The Water's End
Once upon a time, long long ago, a volcano erupted in the middle of the Ocean. The wind and sea, rain and sun went to work feeding and carving solidified lava into a paradise teeming with life. And then came people. Doing what people do: enjoying, partaking, cultivating and creating from the land. Cities were formed, in some parts at least. And through the years those cities were ruled by native Kings and Queens followed by imperial imposition. The citizenry now: a conglomerate of different tongues near and far that once made the trek to the great paradise called Hawai’i.
As I sit here today, the wind is like velvet on my skin, soaking up the tropical moisture. The sun sings high above head, only threatened by a few slow moving clouds to the North. It’s Easter Sunday, but this local coffee shop has its doors wide open. To get here I walked past a Methodist Church that read “Tongan service 2pm.” I’ve heard worship services in the Tongan tongue are heavenly. Nearby is a Buddhist temple next to the Thai restaurant we had lunch at yesterday. Hawaiian pumpkin curry over sticky rice. This morning we worshipped with Ohana Church just outside of downtown Hilo. I was greeted warmly by a dozen men and women with an aloha hug paired with a light kiss on my right cheek. We were instantly part of their family.
When we mentioned wanting to attend a service for Easter, our wonderful Air BnB host let us know that she no longer practices religion but enthusiastically offered nearby churches for us to attend. “They’re everywhere” she said. We had a short conversation about the many missionaries past and present that have set up shop on this island. Including the ones that forbade the cultural practice of hula long ago. Back then the women were only covered from the waist down which was appalling to their foreign eyes.
This conversation was especially pertinent because Easter on the Big Island marks the opening ceremonies of the annual Merrie Monarch Festival. According to their website this festival “honors the legacy left by King David Kalākaua, who inspired the perpetuation of our traditions, native language and arts.” I haven’t been able to find out why they choose Easter as their yearly start day. My speculations are only guesses by definition. But for me, this day was special because Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus ushering in a new Kingdom. A new era that is marked by God restoring all things back to the way they were designed: good. One thing that is clear about that goal of history- about the new Kingdom that God is bringing- is that every culture will bring their unique and beautiful character. So on this Easter Sunday, as we watched men, women and children perform hula, I was able to see a glimpse of the wonderful culture of Hawai’i that will forever be integral to the Kingdom of God. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the first half of Easter Sunday.
And now as I walk from the coffee shop to the water, I see that unadulterated blue, save for splashes of sunset. And what is beneath is perhaps more fascinating, a full ecosystem of life, unseen, except the occasional courageous creature breaking the boundaries of water and air. There are those rare organisms that need both to survive, crabs, dolphins and the sort. I know some people like that. Reese (my husband) is one of them. He comes fully alive in the ocean, those times we escape the desert for a week or two.
I love it too. I embrace the strength of the waves; the simultaneous freedom and encumbrance of losing my ability to touch. The water testing my strength to see how long I can tread while also resisting it’s current. A metaphor for life.
And then there’s the shoreline. I watch it and think about the journey it’s taken to get to this point. No delineation between the particles of near and far. The warmth interrupted abruptly by cold streaks from the deep, all finding their creative expression in sketching a new shoreline. A few moments of art, instantly replaced again and again.
I sit down on a rock, 10-15 feet from the vacillating shoreline. A roof of dense leaves shades all but my left shoulder, warmed by the dimming sun. This little shoreline in front of me is magical. It’s boundaries are defined by a rocky cove that directs the water’s impressionable power. There is anywhere between .3 and 7 seconds between the waves’ final reach. There are two other people in this cove, mother-daughter I suppose, eating their dinner under that same tree’s shade. The serenity of Easter Day.
I think back to yesterday as we travelled across the ranch land on the north side of the Island. The drive was unbelievable. Rolling hills mimicking the movement of the water’s waves. Goats frolicking free, dolphins in the sea, all in one frame, painted parallel along our lane.
The little corner of this Island that we’ve witnessed makes me think: this world has endless corners, but it is still finite. For all of human history and before, there has been one world. Changing, developing, being cultivated, enjoyed, understood, reimagined, one world. What a wonder. Each new corner we visit gives us a glimpse into the people and places that make up this world we call home.
But even in this paradise I think of home, home. My own little corner of the world. It’s special because it’s the place that we have the chance to know and love the best. In the way we study it, explore it, enjoy it and care for it: the people, culture and all of its iterations, the dirt and the flowers, the mountains and the valleys. In its flourishing, we find flourishing.
Phoenix has been home to us for nine years, but on March 17th we opened an envelope that changed all of that, on the day referred to as “Match Day” by medical schools across the U.S. In a single day, thousands of almost-doctors across the country uncover their new home as they continue in their training. There isn’t much I can compare the experience to. Every aspect of your life wrapped up in this one piece of paper.We opened it and frantically scanned through the superfluous information, searching for the name of the program, the city. University of Arizona, Tucson.
Tucson. A familiar place but a brand new home all the same. We were really hoping to stay in Phoenix, so the initial blow of moving took the wind right out of us. It took a couple days to sink in, but there was this small refrain that I kept repeating over the preceding 5 months of interview season: “God is making it clear that he can keep us here, but if he takes us somewhere else it’s because he has good things for us there.” It took quite a bit of faith to believe that in the beginning but now many of those good things are already materializing and we’re definitely excited.
I have so many things I want to share: more about our new home (keys in hand!) and neighborhood, what went into our decision of where to live, the great food and cocktail scene in Tucson, and the people that have already welcomed us in. This last season of minimalism, community and growing in God’s vision for his world has shaped us immensely as we imagine the next chapter. But I write the last words of this post on a plane, not from Hawaii but a couple weeks in the future, flying across the Atlantic. Firs stop: Madrid!