Monday, June 20, 2011

The Edge of the World

This is truly the edge of the world, I thought, as I rattled further and further into the Hawaiian rainforest on one of the free "Hele-On" buses.  As dusk fell, the arc of greenery overhead thickened into a natural ceiling and slowly deepened in color. I strained my eyes to keep watch out the window, certain that the driver, despite several polite reminders, would forget to let me off at Kalani's gate, or that we would drive off the edge of the world, whichever came first.  As we alternately flew and bumped over the narrow island road, struck by low-hanging branches, I savored the sensation of being entirely off the grid.

This is truly the edge of the world.  The final frontier.  I don't care what modern science will tell you; drive a little further west and you are sure to meet a harrowing end, the voice of a 16th century peasant shouting I told you so! ringing in your ears as you tumble from the precipice.  Weather here does not follow normal laws or patterns; since entering this part of the island, I have experienced the most mercurial weather imaginable.  After a half hour of heavy rain and angry winds, the sky will suddenly clear and the sun will burn brightly, quickly drying up the sponge-like earth. An hour later the sky will again darken to gray and a determined drizzle will engulf your immediate surroundings.  Your friend a mile away may, however, still be enjoying a beautiful sunny day.

My adventure began before I even arrived in Hawaii.  After arriving in L.A., I found my way to the airport Starbucks after a desperate search for food.  Unaware that Continental no longer served even pretzels or peanuts, I was ravenous, and promptly wolfed down a bowl of oatmeal and a tall mocha.  When I rose to leave, the young woman at the table next to mine looked at me intently.

Excuse me, she said with a vaguely European accent (and yes, European is the best description I can offer), I was going to say this to you earlier, but you seemed so involved with what you were doing that I didn't want to interrupt.  Well, you seem like a really lovely person... who cares a lot about other people... and I just wanted to tell you that... you should always be yourself.  Don't let anyone ever tell you that you should change, because you're perfect the way you are, you really are.

I thanked her, and sincerely, since her words were kind, even if the situation was rather bizarre.  I exited the Starbucks, but this encounter has somehow become linked to my summer in my mind.  It was my welcome to L.A., and it also marked the beginning of my adventures.  As you venture to the west coast and then beyond, to Hawaii, people as well as places, tend to fall further of the grid.  Not just weather, but behavior too, strays farther from our East Coast ideas of normalcy.  But isn't that the point?  Isn't that what has always drawn explorers further west and dangerously close to the edge of the world?  A search for different, an escape from convention, and, of course, treasure beyond compare.  The gold may be long gone, but these islands have not lost their magic.

This is truly the edge of the world, I thought, and the thought made me smile.

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