Every business owner needs to be proficient at creating systems. Here is mine for navigating the dark nights with the lights off: By the light of my iPhone screen, I make sure that no representatives of Nature are congregating on the little flashlight that I keep on the ant colony by the bed. Then I use the flashlight to guide myself across the cement floor without stepping on any lizards.
You can tell I am not used to roughing it. Yes, we have hot water and, for the most part, electricity, but I consider occupying any room in which a reptile may suddenly make a dramatic appearance to be Roughing It. Let us just say that, as well as the king of the closet rod, I have made a new friend who lives on the curtains next to the toilet, and this morning, at the cafe down by the road, the kind attendant found another of this cold-blooded species lounging on the handle of the tea kettle. (Yes, I ordered Kava Stress Relief.)
Today was Adventure Day here in Hawaii. Our room reservation included an afternoon of optional activities, and we picked “lava tube” and “hot pool,” an itinerary that given my colorful palette of terrors were perhaps not the most prudent choices, but against all odds I ended up loving them. Our guide was Ben, a young man with bright eyes and the indomitable conviction that the universe will provide for his needs in life, and who described every one of his personal decisions, from moving to Hawaii to taking the watch off his wrist at the beach, as “being called” to do this or that. I liked him immediately, even though his first official act was to have us sign a form protecting him from liability if the land we occupied was called to collapse into the ocean or we fell into a bottomless pit, and we allowed him to lead us on a harrowing descent into the earth, through a grotto carved out by lava and the Hawaiian goddess Pele, mistress of volcanoes. The lava tube was strewn with sharp boulders piled at steep angles, which we had to climb while clutching flashlights to illuminate the pitch blackness. Twice, we stopped and turned them off, allowing ourselves to appreciate the sensory deprivation and, as Ben said, “just be present.” The highlight of this expedition was a rock formation with the uncanny shape of an enormous labia, an anatomy that was assigned to Pele. Other travelers had left noni fruit and leaves, carved sticks, and other offerings to the goddess; we had brought some along, ourselves, but deposited them at the beginning of the cave when it became clear that it was difficult enough to balance on those treacherous rocks with a flashlight in one hand without clutching a noni fruit in the other.
Our next stop, the hot pool, was at a popular local beach. Heated by volcanic activity, the pool was set back from the ocean, a rocky hole in the ground surrounded by jungle trees. It was actually not much hotter than a lukewarm bath, but it was warmer than the air and a comfort to sink into even though I find water disconcerting. We were joined by a stranger, another man who discussed with Ben such topics of Paths In Life, Energy, Letting Go, and The Divine Source with ecclesiastical fervor, and it was clear from their stories that both Ben and the other man were comfortable with finding a simple abundance in the midst of uncertainty. I envied them their lack of attachments to possessions and permanent addresses. Not long ago, Rob asked me what I would do if I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, and my immediate answer was “vanish without a trace.” He didn’t believe me, and I can see why not, but the impulse is a rising drumbeat in my heart, and it was illuminating to talk to men who called disappearing from the midst of their responsibilities a spiritual journey.
Back at Kalani, Rob and I rinsed off the evidence of our excursions and lounged in the cafe for a while. It was New Year’s Eve, and the staff was setting up for the dance party that was set to begin at nine p.m., and which we planned to miss because our bodies stubbornly remained conditioned to Eastern Standard Time. We did, however, attend the special holiday dinner of prime rib and enjoyed the company of some random Canadians.
Afterward, we wandered into the tropical night to look at the stars, which gleamed against the blackness with a ferocious brilliance–there were brighter versions of familiar constellations and thousands of stars I had never before seen or imagined. It was navigating by these celestial beacons a thousand years ago that led the original inhabitants to the Hawaiian islands in their precarious canoes, almost as if they were confident of the paradise that awaited them. Why else would they abandon the safety and comfort of their home shores for the trepidations of the rough and desolate seas? Ben would say that the universe provides for those who let go of security and step into the unknown, unsure of where they are going but letting go of the constraints of where they have been.
We ushered in 2014 from the depths of unconsciousness and awakened to another morning of rain pattering on the jungle leaves. I took advantage of a lull in the weather to slip down to the cafe by the road, where I could suck up the precious Internet and watch the unfathomable grey expanse of the Pacific Ocean through the trees. Later was the special New Year’s brunch, which I devoured ravenously, although not to the extent that I may have liked as I did not want to be too full for my massage.
Today was Spa Day here in Hawaii. The package deal that included the room and the meal plan also came with the excursions from yesterday, a spa treatment, and all the yoga classes I can take, a number that has thus far turned out to be zero. Rob has attended some meditation classes and paid a mystical Italian woman to retrieve fragments of his soul from the corners of the galaxy, but I just signed up for a massage, which I needed because my mutinous vertebrae had been tormenting me without mercy. The setting for the massage was a screened treatment room overlooking a small garden pond, perfectly gorgeous, and I melted into the strong hands of the massage therapist, although melting is relative for someone with the tension of iron bars in his back and shoulder muscles. I tried not to notice how the vampiric bluish-white tone of my own skin contrasted with his more natural hue, and for the rest of the day, I tried not to notice my clothes sticking to my body from the application of massage oil, but these were totally worth the experience.
I love it here, even though connecting to the Internet is like, as Rob put it, sucking pudding through a straw. As connecting to the Internet is my chief activity in life, the withdrawal is acute, and I take out my iPhone and look at it longingly every so often, its lack of signal continuing to dishearten. It will all come flooding back when we go to Honolulu on Friday: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It is the Good that I look forward to the most.