"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, July 23, 2007

Magic Revealed - Water, Air, Earth

Floating in the Pacific Ocean, tropical waters, on the edge of a reef. The prehistoric Na Pali coastline keeps stoic watch from the shore. The surf beckons from the other side of the coral, sometimes gently luring, sometimes furiously demanding. I only notice the difference when I come to the surface to clear my mask. Breathe in, breathe out. Flippers keeping me steady in the surge and current, hands making minor adjustments like the pectoral fins of the fish I'm trying to be one with. Breathe in, breathe out. Snorkel mask tight against my face, allowing me the convincing illusion that I'm a resident of this slightly murky, very salty world. Breathe in, breathe out.

The soothing rhythmic rush of my breathing is nearly drowned out by the snapping crackle of hordes of invisible shrimp declaring their territory.

I taste salt. Primeval, life-creating, sweet salt. I float, bob, breath. I give myself to the vastness and majesty of this saline universe. My body is no longer middle aged, over-indulged limbs and bulges. My body is ocean body, defined by coastlines, not cultural conventions.

Bits of vivid rainbow flair here and there. Aptly named green and red and turquoise Christmas Wrasses. Buttercup yellow Butterfly Fishes. Convict Tangs in their black uniform stripes over pops of lemon. Neon purple and yellow Cleaner Wrasses, the most beautiful garbage men in the universe. A huge Parrotfish, luminescing carnival glass purples, pinks, yellows, blues. Black Surgeonfish suddenly revealed as yellow neon spotted violet in a random ray of sunlight.

One amazing fish, the disappointingly named Yellowtail Coris, is the rainbow all by himself. The colors do not say ROY G. BIV, but they do shout more splendor than even a double rainbow over the Grand Canyon. I lose my breathing in his impossible glory and have to surface to find it again.

A busy Christmas Wrasse draws my attention to a particular coral outcropping. As I focus on his manic dance I realize that he's feeding around the mouth of a Green Sea Turtle - Honu. Honu grazes placidly on the algae patches growing here and there among the nooks and crannies of the reef. His cafe table shell, a nearly invisible mosaic in the brownish green depths, is maneuvered effortlessly from spot to spot with wing-like flippers.

My vision is suddenly blurred. Tears have leapt to the surface to declare the wonder and awe of the moment since words are impossible and salt water is the language of this place. I'm aware of a moan vibrating at the back of my throat, but I swallow it quickly. I want Honu to stay. I want to be in his world for as long as possible. I don't want to offend.

Honu continues to graze intently and peacefully, totally ignoring the Wrasse gleefully consuming his leftovers. I continue to float above him sending silent prayerful petitions for permission to be with him. Finally he drifts toward the surface, ready for air. I stop breathing as his face pauses slightly more than an arm's length from mine. His huge, gentle eyes meet my huge, awe-struck eyes. I send love, respect, admiration. He receives my reverence and surfaces. As he pokes his massive fist of a head into the sea air, I poke my alien masked face up at the same time. Once, twice, a third time we do our synchronized swim moves before he floats back down to his pasture.

We repeat our surface dance twice more before he glides to depths my eyesight can't follow into. Given a choice in that moment, I would shed my humanity for the chance to follow him wherever he went. I'm not given that choice, however, and I comfort myself with the colorful company of our mutual friend Wrasse.


Morning solitude on our third floor lanai. I'm in my chair facing east, facing the Trade Winds, before sunrise. Breathe in, pause, breathe out, pause. Again. Again. My breath and the wind play together in the moist morning air. Roosters crow imperiously and idiotically, mynahs chuckle and cackle, doves coo in coy whispers. I'm aware of the light changing beyond my lids, can feel its radiance growing around me. With a final breathe in, pause, breathe out, pause, my heart sends gratitudes into the morning. I open my eyes to find myself looking full in the face of Light.


Home again. Back to earth. Fifteen days away. No travel worries or hassles. All our luggage home with us in one piece. No injury or illness. All four cats alive, well and happy to see me. (Revenge for being left with a caretaker exacted after I get home - the guest bedding I'm washing for this week's company mysteriously peed upon.) Butterfly bushes have bloomed in my absence, welcoming me home in neon purple and blushing pink, very like the ocean rainbows I've left behind. Flower beds a riot of lipstick red Bee Balm, sun yellow Coreopsis, feathery purple Liatris, singing tangerine Day Lilies. I've traded fish for flowers, but the rainbow of promised hope has followed me home. Hope is the magic revealed. A message so vivid and clear that I trust. I breathe. I pause.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

There Is Nothing Left To Desire


Walt and I have been on the Garden Island of Kauai for the last week. I had a grand picture of blogging our vacation every day, both as a way to stay connected here and as a way to record our adventures. As is often the case when I picture how something is going to go, it goes in very different ways.

