September 14, 1992
Iniki on Haleakala
At Mom's place in Kona where I finally get to unpack my pack and set
things out to dry, I find a little joke from God. The only items that didn't get soaking wet are two books of matches. I pull one match off, strike it … and it lights! It is to laugh. As if I could have lit that match on the mountaintop in the hurricane. As if there would have been any dry wood that the match could have started a fire with. And water still drips from the pocket in my first aid kid kit where the matches were stored.
I decided to climb Mt. Haleakala only about three weeks ago, and the decision was almost random. The original plan was to work out angst from my injury and betrayal at the tour company, and from Dad dying when I was mindless and unable to support him, by taking a three month canoe trip in Minnesota and Canada. I took the summer off, but had to stay in Hawaii to finalize the settlement with the tour company's lawyer. He dragged things out until August, and by the time I got my money, summer was almost over and all I had done was to live a semi homeless, semi camping existence.
Feeling more frustrated than ever, I knew I'd have to do something, and one of the options I considered was Haleakala. At first it seemed too tame for working out angst, anger, or anything ( and let me say that I felt betrayed unto death by that damned tour company. When I was going down for the third time - drowning - and asked them for help, they held me under to make sure I stayed down ), because the classic Haleakala trip is to visit only the inside of the crater. The idea came to me to climb the whole mountain from the ocean to the top, through the crater, and down the other side. Yeah, I mused, that's the ticket, climb over the whole mountain. At least it would be a little bit of a work out.
Pulehu: To Broil
I hoped to take advantage of full moon conditions and do a lot of hiking at night, thereby avoiding heat and exposure to the sun. Last Tuesday night I napped a little bit at Liz's, left her place at Makiki and Wilder about 3:30 AM, and walked to the Honolulu airport. On the way I stopped at a 7-11 store for coffee, and sneaked a look at one of their newspaper weather reports. The satellite picture showed clear skies around Hawaii, and what looked like a small hurricane far down to the southeast. It was expected to weaken if / as it moved northwest, the report said. I knew from experiencing Hurricane Iwa that there would be warning signs if it got close. The weather would get noticeably worse hours before there was any actual danger. Hurricanes don't just pop on you without warning.
The plane got me to Maui about 7:30 AM. I walked up the airport road to the edge of town, ate a chili rice ( an excellent one, from First Stop ), walked to the beginning of the highway ( Pulehu ) that traverses the Maui Plain, and looked for a place to sleep. The sun was blazing down, and this was one of the segments of the trip I wanted to do in the evening or night. Both sides of the road were treeless and barren, though, either sugar fields or abandoned sugar fields. There was absolutely no place to sleep, so I kept on walking.
I walked and sweated, and there was no cover. As I got across the plain the road got steeper and the sun higher, and there was no shade. The sugar fields ended, but now the road was bordered by big sprawling residential lots with no empty spaces between them. Sweat was pouring down my back, and the salt was burning my okole something fierce. In addition, I was still wearing my presentable "city" pants, which fit too snugly underneath for this kind of walking. They rubbed and chafed terribly; I needed a place to wash myself down and change into my hiking pants, but there was no such place.
About 1 PM I reached Kula, which is where Haleakala gets much steeper. I had planned to sleep here the second day, and again continue in the cool of the evening, but there was still no discrete place to do so, so I scraped on. I came to the road that led to the forest reserve; here I found the last store where I could get supplies. I could see groves of trees just up the slope … privacy and relief were almost at hand … I bypassed the store in favor of the trees.
Oh, but the road was steep. There were homes everywhere, and most of the groves were just thin windbreaks, offering no cover. Schoolchildren getting off their busses eyed me warily. Obviously, I was a suspicious looking stranger, and this was not a place of sanctuary.
At last I reached a gate where the road entered a ranch. In dismay I saw the switchbacks weaving up across the clear treeless meadow, and I saw a sign: Poli-Poli State Park 8 miles. Private Property. Stay on the road.
Eight flippin' miles !?
Fifty yards behind me three kids were watching me closely, like they were ready to call the neighborhood security watch. There was no point in looking like I didn't know what I was doing … besides, if I went down, I'd just have to go back up somewhere else, and it'd probably be more than eight miles. And, the first curve went right past a real band of trees that was at least a hundred yards thick. Real cover. Up the road was definitely the way to go. Conditions would get better. Only … eight … miles.
I walked through the gate and a tongue licked my hand as a dog appeared at my side. A medium sized black dog that looked like Happy, our childhood pet from the 1950s back in Minnesota, was cavorting along, grinning at me, so friendly that I didn't have an instant of fear. She pranced invitingly right out to that sanctuary of trees, and I could see that 1) She'd recently had puppies - her teats were full and hanging. 2) She had no collar. 3) She had rich orange eyes, almost red. I couldn't see where she might have come from, but she seemed right at home on this ranch. Was she a guard dog?
