“Make yourself at home” — Come on in.
Hawai’i is where my big sailing days began. I say “big” because I had sailed 8-Ball prams in Santa Barbara when I was 11 and 12. Even before that, though, from the youngest of age in Maryland, water was my medium, my place of peace and refuge. As young as four, my brothers and I played on the estuarial channels of the Chesapeake, where we had our own rowboat, our own oyster beds, our own sandbar to which we’d row for clams, as well as long stretches of river on which to lay out trotlines baited with chunks of salted eel to entice the Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Great bodies of water, whether mighty rivers like the Columbia, estuaries like the Chesapeake, the Crater Lakes of the world, or the endless ocean itself, humble me, quiet me, heal me.
The Big Island, of all the Hawaiian islands, is not famous for its beaches. Instead, the long-driven energy of the ocean’s movement meet these rocky coastlines with great exhalations and explosions of its power. Again and again, the mighty sea slams the volcanic cliffs, some newly created by Pele, leaping high in its apparent desire to keep moving and not be halted. Its swells back off and recede, only to gather together again to fling itself onto that hardened shore. Then the moon pulls the weight of the water to the other side of the earth, quieting its assault, maybe giving it respite before surging forth with yet another high tide. Ancient myths are whispered in the salt spray and foam, giving explanation for the dance of the elements.
Like I did sailing at sea, I can spend hours on a beach, on a coastline, gazing out to the farthest horizon. It’s one of the few times I can truly relax and let go of any need to “do” or “be” or, sometimes more importantly, think anything. It is healing to me in these times we live in. The ocean is, to me, like a Buddhist monk, sitting in perpetual stillness under the stormy waves at its surface. Though I too hear its death throes caused by the onslaught of an arrogant and greedy human race that has taken too much from it, returning to it only the sewage of our wasteful lives, I find stillness and peace at the point where water meets earth, exhaling its breath to sparkle in the sunshine of that turbulent explosion. Water, earth, air, fire. Dance.
I’ve been in Hawai’i on the Big Island since the first of December. I’ve come to visit and stay with one of my sons for several months. I come only for him, because the now damaged makeup of the land of Hawai’i is not the same as it was 50 years ago when I first came to these shores — and then sailed away. It’s filled with box stores and crowded roads, high-rise buildings that alter the direction of the wind. It looks not too different from the Mainland, except it’s warm year round. The coral reefs are dying due to global warming, yes, but, now they’ve discovered that the chemicals in sunscreen have an extremely deleterious effect on coral and may be responsible for killing up to 50% of the coral reefs in Hawai’i. Further, it has been discovered — always in hindsight — that the seawalls built to protect the waterfront homes of the rich and famous are in fact increasing the erosion and destruction of the coastline.
While here, I try to sell my book. Writing is much easier than marketing, at least for me. I sit in farmer’s markets or I approach people on the streets of downtown Hilo asking if they’d like to buy a great adventure story, my story, of my seven years in the South Pacific. Some walk past me, not even catching my eye, as if I were one of the invisible homeless panhandling; some thank me for writing my book, but “no thank you.” And then there are those who stop and talk with me, share their stories, and sometimes buy my book. Some of them come back and buy more copies because I touched something in them that they also want to share. I feel that the ones who stop are also the ones who care about this earth and its relationships on all levels.
It took me 45 years to find the voice to write my story. Some of the impetus came when the echoes of my memories met the anguished cries of an earth abused. “Aweigh of Life” won’t stop the bulldozer of “progress.” But it points to a simpler life. I invite you to experience a time not too long ago, where cultures still thrived in harmony with the magic of a paradise now forsaken.
Anchors aweigh, my friend.
Anchors aweigh, my friend.