Secret Places

I've mentioned before that where the Big Island was all walls and barriers, Kauai is open corridors and accessible guideposts. Our favorite spots on the Big Island were unvisited, practically inaccessible, and we only learned about them after years of quiet and humble observation. But here, nearly every beach is clearly identified in ubiquitous guidebooks, and the vast swaths of public land are crisscrossed with neatly marked trails.

It's pleasant-- I feel like less of an intruder. I don't have to work so hard to go someplace new. It's also sad-- where the Big Island is still keeping her secrets, Kauai has been thoroughly colonized and marked by the outsider's use. Who else would need all that interpretation of the landscape?

But there are still mysteries. And there is something urgently itchy about the unexplored territories on the island-- people's favorite fishing spots and family-secret hunting trails-- plain on a map but unnoticed unless you know what you're looking for exactly. I guess it's my own colonizing drive-- solve all the mysteries, categorize the unknown, describe and taxonomize the world I'm in.

A few days ago we went exploring down a rutted track along the campus of the 7th day Adventist School. At the office a smiling family gave us a map and directions to a trailhead. Past several ominous "NO TRESSPASSING, DO NO ENTER" signs, which, the family reassured us, we could ignore, we spotted the knee-high cement wall that marked the trail. We parked in the grass and started out through a brambly, hot and mosquito buzzy tangle of wild guava. The trees are so scrawny and growing so densely that they trap the fat hot air without making any shade.

The trail began to widen and lean up a steep hill, and the guava thinned out into a shady stand of planted norfolk pine trees. There were huge bald boulders and the ground was covered in the crisp long-fingered needles-- many-jointed like centipedes. There was a gully on one side of the hill and a view of a jungly ridge. Water sloshed and dropped somewhere nearby.

We had our picnic and noticed that the illusion of wildness disappeared if you lined up with the trees. Then the entire scene became geometrical-- all the trees columns in equidistant lines. Shift perspective again and tree-ish chaos was restored.

We told scary Taily Po stories and then made our way back down (hikes are always shorter on the way back) and went home, a tiny mystery discovered.


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