During their journey, two monks come upon an awful woman who refuses to cross a river because she does not wish to get her silken robes wet or dirty. The older of the two monks quickly picks up the woman and carries her across the water. Many hours later, the younger monk is very upset and visibly angry about his friend helping someone so disdainful, and he feels obliged to share his frustration with the older monk:
“That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!”
“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”
Mom told me the above story and I think it's a good one. I constantly have conversations w/ D about this as we discuss the baggage we carry and how to discard or transform it. It seems there is so much packed in there that I can't even find anything when I'm looking for it, and sometimes I forget it's all there.
In my dream last night I traveled to the realm of the past. When unpacking my dream, I came to the conclusion once again that the trauma of seeing others suffer is the most difficult and emotionally painful experience I have ever had in this life and it continues to happen and continues to cause me distress. "So why am I a social worker?" the inevitable question repeats itself. Of course, it is because it is harder to see suffering and do nothing about it, or even if I don't see it as often, to know my life is empty when I am not helping others. When I do what I can to help others learn coping skills, at least I am doing that much and I can feel comforted by knowing that is what I am meant to be doing.
So, what am I still carrying?
This morning we drove up the east coast again to get to the meeting point for the tour to the falls. It was really pretty and also quite twisty turny, once again. We didn’t stop anywhere along the way this time because we didn’t want to be late.
It turned out we were a little early, but that’s ok. Everything is so nice to look at and the weather just feels good to be in. Q enjoyed the fact that it is still quite windy today. He also informed me that there is a high surf advisory until Friday for the eastern side of the island. Looking over the water, I could understand why. It could easily be deadly, and we were informed yesterday that people do drown in the waves at Papohaku, which was not at all surprising.
Our tour guide introduced herself as “Sweetheart” and she was barefoot the entire time, though we had been advised to wear good hiking shoes. She agreed that we should. I was glad we did. We also had our sunscreen, bug repellent and lunch with us. We have not had any problem w/ mosquitoes this entire trip, but we were informed they are thick in the rainforest where we would be walking. That was true.
Sweetheart showed us her family’s land and the taro fields. She explained that there is a poi factory but that isn’t being used much anymore. And she had to explain that poi is what is made out of taro, which is a root vegetable, starchy, like a potato. Poi is what you get when taro is pounded into a paste. It is vital to the island and is what her family does to contribute to the well being of the island. They don’t sell it, but trade it to other islanders for things that they need. She also explained that they are being very careful to avoid the taro virus that causes the plants to rot called “apple smell” and that so far it hasn’t been found on Molokai, though it is on many of the other islands.
Sweetheart showed us that her family also grows many other fruits and shared some of them with us, including ones we’d never heard of before. There were Hawaiian oranges, mountain apples (which are red and pearlike), limes, mango, avocado, and a certain kind of cherry that is small and red like maraschino cherries but tastes strange – it was said to taste like a pepper. They also have lemon trees, coffee, breadfruit (even though they rarely eat it), tobacco, and so many others that I’m probably leaving some things out. She made mosquito swatters for us out of ti leaves and also explained how different parts of plants have many uses.
As she walked along the trails and pointed things out, she explained about the culture and history and I found myself interested in things I hadn’t been actively curious about, including some of the traditions of offerings to the gods; asking the kahuna permission before doing anything; offering human sacrifice to the war god of a warrior from an opposing tribe (after the kahuna consumes the warrior’s eyeball, of course); and the tradition in Feb of their version of the Olympics, which is a time w/out war when there is peaceful competition.
I noted that the rock walls were well built and really neat looking. They were made of lava rocks and Sweetheart explained that each family had a job, something useful they offered to the island. Just as her family grows taro, there is a family responsible for building the stone walls. She stated she didn’t know how long the walls had been there but they were there to keep wild animals from coming in and grazing on their crops. She pointed out places where a pig dug up a lot of roots and made a general mess of things before the hunters were called in. The hunters obtained a hog and a sow, one was 400 lbs.
