted. "That's where I'm living now!"
She smiled again and continued. "I came here to visit a friend when I was thirty-six and got lost in the best way possible. I went home, finished my year, and came here." Her tawny face had a dreamy, besotted look. "Now I'm a beekeeper on the southern part of the Island."
I could hardly believe it. From teacher to beekeeper. But it somehow made sense.
I heard more stories than I have time to enumerate right now, but they were all entertaining and intriguing. There was the art gallery owner who'd sold everything to sail around the world and who'd stopped here - a more perfect place than she could ever have dreamed. There was no reason to sail further.
There was the erstwhile college professor who used his savings to buy a tiny piece of land near the Waipio Valley to live out his days as a woodcarver in a place described by drenching sunlight and calming rains, a place suited to forgetting what lies behind and pressing forward to what lies ahead.
There was the Congregational minister who deserted a sedate, lucrative parish assignment in Massachusetts to come to this wild outpost of Eden.
And then there was the native Hawaiian woman (exotic and lovely) who was brought up on Oahu and who ran from her "shameful" background to a college in San Francisco. After many years, she made peace with her heritage and ended up in the Waipio Valley. She's now a woman with a degree in Victorian Literature living off the bounty of the land with no electricity or running water.
She told me quietly that the people who live in the Valley consider themselves to live in the "real world". They say that the world we live in is one of illusion and delusion. Because she has lived where I now live, I trust her, trust her limpid eyes and calm demeanor.
She harvests her water from the bounty of waterfalls, and she asks permission from and gives thanks to the Goddess for whatever produce she grows and consumes. For income, she runs mule-driven wagon rides through the valley she calls home, and she lives in a tiny, tight community of ex-hippies, ex-Vietnam veterans, who, in their brokenness, have cobbled together a family in the depths of the barely accessible valley, their chosen home. Fifty people live there, fifty people who live in a near-communal situation and who trust one another the way we trust one another here at E2.
And many more stories, so many more.
Visiting Hawaii means that you will abandon yourself to one of two things. You will either abandon yourself to a wonderful weeklong vacation, or you will lose yourself entirely. Aside from the glitter of Kona and the mega-resorts of Kohala, this is an Island of locals and ordinary miracles. This is not the Hawaii of movies and legends. This is not Maui or Oahu. This is a secret place, a sacred place feared by developers who know that the volcano is alive and could eat their investments. This is a place alive with history, a reverent place awed by the beating of its own heart.
There are millions, trillions of worse things than to be lost in that lovely place. There are worse lives to live than being absorbed by its ancient, timeless charms; its steady, nurturing currents; its rarefied, outrageous fragrances.
So, I've been thinking...a noder meet in Hawaii.
It isn't Everything, Kansas. It isn't that radical. If you decide to stay, it would be on your own. It would entail a private covenant between you and the sea and the star-strewn night sky. Between you and the sea turtles and the dolphins, who never betray secrets and who understand longings too deep for words.
The journey would be a tad expensive, but it would be a destination gathering, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as much about discovering a sense of place as about enjoying the pleasures of camaraderie
How about it? Anyone willing to spend a week, one week out of a short life, sometime during the next year to meet with Pele? Can you forsake the comforts of a wired age - the internet, television, telephones - for one week? Can you fall into the waiting arms of something fragrant and ancient, something that demands your undivided and rapt attention? Willing to temporarily (or perhaps permanently) eschew propriety, control, expectations? Are you willing to be seduced?
Are you willing?
I know I'll be back there, the sooner the better. I've been enchanted - willingly, deliriously, outrageously bewitched. Nothing and no one has claim to me now. I can easily see myself living there, subsisting on farmer's market produce and the sound of rain on my roof at night. I can imagine using my hands to heal and my body to explore. I can think of many, many worse things than to be lost in Hawaii.
Let me know what you think. Send me a message. It may not be inexpensive, but how many things worth remembering are? Many more difficult feats of planning have been accomplished and have worked out beautifully.
This is possible, people. It is possible, attainable.
Perhaps we can get lost together, as a group. Are you willing to open yourself to this Island? Willing to be taken by Her? Willing to throw caution to the wind with an enchanting, unforgettable Lady who may well ruin you for anything - anyone - else? Willing to camp out under a sky salted with diamonds? Willing to take a chance on something that could be either a one-night stand or a magnificent obsession?
Perhaps there's a piece of paradise with our names on it.
/msg Mitzi. But only - ONLY - if you're serious. Practical matters may or may not be addressed by a new usergroup, should the need arise.
She's there. She's warm and waiting. All we have to do is hold out our hands and let her have her way.