The first couple of days I was dealing with some disappointment and disillusionment. Kauai is much drier and less lush than I remember from my girlfriend trip here a decade ago. The locals are more unfriendly than friendly. Our condo is not ocean view as I've spent that last several months anticipating it would be. The magic that I was so looking forward to reclaiming in this tropical paradise just seemed to elude me at every turn.

Our twentieth wedding anniversary is August 16, so this trip is a celebration of that milestone. And it is a milestone worthy of celebration. The problem is that the ebb and flow of a long relationship doesn't necessarily follow a calendar. All of the changes that have occurred for me as a result of the February workshop have meant a significant rocking of our marital boat.

I'm not just writing as much as I can, a big change in itself, I'm more focused on what I want out of my life. My ongoing spiritual quest has deepened and is actually beginning to coalesce into a practice. I'm more aware of how my time is spent and I'm wanting more light and honesty in my relationships.

Walt has been tremendously supportive. He bought me a laptop. He reads my blog and talks to me about it. He does dishes more often. He encourages me at every turn.

Even with all of our efforts to stay connected, our connection has been stretched very thin over the last few months.

So when we arrived in Lihue last Thursday, everything felt off. Not romantic (which I wasn't expecting). Not even best friend companionable (which I was expecting).There is a mural in the airport showing beautiful Hawaiian men dancing the words "There is nothing left to desire." The phrase caught my eye and followed me into the humid Hawaiian afternoon.

A perfect description of this tropical paradise. How fortunate we are to be able to be here. How ungrateful and wrong I was feeling for desiring much much more.

When the room wasn't what I had been led to believe it was going to be (by my marital partner), I tipped into a space of fear that I can usually keep myself out of.

I have learned that when things don't work out the way I want them to, if I can stay open, there are always bigger gifts waiting around the bend. I stayed with the fear and disappointment this time instead of converting all of that energy into the power of anger, which has been my habit in previous years.

Because I stayed honest, and because he doesn't give up, Walt and I have had a couple of really powerful conversations about where we are, why we're here and how we might get where we both really want to be but can't quite find our way to.

And we are finding grand adventures and having great fun together. We've snorkeled nearly every day, including an amazing catamaran excursion to Niihau and Lehua. We've hiked canyons and explored beaches and eaten a ton of Shave Ice. In spite of quarts of heavy-duty sun screen I managed to burn the backs of my legs a bit (maybe more than a bit), but for the most part we've stayed healthy.

There are chickens running wild everywhere here. The roosters start crowing around 4:00 AM. Hens and chicks scurry along the roadsides, in parking lots, in the parks and on the beaches. They roost in the trees by the pool. Because I love chickens - it's an irrational thing, kind of like some people are afraid of spiders - the poultry has been a highlight.

We've seen amazing sights.

Kalalua Valley on the Na Pali coastline - the view from our hike.

Green turtles playing in the water yesterday right next to our snorkeling spot at Queen's Bath.

Spinner dolphins and bottle nose dolphins keeping us company on the catamaran trip. Monk seals swimming by underwater during another snorkeling day. Great (this is part of the name, not just a description) Frigatebirds and Tropicbirds and Boobies and Albatross soaring above Kilauea Lighthouse.

Fish of every color and size and shape swimming with us in every snorkel spot we've found. Some have taste tested us - just tentative nibbles on calves. The first time that happened, I thought Walt was fooling around and was very surprised when no one was there.

Two of our favorite snorkeling companions.

Walt is golfing Princeville this morning. If you're a golfer this is a big deal. I'm so glad he's doing something cool for himself, and pretty darned happy to have the time to be here.

We're going to 'Anini Beach to snorkel this afternoon. It used to be Wanini Beach until someone got annoyed and shot the "W" off the sign. Everyone thought it was one of those corrections back into old Hawaiian and the name stuck. That kind of sums up this place. Rules are followed loosely, if at all. It's made me think about how rule-oriented I really am, even though I think I hate rules. It appears that I feel safer when I know what the rules are, what the expectations are. It appears to be part of my whole good girl pattern, the pattern I'm well on my way to breaking. I wonder what consonant I could shoot off a sign. . .!

I find that I'm awake early here, usually 5:00 or 5:30. Next to snorkeling, the morning time is my favorite thing about this trip. I sit on our third floor lanai, facing the clouded eastern sky and playful trade winds and meditate. Then I watch the day come to life as the clouds race across the sky away from the rising sun, leaving the palms swaying in their wake. The ubiquitous Mynahs screech at the Moas (the official Hawaiian word for the chickens that have overrun the island) who crow and cluck and cheep themselves awake. Coffee, papaya with lime, apple bananas for breakfast. A precious hour of crowded solitude.

I'm aware that snorkeling is much like my morning meditation. Breathe in. Breathe out. Be present. Breathe in. Breathe out. Be aware. Nothing exists but my breath, my being and that moment in time. And for that moment there truly is nothing left to desire. I am being in as many of those moments as I can.

We have another week. Who knows what magic might happen in these next days. It seems like this would be the perfect place for our desire for a stronger, happier, more intimate marrage to begin to bear fruit.