At the falls themselves, I was glad it was time to pause hiking – it had been a long walk and it was starting to get hot. She made an offering and floated some ti leaves to make sure it was good for us to swim. When I put my feet in the water, I was sure it was ice temperature, but was reassured it was not cold enough to cause hypothermia. I was determined to swim to the falls and back, which wasn’t far in that pond, but sure seemed like a challenge in that temperature. (I had been told the day before it was 60 degrees.)
I made it almost to the place where the falls hit the pond and realized I was unable to swim against the current to get all the way there. It was coming down hard from such a height. I got close enough that I could feel the splashes and the spray from the falls and swam around it a short time before I decided it was time to go back and get out the water. It was kind of a shock for my body – when I got out of the water I felt weak and wobbly, but I made it. I was really glad for a bite to eat, too. I didn’t realize how ravenous I had gotten and how lovely it felt to be warm and dry again.
On the hike back to the car, Sweetheart described more about the island, the culture, the reasons why the land is restricted to people who live on the island unless people go with a tour guide, and she talked about the Manson cult followers who had been found in the area back in the 60s or 70s.
She explained that the mongoose had been brought in to the island to be a predator for rats, but that hadn’t worked out so well because the rats were nocturnal and mongoose is diurnal. That explained all the mongooses we had found – they’re prolific and always seen crossing the road. They are a predator for chicken eggs, she explained. Chickens are everywhere on the island, but apparently on Kauai, the one island without mongooses, chickens are more of a problem.
The story goes that a crate of mongooses was sent to each of the Hawaiian islands, and when one of the ship workers on Kauai saw them, he thought they were cute and went to pet one, but it bit his finger off, so he became angry and threw the entire crate into the ocean, which is why they don’t exist on Kauai.
Have I mentioned how vociferous the birds are all over the island? I’m sure I haven’t paid them due justice. They are reminding me of that fact as I’m typing, in fact. The birds are pretty, too.
Today we rested until late in the morning, actually until early afternoon. We played cards and then talked to a TAN representative who did a brief survey with us. It was interesting to talk to him because his family is from this island. I get the impression he is wealthy and that maybe most of the people from here are wealthy?
We drove up to the north side of the island but we had to stop where the road ended because Kaulupapa is restricted. We went to the lookout and read the posted signs about leprosy and Father Damien’s work and such. It was interesting to learn about the disease and great to learn that it can be treated these days and is much more easily controlled from spreading than people previously believed. The trees had really long soft pine needles that are like snake grass. It was covering the ground and make everything look soft. The way the needles blow in the wind is possibly the reason there are so many of them at that high of an elevation.
The cliffs of Kaulupapa are the highest in Hawaii and I was a little disappointed we couldn’t ride on them but the mule rides were booked full, and even if we could have gotten in, were quite pricy. Even though it is a National Historic Park, it is restricted and no one can go in except on special tours or if you’re visiting the patients of Kaulupapa by invitation.
We walked along the trail to see Phallic Rock. (Yes, it’s really called that.) It was a nice walk through the forest and we were able to find lots of large rocks near Phallic Rock. While there, we noticed offerings that had been made and realized it is a sacred site of fertility. Q expressed that it was cool because of the high elevation if nothing else. I felt like it was more than that. I also found the female partner of the phallic rock and noted that it hadn’t even been mentioned. Q didn’t find it significant and probably wondered if it really was meant to be anything special or was just a coincidence, since I also noticed rocks shaped like other things, like a turtle and stuff like that.
I noted that I still had sand coming out my ears from the previous day’s experiences in the ocean. I wonder how long there will still be Hawaiian sand in my body from this trip.
After returning to the hotel, we walked along the beach and gathered some coral, not much. We observed some small crabs and lots of coconuts and strange plant life. We found a coconut that sloshes when you shake it, which is how you know it’s safe to eat, and debated about the best way to get into and eat it or drink the coconut water. We ended up asking one of the people we walked by and he explained that it would not taste good to drink the water from it but that the meat of the fruit would be good to eat.
