Some rocks in the middle of the ocean; a destination synonymous with paradise. The island of Maui in Hawaii is so incredibly beautiful and diverse. In the course of a day, the fine sand of world-class beaches can slip through your fingers, you can fight your way through the density of a lush and verdant jungle, inhale the cold mist from waterfalls that flow eternal, get lost in a vibrant field of giant sunflowers, and even scale a mountain that ascends into the cloud-shrouded heavens. I have experienced all of this but I also experienced another, more conceptual vision of paradise…
There are few places on the planet that rarely change over the course of time. The view from the beach, looking out towards the endless horizon over the water, probably hasn’t changed in hundreds of thousands of years. So when I’m near the beach, I’m always struck by a peculiar and haunting phenomenon. The visions that flow through my mind aren’t the stereotypical visions of Hawaii; the colorful, tropical drinks, locals dancing around torches and food for sunburned tourists, the resort-style amenities. My mind travels to another world that lies on the other side of the shroud of time; a world that’s only as far away as the distance of history and is as vivid as my imagination.
Basting in the hot tub of a five-star resort, looking out to the ocean, I overhear the other tourists around me holding their fancy cocktails complaining about anything they can. I look around and see everyone staring into a tiny screen, perpetually flicking their thumb upwards and I wonder what could be so addictively fascinating. Suddenly the people begin to disappear and it goes quiet. Then the man-made constructions slowly fade away in my attempt to unsee it all.
As timeless as a clock without a face. Imagine, if you could, what the personification of sublime must have looked like several hundred years ago. I see a vivid scene of a pristine and even a primordial paradise. Then the ghosts of the first settlers from Polynesia sailing an unfathomably vast distance to discover and colonize the islands.
I envision their long dead stories forever captured in the ancient ebb and flow of the tides. The desperate and final embraces of star crossed lovers; the echoes of the cries that lament their painful fall of a now powerless empire; the fallen tears that washed away to forever become part of the ocean; and the violent and bloody tribal battles in both the sands of the beach and in the sands of time. There are times when I see the happiness of smiling lovers or imagine the laughter that has long drifted away, but I’ve always been drawn to the contrast of the sad things that happen in beautiful places.
And at night, in the enveloping darkness, I was able to experience even more in my solitude. My lodgings included a private balcony with an unobstructed view of the ocean and the islands of Molokai, Lanai, and the lights of Honolulu in Oahu in the distance. When you hear only the waves crashing below and see only the stars in the sky, your mind is unbound. I see more in the emptiness and less in what the world has become.
To the sound of the crashing waves below, I was dragged down into the dark depths of a soundless and dream-dense sleep. To the sound of the crashing waves below, my lifeless body washes back to the soft shore that is my current reality. It’s what fixes hearts. It’s my future nostalgia. It what shoves my privilege down my throat.
Tens of thousands of miles and many experiences ago, I knew that I didn’t just want my memories to live in a screen on my phone or some online album. I like to take it all in. For example, when standing at the foot of the largest and most powerful waterfall I’ve ever seen, I snapped a few photos among a small crowd of people. I’ve got my photos and put the camera down. I stand there, experiencing everything around me. The cold mist of the waterfall on my skin, the sound of the rushing water, the scent of the wet jungle and doing my best to burn, stomp, and never let it escape my memory.
Once the others have got their Instagram photo and have posted it, they promptly turn and abandon the magnificence of the moment. As if there’s nothing left for the waterfall to offer once it becomes nothing but a little square on their Instagram feed.
Even though this trip did happen about a month ago and I did take a ton of photos, there is never a rush to upload a gallery I’m not happy with especially if I don’t have a good companion story written. So here are a few of my favorites in random order.
I’d like to extend a massive thank you to my friends at Wanderlustmj, for inviting me to Maui, for taking me along on the road to Hana, taking photos of me, sharing some fresh food, and engaging in informative discussions about the world and making plans for more potential, adventurous, and happy experiences in other places on the planet.