‘Awapuhi

I can see I’ve kind of become my own renovation project, trying to reconstruct the joys of my childhood.  It’s an old guy thing, I think. This past Friday, unfortunately, I arrived on Maui too late to make it out to my intended destination, the Hana Bay beach park, but I did go far enough to make it to the beautiful Ke‘anae peninsula on the eastern side of the island.  Like Hana Bay, it’s another place where my family camped when I was young, and another place where I used to fish with my father.

The water there is such a piercing blue.  It’s blinding and spellbinding at the same time, brilliant to look into, so deep so close to shore.  The waves crash hard, making a beautiful sound, constantly colliding against the dangerous looking outcroppings of a‘a lava, that spiny, sharp, clinker lava, so dramatically different from the smooth, ropey flows of pāhoehoe.

With my running shoes on, I could feel that each step might slice the sole.  I’m glad I didn’t go out there in slippers, because I wanted to get out close to the water, which meant negotiating the sharp rocks. When I reached the edge, I knelt and scooped up some seawater and drank it.  It was not so salty as I imagined it would be.

At that point I decided it would be dark by the time I made it to Hana, and I absolutely did not want to drive back to Kahului on that dangerous road at night.  So I turned around.

Just a little ways out of Kea‘nae, I came to a place that I noticed was crawling with tourists when I was driving on the way out, and was still teeming with them now on the way back.  I slowed. The sign said Kaumahina State Wayside.  I could see a waterfall.  Visitors were swarming back and forth on the trail up to it.

I pulled over, not sure if my family might have stayed there as well on one of our trips. Waterfalls were one of my mom’s things, so it was most likely.

The waterfall was not massive, but the crowd sure was.  The pool below the falls looked like a boiling pot of pale bodies, and I could see a rainbow-like sheen around the edges which I guessed might be sunscreen washed off and collecting.

I watched the swimmers for a while.  Not too relaxing a scene, brother.  When I go to waterfalls, I want to hear the water falling and pounding, not people yelling and screaming.

I turned around and walked back toward the road.  I’d taken lots of pictures at Ke‘anae to remind me of the place. I didn’t take any here. Going down, just as it was coming up, was like lining up for a Black Friday sale. Creeping along, I noticed a young Hawaiian man in board shorts standing off to the side, maybe thirty years old, his arms crossed, watching the crowd push by.  He was covered in all kinds of tattoos, was pretty well ripped, and looked a little bit scary.

He caught me looking at him, smiled, and gestured for me to come over to him.

Ah, now normally, I would just keep moving, I mean as fast as I could, but this guy actually looked pretty friendly suddenly, and maybe he thought I was local, since I was the only non-Haole looking person in the place. I am actually half Haole, but it really doesn’t show. To help local me out, kinda, I was wearing an unbuttoned aloha shirt, and a UH Rainbows tank-top. In short, I thought this might be a two-local-guys-bonding moment, which would be cool given that we were probably the only two locals, besides the mini-bus and van drivers down on the road, in the entire place.

I stepped out of the line and walked over to him.

“Eh,” he said, “aloha.”

Hmmm, maybe I did look like a tourist?

I said Hi and waited.

He turned around and picked to white flowers, the ginger we call ‘awapuhi. They were growing everywhere around this place.

He turned back to me and offered the flowers.

“Here,” he said, “this is what we call ‘awapuhi.  It’s the white ginger flower.  It smells great, and that smell will last for a long time.  One for you, and one for your wife.”

I smiled and thanked him.

“Aloha,” he said again.  “Have a good vacation.”  Then he turned around and walked off toward the waterfall.

I stood there looking from the two flowers, to him disappearing, and back to the flowers.

I really don’t know if my family might have camped there back in the day, back when it was maybe more serene and a little more deserted.  Surely we must have stopped there at least once, and I probably did swim in that pool.

As I’m typing this, I have those two now very wilted ‘awapuhi flowers on my desk next to the keyboard.  I can still smell them.  One for me, and one for my wife.

* * * * *

Today’s word is

serene

Use it in a piece of writing, or use it to inspire a piece of writing, and then post that piece as a comment below. I would love to read what you write.

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