Q spent quite a while shucking it and then we took it inside to drill into the nut itself. I drilled into it and found that indeed the water did not taste good. Q broke it open and enjoyed eating the meat of the plant. It’s good fresh.
It feels like this day we didn’t do much, but we enjoyed our walk along the beach at sunset and we did go out and stargaze on the beach in the early night. It was really beautiful but cold. I decided to make it an early night because we had a tour scheduled for Wed morning.
Today we went to the western side of the island of Molokai. We were there to watch the sun rise and we took pictures of the beach. It was absolutely beautiful and we were unable to resist wading in the ocean as well. We soon discovered that you don’t wade at Pakohaku Beach without being prepare to get wet. It’s not the kind of place where you can take off your sandals and roll the cuffs of your pant legs up to your knees and expect your clothes to stay dry. The waves are much stronger than that, as we soon found out. After our jeans were soaked all the way up to the pockets, it was time to go back to the car and drive to town so my husband could get swim trunks. Yes, he actually came to Hawaii without a swimsuit, but that’s ok. They sell them here.
We visited the town and realized nothing was open yet (of the two stores that have not gone out of business). It was a little sad that so many buildings were boarded up. I guess that’s happening everywhere, but it means something about the dedication of people who are still against development when that is the case. Where do their kids find work? I think a lot of them are soldiers. Camouflage is common. I don’t know if that is just fashion, but it seems more than that.
Anyway, the Wind & Kite shop was open and he found a swimsuit. We bought a few souvenirs and stopped in the General Store before heading back to the beach.
This time we prepared to get in the water for real and we found you only have to go into the water up to your belly before the waves are sometimes over your head. It was kind of difficult to stand firm on the ground when a wave hit. There was a lot of force behind them and they knocked me to my knees more than once. After we went in further thinking that rather than fighting the waves, letting them carry you along and doing a little body surfing might be a better way to go. It’s a trick to not be scraped against the ocean floor but I think I got better at it in time. It was exhausting to try to fight the under currents. It wore us out to be in there for a couple hours.
After returning to our car, we drove the rest of the road on the west side. There were a few more access points to beach, but they were all rocky beach. I really enjoy the aesthetics of rocky beaches, but they aren’t so good for swimming and there was no shade in those spots. There was one small parking lot that was full of cars, which suggested a very popular beach compared to the one we spent the day at, which only had one or two other cars that belonged to campers. We decided to return to the less popular beach despite the fact that that one has probably a lot calmer waters.
When mid-day came along we got out of the sun and into the shade. It was a good thing, too. As we theorized, sunscreen is less effective when your skin is sand-papered off every time a major wave comes through. Evidence suggests this might be the case.
We watched the birds and other wildlife in the park, talked a little, relaxed, and played rummy for a couple hours until I became a little restless and we went back to the beach to walk some more, which meant getting back in the water because it was just so tempting and refreshing and fun. Also, I have this belief that the salt water will be good for me and have healing properties for things that are out of balance. After spending so long in the water that every mucous membrane was stinging from the amount of salt, I concluded that I probably tolerated it better because of my experience with the Neti-Pot, but it still was a little odd to have water go into my ear and out my nose. I think that if this vacation doesn’t restore balance, it’s at least a good start. At some point I realized my nose was not running anymore. My skin may be clearing up, but that’s still not completely clear.
Despite efforts to plan our week, we’re learning that spontaneity is going to be really beneficial here, except that we found out we are too late to get in on the mule tour, which we both wanted to do. We didn’t realize it would get full and we needed to make reservations early. But we will still go on the tour to the Halawa Falls and tomorrow we’ll go see what we can of the things that are usually shown on the mule tour. So far, everything we see here is worthwhile and I have the feeling we definitely made the right choice to come to Molokai.
Tonight we’re supposed to see the stars again from the beach. My body is tired from the waves and walking on the sand but we’ll get rest soon, and it will be lovely. OK, so I didn’t make it out of the room again till morning – I was too tired, but sleep was lovely.