[Congratulations to Sharon Douglas for her runner up entry, "Refuge."]
The sun’s setting rays bathe my bare arms, legs and face with gentle warmth. Foamy waves froth around my feet. Gentleness seeps into my being. For many years I have relished the solitude of this beach. How often it has been a place of refuge for me: a place where I have been able to just be. Today I still walk here alone, but rumors connecting the recent disappearance of two wemoon with attacks that took place on the west side many years ago, create inner turmoil.
The tide is low. The granular texture of compacted beach sand massages my feet. I imagine it is releasing my tension; dislodging my fearful phantoms– letting them wash away into the vast ocean.
The golden sheen created as the incline of beach is washed by ocean and infused with setting sunlight, is the backdrop to where crabs seem to pick up skirts and glide like Japanese dancers towards the ocean. A dark grey bird with a long flat silver beak shakes out its feathers as it perches on one of the huge tree boulders lodged in the beach sand.
As I step into the red dirt river that snakes into the ocean my feet anticipate the contrast. While they remember and still hold the comfort of the waves’ warm water, the colder water that has come from its source at Mount Waialeale revitalizes them. I stand here a moment enjoying how alive this makes me feel.
I turn to look at the full moon as it languishes on the eastern horizon. A sudden movement causes my chest to tighten. The gentle, soft air in and around me pauses. My refuge vigilantly watches with me. The inner seesaw begins.
"Turn around! Go home! Be discerning! People care about you – have warned you!"
"I will not let paranoia rob me of my sanctuary…it’s just hype…this place is protected…I’m protected…."
Inner voices struggle to find balance – totter one way and then another as they try to find that inner still place of allowing what is….
My refuge sighs with me when we realize, "Ahhh palm frond shadows playing on driftwood – an illusion of movement…."
Determined to banish unsettling thoughts, and enjoy this peaceful slice of paradise, I pick up a wrinkled but still intensely yellow lilikoi. I sit on a bleached white branch where ocean and sand meet, soaking in the sights of mercurial ocean washing into protected bay, and the silhouette of palm trees stretching into blue with white streak of clouds. Waves roll in and gently break. Birds sing and, where but on a beach on Kauai, would a rooster crow. I sniff in deeply, and savor ocean air mixed with the woody smell of driftwood and koa nuts. I deliberately breathe slowly, and then bite into the lilikoi and gently squeeze the sweet fruit caviar into my mouth. The thick yellow juice dribbles down my chin.
Great Pele – how I love this beach! Pakala -Hawaiian for ‘place in the sun’ is what someone told me. I continue to walk and pass driftwood sculptures…the beckoning hand, the crouching lion, the startled buck...pass the kiawe bush with its dark tangled branches and thorns that grow right into the water…pass the kukui nut trees that flutter down huge yellow heart shaped leaves...pass the palm trees with thick trunks layered like shakes of a roof. Sometimes, it is the intense blue of a discarded lobster shell that beckons me to take a closer look. This evening it is a piece of coral that looks like a finger.
What was that? Deliberately I stop and look all around...slowly. Is it just a falling kukui nut…or coconut, or is he waiting in the underbrush? Is the coral finger warning me, or is it giving fear the proverbial middle finger? Is fear just an acronym for false evidence appearing real?
I turn to face where the sound is now a constant crashing. My heart is racing. My body is taut. I struggle to breathe. It takes all of my will not to run. My fingers shake so much I can hardly touch my husband’s speed dial on my i-phone.
I nearly cry with relief, and burst out laughing when two rust-red heifers emerge from a clearing between the palms. Surprised to see me, they pause, give me a long hard look, and then bolt back from where they came.
The moon emerges from behind a cloud, and I imagine she winks at me as she showers her silver light on sand, trees, sea...and me.