“I don’t know. I guess it’s what people do down here. They go to Hawaii.”
The tall one raised his eyebrows at me. He was perplexed at my suggestion of a trip to Hawaii for our second thanksgiving living in Southern California. The first one was after a gnarly car accident. I had been seriously injured which resulted in surgery and specialists. I spent our first year after we moved from Seattle to SoCal I’m waiting rooms of doctors praying one of them would free me of chronic pain. That year passed in a blur of surgery and pain medication. A year I did not want to repeat in any way again. This time around, as the holiday descended upon us, I was determined to not repeat that nothing worth mentioning memory again.
It is no secret I barely sit still in my day to day routine. Perhaps it’s from my ballet career days long ago that urges movement within my body. Or perhaps it is my ‘gypsy soul’ – as my mother coined me to process from a child. Either way my wandering spirit needed to go somewhere and do something as it itches within my skin the longer I am in one place for too long. Visiting family was not a option for me. The idea of relatives has less to do with in laws and family relations and more to do with my inner lack of self worth giving me peace in those overwhelming interactions. I find myself not feeling enough to just be a part of the family, any family, most of all my own. I quickly crossed out that option of a holiday spent with family much to the gratefulness of my nervous social anxiety. Seeking out other ways to spend the holiday; I listened to gossip on the playground between slides and swings and the destination of Hawaii kept ringing bells in my mind. The put together beach babe moms here spent the winters in Hawaii. Hawaii was the place to go apparently.
“What’s there to do in Hawaii? I mean you don’t really like just sitting at the beach. And people hike and stuff. You have told me you will never camp or go out in the woods ever. You said that you are a city girl remember?”
I nodded. I mean he has a very thoughtful point. The tall one is, after all, my best friend for life and he knew of my interesting tendencies that make up portions of my uniqueness. He smiled over at me with his confusing yet knowing look. Even after years of study, I still found some joy in still being the unpredictable factor in his every steady world. The tall one was a scientist mind in his engineering world view. He was a steady life line without much change of course when he put his determination in gear. I, his opposite in so many ways; chased whatever whim struck me, always chasing the unknown. When I brought up Hawaii and hiking and island slow pace – he was right. I always vocalized that the beach was pretty to look at and I enjoyed the sound of waves kissing sunsets. This observation stance on the beach never failed to soothe my spirit. But hiking? Camping? Sitting on some sandy shores? All the bugs and dirt and lack of much else – he was right – hiking was not something I had ever expressed interest in encountering by choice.
I shrugged. Everyone here seems to love Hawaii. I was in this foreign SoCal culture trying to adapt to the locals with my pale skin and too many tattoos. I wanted friends. I wanted to not be stared at. I wanted to be accepted. We left our close community in seattle who were my family of my heart. I was lonely here. I was so lonely here. I spent weeks on alert on what the natives do. I had ease dropped on two self proclaimed yummy mummys talk about how Hawaii was the place to go. Hawaii was not on my radar of top ten destinations as I dreamed of Greece and Japan but again the urge to be liked was such a strong one for me. I listened to them share stories of hiking on this island not too far. It was a few hour plane journey yet this island was so far away from what I had ever experienced. Regardless of my concepts of luxury vacations I had decided we would go some way, some how. Buckets at just age three was up for any adventure with her always deliriously happy tenperate. I just needed to inform the tall one of our plans to come.
He agreed to Hawaii and a Thanksgiving Day holiday spent on an island. I excitedly purchased tickets and reserved hotels. I took immense joy as I pretended to be a travel agent of our family of three. I plotted out time tables and schedules; watching as the days started to take form of our time there. One day at the zoo. One day swimming with dolphins. One day at the pineapple plantation. But as I researched attractions and events, the main push to hike and see the wonders of this volcanic paradise, kept popping up in my browser. I sighed. Hiking? Really? All this hiking? I read about the tropical waterfalls nestled in the jungle. They sounded lovely and the pictures were prestige. It seemed like a option I could pursue; I reasoned. In my mind I convinced myself how I would rather tredge my way to a hidden waterfall and let the tall one and buckets get their demands to swim out there instead of feeling like a piece of meat roasting at the sandy beach shores. Waterfall dipping sounded much more appealing then sandy beach lounging. I added the hike details to our schedule. There, it’s done – I vocalized to myself. My over planning mentality felt good to add to my list of things to do. Even with hiking penciked in last moment – I really do enjoy my lists of things to do.
