We travel initially to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves . . . And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again – to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more. Why We Travel by Pico Iyer.
“Go to Maui,” her friend urged again. “Maui heals.”
Elane knew squat about Maui. Did the people still live in grass huts and shampoo their hair with awapui blossoms? Since Maui sat 4,000 miles away from her soon-to-be ex-husband and his new chippy, she figured better a little sand under her fingernails than the distasteful prospect of running into the sonofabitch every time she turned a corner. She packed the shards of her shattered life and headed west.
The exotic Technicolor world of Maui unsettled Elane at first. Raised in the hinterlands of Oklahoma, the relentless ebb and flow of the ocean intimidated her, but she dutifully walked the beach every day. Slowly she came to relish the feel of shifting sands massaging her bare feet and waves nibbling playfully on her toes. Sitting atop a smooth lava rock, staring across the swelling, surging sea, her body gradually absorbed its healing rhythm.
One morning she observed a Hawaiian man casting a round net into the surf. The muscles of his arms and back bulged as he flung the net out, pulled it back and threw it out again, sparks of wet sunlight glinting off his white hair and brown body. Elane watched, enchanted by the vision of ancient Hawaii playing out before her, until the man folded the net and walked away. Halfway up the beach he turned and waved to her. “Aloha,” he called.
Elane waved back.
The next morning the man appeared again and approached her smiling. “My name is Kawika Kealoha. Welcome to Maui.”
She returned his smile. “Thank you. I’m Elane Cummings.”
“May I call you Elani? Lani means sky in Hawaiian.”
“Elani’s certainly more musical than Elane.”
“I’ve seen you down here for many days. I apologize for disturbing you, but my grandfather taught me to throw net on this beach, and I fish to honor him.”
“You didn’t disturb me. Your fishing is a beautiful thing to watch.”
“Have you recently lost a loved one?” he asked. “You seem very sad.”
She shook her head. “My husband replaced me with a younger model.”
“Ouch. Don’t worry. Maui heals all wounds. Tell you what. How about I pick you up tomorrow and take you to Iao Valley? Hawaiians believe Maui lives there, and we often go to that sacred place to seek Her comfort and advice.”
The next morning, Kawika waited outside Elane’s cabana wearing a bright yellow t-shirt.
“What do the words *Maui No Ka Oi* on your t-shirt mean?” she asked.
“Maui, no place better.”
Driving into Iao Valley, the green velvet slopes folded around them like loving arms. A light mist shrouded the lower valley and only the soft twitter of tiny yellow birds broke the stillness. Kawika parked his truck on a grassy slope near a clear creek and grabbed a faded Hawaiian quilt, a small picnic basket and a well-worn ukulele. They settled under a large African tulip tree.
“Hawaiians believe the ghosts of long-dead warriors haunt this valley,” Kawika said. “Many people have witnessed their march through the pass and heard their war chant. I came here many times but never heard or saw anything. My wife and her brother both swear they saw the warriors’ campfire one night.”
“Were they frightened?”
“No, more blessed, I think.”
Elane lay on her back and gazed up through the branches and the ‘tulip’ blossoms at the cobalt sky. She took deep breaths and opened her senses and mind to the gentle whispers of the valley. Leaning his back against the trunk of the tree, Kawika softly played his ukulele and sang Hawaiian songs he learned as a child.
Time stood still for them. Meandering along the trails, Kawika named the tropical flowers, ferns and trees surrounding them. Zen bridges led them to lily-covered ponds full of bright yellow and orange koi fish, and a miniature Japanese pagoda sheltered them from the sun as they ate their bento lunch. Shortly before sunset they packed the truck and headed home. On the way, Elane tried to thank Kawika, but he only grinned and said, “I only followed Maui’s commands.”
She smiled. “Next time you talk to Her, please convey my thanks and tell her I’d like to stay on Maui for a while.”
“She already knows, Elani. She’s known all along. Who do you think called you here?”
Walking the beach the next morning, Elane remembered the whispers in the valley telling her to write down the story of her life so she could change and grow. She hurried back to her cabana, dragged a small table and her typewriter out onto the tiny lanai and began.
Two weeks later Elane had thirty pages of her life in a three-ring notebook, a house in Makawao, a job in Wailuku, and a puce Pinto. As she drove down the mountain on the first day of her new job, a double rainbow formed across the road in front of her, and the palm trees on each side of her nodded their heads in greeting. She let out a whoop, saluted the palm trees, and drove into her future.
Elane searched for years but never saw Kawika again.