The day started out at 2:45 am. I borrowed the man's truck, shoving aside a box of tools, empty iced tea bottles and a giant orange box labeled "vet supplies" to settled onto the seat, then unlocked the gate, and drove in the empty late-night street out across the island. We gathered at about 4:45 am. I couldn't make out anyone's faces-- the brightest thing at the beach park was venus which throbbed overhead. We murmured greetings to each other, introductions for the few of us who hadn't met: "Aloha kakahiaka, pehea kaua?"I strung every one of my Hawaiian words together several times, and then stood and listened to the flow of words around me, like rocks shifting under waves. Nana i ke kumu: just look to the source, and shut your mouth. I shut my mouth and kept my eyes open.

We gathered in a circle in the gloaming. Kaina, who only speaks Hawaiian, all the time, told us what was happening-- I followed the Hawaiian language like lights flickering behind a curtain "-- clean-- ocean-- your body-- water-- release--new year-- for the school-- for the kids-- don't look back". They painted an image in my mind without grammar. Let go of the things that have been bothering you, come to the new year clean.

While it was still dark, we walked down to the beach, spaced far from the other dark forms in the waves. The water was warm on my feet and ankles and a shock on my head. I watched a low mountain of clouds rise and curl, and saw the sky change from slate-to-rain-storm-to-white. When my legs and arms were shaking with cold, I turned my back on the ocean, and walked back onto the beach, without looking back.

I hoped to feel something grand--a real release, or see a sign from the natural world, as sometimes happens, but I didn't. And that's alright-- just being there as a witness and a participant was sign enough. A sign of a new era, a crush of new experiences, some as easy as being ankle deep in warm water and some like a slap of a cold wave on the top of my head. What can I do but be grateful, hold still, and keep my eyes open?


  1. I participated in a similar event with a hula halau on Kauai. I remember trying very hard not to think too much. I also waited for a sign..... reading your thoughts brought something back to my remembrance, a feeling like my feet were actually sinking into the sand, I felt grounded/balanced, a feeling foreign to me. I million miles away in a different mind I am still learning from that crazy ass early morning

    I rarely have words to match the clarity of thought in my head. You on the other hand write like a wave, I can see it building beautifully on the horizon, until all the sudden your words culminate into profoundness that crashes into me and inspires or as with the wave leaves me breathless.

    cheers from N.C. friend

  2. Both of you so eloquently expressed the beauty of your experiences in hi‘uwai.Mahalo for sharing.

  3. Both of you so eloquently expressed the beauty of your experiences in hi‘uwai.Mahalo for sharing.


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