At Sea Level
I arrive early, just after sunrise. Later there will be others; local families, the children dabbling and splashing with their screams and cries of glee, watchful parents sittingand sipping in the shade, moms arranging towels and table clothes, dads grilling meat and popping beer cans. Tourists will come and stand for a moment, looking at the ocean, not really seeing anything, before snapping a few pictures to prove they were here, then piloting their immaculate white runners and fancy slippers back to their air conditioned rental cars and moving on around the big circle of the Big Island. But that’s later. For now I am alone with nature which means that I am not really alone at all.
The horizon ends in a flat line at a distance indeterminable because there is no other reference. Just the line. That is where today’s world ends. In front of me the deep blue of the mid-Pacific right next to the powder blue sky. Puffy cotton balls rise and float away off the edge. Behind me Mauna Loa stands, steadfast in its majesty, the misty morning clouds disappearing to reveal its pointy peak. Reality and common science of the era tells me that there is no edge, that the world is not flat where things simply fall off the edge, but round like basket ball with no end. A world with no end, where time is not important because distance is endless.
I ponder this for a moment; the importance of time as it pertains to my place in it. A camera flash goes off, but I blink and miss it. That, I believe, is my importance in time today. Tomorrow I may actually see the flash and it will be as instantly meaningless as my entire place in time. Soon I will pass to another realm and won’t be remembered beyond a thought or two. I am ok with this because I am ok with this moment. My entire life has been devoted to creating the ability for me to be at peace in this moment and what I do today may or may not advance my enjoyment of tomorrow.
Today, at this moment, the end is where the water meets the sky. This I can see. So I believe the half of it since I learned long ago to believe only half of what I see and none of what I hear. But this truth also confuses me. I do hear a few things. Myna birds gurgle and chortle. Brazilian Cardinals twitter and flutter about, showing off their bright red hats and black and white tuxedos. Japanese White eyes come and go and shoreline terns dart amongst the rocks near the water, looking for their favourite bits of nourishment.
The surf, breaking on the lava shoreline provides a constant and pleasant background of ambient noise. I check my decimetre. The level is a constant 57 decibels. About the same level as that of an average quiet street, it suggests.
I sit in the shade of a common shore tree while the sun shines in its full glory, thinking how much more pleasant this natural setting is than an average quiet street.
The word ‘bliss’ comes to mind. Some might define these moments of this day in this endless place as the meaning of bliss. I would tend to agree that it comes very close. To me, this is as blissful as honeymoon moments and the raising of small children. But I am also cognizant of the possibility that it is an illusion, my illusion and interpretation of these moments in time. Either way I will enjoy each and every one of the moments which, when strung together produce a memory. Whether an illusion, a delusion or a speck in the space/time continuum, I am entirely happy with it.
A whale spouts half a kilometer off shore. I watch the spot where I last saw it, my gaze so fixed and still that the periphery begins to seem hallucinogenic. It spouts again and raises a flipper above the surface. Then, right beside it I see a smaller and weaker spout. So mama has a calf. Another spout farther to the right and another in the distance tell me that these Humpbacks are almost ready to make the long passage back to the mainland, some north to the frigid waters of Alaska and others south to the cold Chilean coast where, in both areas their mainstay, krill, is so far, still in abundance. I wonder how the changing climate will effect the sustainability of these marvelous sea mammals. In some places around the globe, whales are flinging themselves on shore in what some describe as a death dance, seemingly in protest to the doings of man. But for this moment, in this place their winter business of calving and breeding is winding down. A huge splash is followed by the sight of an enormous tail waving at me. Or was that just an illusion? I marvel at the amount of energy it takes to raise this huge behemoth completely out of the water. It is equivalent, I reckon, to the amount of energy it takes to power the average SUV a few city blocks.
Today the water is flat on the south coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The wind changed about a week ago from the northeast to the southwest. Usually by midday on the Kau, coast there is a 30 to 40 knot gale blowing steadily which stirs up the ocean and makes sitting in the open much like riding in a convertible on the freeway. The scenery is great but the experience wears you down.
I am sitting in Whittington County Park. The site was once used as a loading facility for the shipping and receiving of supplies related to the sugar industry. All that remains of this once thriving industry are a few concrete slabs and footings of the warehouses, a few house foundations and some elderly cane field workers. The pillars of a concrete jetty where ships would unload supplies and take on sugar jut forlornly into the surf. It would have withstood the elements mostly entact but for being partially demolished during WWII in fear of it being used to land enemy troops.
Inside the shore break there is a long saltwater pond filled with small colourful fish which dart about endlessly. Farther inland there is a large brackish pond where other creatures dwell in and about the murky water and muddy bottom. Fresh water flows down from Mauna Loa through the porous lava before making its way into the ocean at various places along the seashore. The cooler fresh water mixes with the warm ocean making for an interesting swimming experience.
A pod of Spinner Dolphins frolics just off the reef. I see perhaps fifty in their group. As they breach, they turn over several times. They swim in rhythm. Synchronized, their dorsal fins break the surface simultaneously as the group bobs up and down. The odd recalcitrant swims on his own, breaching and flipping and as happy as, well, a dolphin. They hang around for half an hour, taking care of whatever business they are about, then move off into the distance, finally disappearing from view over the edge.
It is now noon and Ms Sun has moved into her high position, almost directly above as she passes through March on her way north to make summer. Now there is a grand illusion. Ms Sun does not pass anywhere. She sits there motionless and radiates. An enormous nuclear reactor, cooking everything close to her, toasting that which is further away and baking those things at a distance of ninety three million miles. Her influence reaches considerably further and I only guess what effect she has on distant planets and other celestial objects. I know she exists because I can see her in my half believable way. I can feel her baking my feet which are directly exposed to her rays. I sincerely hope that her radio logical capabilities have been quelled by the distance between her and my feet since I wouldn’t want to grow any new toes or perhaps, an eyeball where a toenail should be.
A warm salty breeze stirs the trees and cools the skin. A few families occupy the picnic facilities and the tourists come and go. The tide comes in and washes away some kids pants and sandals. The mother fusses and scolds as the dad tries unsuccessfully to retrieve the floating slippers as they head for Tahiti.
A few days ago I drove up a mountain road to the five thousand foot level. It was a clear day and I had an unobstructed view of the ocean. The shoreline was about ten miles away and from my vantage point I took in the great expanse of empty ocean. Well, it was empty of anything floating that I could see. I’m sure there were thousands of living things just under the surface. I didn’t work out distances, but from where I was I could likely see about fifty miles. There was a lot of water in that fifty miles. I looked around me at the enormity of Mauna Loa and the Big Island: from sea floor to the top of the mountain it is the highest mountain in the world. It’s mass is greater than the entire Sierra Mountain range in California. But it’s size pales in comparison to the water that surrounds it. The Hawaiian chain of islands are mere specks on the surface of the mid-Pacific . That is a lot of water.
The word ‘bliss’ comes to mind…