You know the kind of adventures you have that become a haze? I mean the days that feel like a questionable memory as soon as even the littlest amount of time passes. You know what I’m talking about. The kind of stories you go to tell, that give you a moments’ pause. Did I DREAM THAT or is it real and can I say it out loud?
Big Island was like that. We weren’t planning on the Big Island at all, but Cody’s brother surprised us with the flights and rental car for a day trip. We were so grateful! Our day on Big Island was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. Going to Big Island, I felt like I was going somewhere I’d been.
(ANOTHER dream-like addition. You know how it is.)
Big Island is where Cody started his mission, and although he’s been back to Hawaii, he hasn’t been back there since. Having heard so much about it, it didn’t feel like a first-time visit. From the first landing in the airport, we were walking his mission and it was a little like deja vu, because these were places that hurried scribbles on P-day had already walked me before. We came down the escalator, reliving the moment he met his trainer. We cruised the lush, jungle-y island and drove past his first missionary “pad.” We bounced all over hilly roads, passing countless little houses with volcanic rock lawns and towering palms, the ride always punctuated with the names of families he knew and loved and learned with.
One constant to the letters that came from Paradise Park were the stories of the black sea cliffs at the edge of Hilo, where Cody and his companions would go to regroup and to gather peace. I remember one letter in particular, where he told me he sat on those cliffs, looking out at the ocean, listening to “Concerning Hobbits” from the The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack, feeling hope, gratitude, joy in his mission that was almost unlanguageable.
Three years after that letter, we took a break from our cruising to sit there again, this time together. The cliffs were empty, except for a lone fisherman about 50 yards off, enjoying the spray and the breeze. So we sat there too, separate from him, but also somehow comrades in the beauty of the experience. Along with the roar of each crashing wave, we listened to that song. And guys, I just felt overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that life works out the way that it does. As the waves crashed, a sort of truth was beat against us again and again. There’s a peaceful ebb and flow to our lives – and if we slow down and really look around, I think we’d be a little more receptive to the waves that come. A little more hopeful in the troughs and a little more grateful in the crests. THAT, if anything, was the mantra of people in Hilo. It’s a slowed-down, hopeful, and patient philosophy, and one I really hope I can claim as a souvenir of our time there.
We laid out like lazy reptiles, waiting for tan lines, eating chips and watching for sea turtles in the surf. INCIDENTALLY, sea turtles look just like floating trash can lids. But BEAUTIFUL. I want to ride one. Or hug one. OR BOTH. They’re ginormous!
ALSO, also. We got to stop by a family Cody taught very first on his mission, and the visit with them went from walking their garden, to trying their organic cookies, to being loaded down with jars of local goods, to having my foot disinfected/cleaned/bandaged, to teaching a gospel discussion to them on the fly like we were a senior missionary couple already. IT WAS WILD. And also really tender and really fun. They were so opinionated, so busy, and so delightful. She was a nurse practically addicted to work and her patients, full of passion and energy, and he was a quiet, introverted former scientist, who now wears his hair in a ponytail and hones his chemistry skills in on making the perfect baklava. (Cause I mean, why not?) I missed them when we left.
We finished the day with a drive out to the lava fields, which are maybe 800 billion degrees at all times because they are just BLACK HOT ROCKS under the blazing sun. And the volcano isn’t even inactive. But people LIVE there, is the thing. And I don’t know if they get housing permits, or just go for it because who is gonna stop them or bother them out there, but MAN, they must run a temp of 119 degrees at all times. (I am just sooo approximate with all these facts. 800 billion. 119. #facts #science)
One of the wilder things we did was drive through the jungle out in Puna, to some tiny crazy towns where Cody had done some visits. People call this group on the island the “Punatics.” Cause I mean these people were CRAZY. We’re talking people who just go to the woods because they love plants and by plants I mean WEED. Like, these are people who never shower except for in the sweet, salty ocean and build houses to look just like a slice of chocolate cake or a castle in Zelda. They also had a place called an artistic ecovillage, which was a lot of painted plywood and “homegrown plants.” These houses were haphazard, eclectic, and such a far cry from my every day reality, and even the rest of the island. I kept saying, “IS THIS REAL LIFE?!” I felt so disconnected from anything I’d known and so deep in the land of iiiiimaaaginationnnn (read like Spongebob when he does that hand rainbow) that the dream-like feeling was officially complete. It was a really strange balance between feeling like I’d get mugged and feeling like I’d become the ecovillage princess and be married off to everyone. So I mean, there’s that. And while I won’t say I necessarily felt like getting out of the car and starting my own artistic ecovillage, I really did love laughing with my friend and seeing a kind of life previously unseen. It was such a great day.