Hiking, however, was such a mystery to me. Why do people hike – I asked myself internally. What was the pull to literally just walk for miles. Just walking and to add to it – just walking in the great outdoors. I could not connect the fantasy to desire that so many people relished in but I told myself outright I could do one day and find a waterfall or two. What is a few hours outside your comfort zone? Stop being so selfish. This was what I needed. I took joy in how upon returning from our vacation in the future to our new SoCal home I could too chime in at the toddler sand box that I hiked in Hawaii as an acceptable person would do. I fantasized the white teeth smiles as they listened to how I was just like them; an acceptable mom friend. I opened the door to our bedroom closet and took in my awray of high heel shoes and panty hose. What do you wear for hiking? – I pondered as I took in my lot of footwear. I settled on ankle high brown boots I had acquired on clearance one whimsical feeling day at Target. They could get muddy. They were comfortable. They could easily slip on and off when we made our way through airport security. When I pulled them out from between beige and black stilettos I shrugged my shoulders despondently; good enough for my temporary step into the wild. Good enough for one day of this whole hiking thing.
Thanksgiving same soon enough. Hawaii welcomed us in its sunset glory. We drove up to the trail head as I took in the dirt path and wood signs pointing to the waterfall. I stretched my legs in my very inappropriate beige panty hose and fish net skirt combination. I leaned down to zip up the side of my studded boots to begin this walk of ours. The tall one unbuckled Buckets from her car seat as she bounced gleefully into the jungle ahead of us. She was decked out in a pink tutu and pigtails; adorable and free. Her laughter filled the air as I willed my legs to follow her gleeful skip to the trail. I took in our surrounding so foreign from what I have encountered before. Gone were the skyscrapers. Gone were the bright city lights. The trail itself was covered in large leafy canopies in a magical tunnel of green gold. The mist of November rain gave the area an eerie beauty of magic. I took it in feeling my heart enlarge just a wee bit. We had somehow entered the pages of a story book looking for fairy creatures hidden among the tropical flowers. As we continued along, Buckets hid behind large leaves and begged to swing from Jurassic Park looking tree limbs. Her happiness was contagious as I found my lips curving to authentic smiles that would not leave my face. After a mile or two the trail took a turn to reveal what we heard prior but had yet to see moments before. The sound of the rushing of water came easily as music as we approached the waterfall in all its majestic self. I stood awestruck as I accepted how I had not before seen a waterfall within hands reach. Pictures and movies give no justice to standing at the base of water streaming down cliff sides. As I started to lift my camera to my eyes – what came in into the viewfinder was the tall one and buckets; emerged in the pool of water collecting at where the trail ended. The tall one lifted her high into the air and tossed her easily into the pool. There my family basked in the magic; just laughing. I paused taking in the frame of such a sweet sight. I was in need of such an release of happiness in my life. I knew not how I survived before this moment in time without all that was happening now before me at this waterfall. They laughed, I laughed – we all laughed in joy.
The one day hiking experiment venture quickly turned to multi day journeys driving circles around the island searching out trail heads. I would spend the morning looking at maps and trying to understand the outdoor lingo describing the trails. We soaked ourselves in bug spray and eventually trail mud as we logged in more and more time among the canopy jungles. The final hike hurrah was when we tackled the numerous stairs up to Diamond Head Mountain to look out upon the city of Honolulu below. This volcano gently shadowed the island in majestic beauty. At the top of the short hike, Buckets slumped blissfully tired in the protection of the tall ones shoulders as we leaned over the railing to breeze in the sea salt.
“Excuse me. Sorry. Excuse me. Can I take your picture? I know moms are always left out being behind the camera and you guys are so sweet together. Can I just take a picture of you guys?”
I almost always decline these requests. A typical recluse of pictures; I shudder at how I would rather be invisible then present in these memories. I am much more comfortable behind the lens capturing the magic of the ordinary. But the tall one; perhaps high on the adrenaline summits give freely, wrapped his free arm around me as he balanced Buckets between us. Her small arms clinged warmly around our necks in an embrace of tiny love. I handed over my Nikon Digital SLR camera and braved myself to attempt an genuine smile despit my reservations. Years later, looking back at that image of the three of us basking in the mix of wind and sun, I see more joy then disgust that this moment in time was captured with me in the photograph instead of off to the side or behind the camera. That hike that day felt laborious and difficult for our newbie legs climbing heights under the tropical sun. If we were to return to Honolulu today, years later, I doubt the climb would be as enchanting as it was that day. Perhaps I am more jaded now seeing what I have seen; exploring the world in such a way that I have. But that Thanksgiving the accomplishment pride wielded freely within us when we meandered our way down to the car to head back to the hotel. Light and breezy; happy.
“I like hiking. I think we should start trying to hike when we get home.”
The tall one once again raise his eyebrows in perplextion as a grin formed upon his chin. Always his mystery; I sat under his gaze of admiration and smiled.