She led me right out to the trees, and I followed cautiously. It was easy to walk among those trees, as there were cowpaths everywhere, and it was shady. I considered setting up a temporary camp. I didn't want to get in trouble, but I desperately needed to clean up and change clothes. I could rest for a bit, go down to that store and get my supplies … then tomorrow I could sleep late, take my time climbing, and be half a day ahead of my scheduled progress. Good plan. I set up my tarp and hammock.
Let me just say here … I was proud of that tarp. At twelve feet by sixteen feet, it was far more than one person needed, but so light and compact that it was no burden at all. In the course of the summer I'd used it like a teepee, a pup tent, a conestoga wagon cover, an igloo, almost like a Rubik's cube. I could fold it twice and have an eight foot by six foot ground cover, which could then fold over me as a tent /blanket. It was water-proof and rip-proof, and it's only weakness ( according to the instructions that came with it ) was fire. In this case I just suspended it over the hammock as an 8' x 6' foot pup tent.
And a pup tent it was, post haste. The dog gave me a happy grin, turned around three times, and dropped into an instant sleep. A good sign.
"Right on, Babe," I told her, and turned to easing my own discomfort. Finally I got out of my city clothes and managed to cool and clean myself with handi-wipes and water. Happily, I stretched out on the hammock in the shade and let the cool breeze work its soothing magic. Lord, lord. Relief at last. I sighed, and drifted, and gave thanks.
And the cows came home.
I mean …
Well, there cow paths everywhere, and that grove of trees went right up to the tree line, so there was a lot of room for everyone, but these cows wanted to be where I was. They started crowding in, and one of the calves took to bawling like someone was sleeping in his bed, AND THERE HE IS! BAAWWW!!! It made me wonder if I should stay.
Then a bull came down and started bellowing at me, pawing the ground about ten feet away. I didn't have to wonder - those cattle wanted me out of there. I doubted that the bull would attack me, but it was obvious that he wouldn't allow me any peace, either. Reluctantly ( reluctantly? There is no word strong enough..), I got into my proper hiking clothes, broke camp, and started toward the road. The bull moved up like he was trying to cut me off, but my friendly dog stepped between us. The bull seemed like he really wanted to make trouble, but wasn't at all certain about the dog. It took about ten minutes for us to edge past him and start up the road.
Up the road. It was about an hour before sunset, the time when I thought I'd be starting across the plain, and already I'd hiked about twenty or twenty five miles. The sponge bath had done a lot toward relieving my chafing, but my feet and legs were extremely tired and sore, and the only relief for them would be rest. Only eight steep miles to go, feet. Hang in there.
When the sun set, though, and the moon came out, the ranch - and then the whole island - became a silver wonderland. As we climbed from about 3500 feet to 6000 feet or so, the world started to glow with that magical look that only moonlight can provide. It took hours - the air was getting thin, so I had to walk slowly; my feet were in agony, and I had to take the load off them every few minutes - but I started to get the feeling that this was a good trip. This was what I had come here for … crisp, clean air, and silver magic.
The only thing that perplexed me was that dog. As we climbed higher the bulls seemed to get meaner, and more prone to lie in wait, then lurch out to block the road at the last second. I almost always missed seeing them, but the dog was my shepard, and would stop in her tracks, look at me, and start whining. Eventually I would see the bull, we'd edge around it, and she'd become the happy roaming dog again.
At first I almost thought that she was a ranch dog, trained to guide hikers, but she had no collar, and sometimes seemed more afraid of the bulls than I was. She obviously still had a litter of puppies somewhere, too … surely she wouldn't abandon them for me.
My thoughts turned to Hawaiian religion. Wasn't Pele supposed to have a dog? Was it white or black, I couldn't remember.. Didn't the different islands have ghost dogs? In any event, powerful spirits could take on any form they felt like, including a pure black dog with blazing orange eyes. What would I do if those eyes lit up luminous red? Hadn't she just appeared out of nowhere to join me? Whatever my questions were, I knew that her affection, guidance, and mystery made her very special, and I'd have to respect that.
Around midnight we reached the end of the paved road, where only a dirt road continued into the park. As this had been my ( adjusted ) goal for the night, I immediately started looking for a place to sleep. I found a nice, flat grassy ledge about twenty feet above the road, and started to spread out the tarp.
"Babe" didn't like it. She faced a darkness on the hill just above us and whined nervously. As hard as I looked, I couldn't see what was bothering her, so I got out my flashlight. We were at the mouth of a cave, and I could see several openings large enough to go through. Were they burial caves? Were there spirits there, or thugs lying in wait, or just bad vibes..? I didn't know, but I figured if the black mystery dog with orange eyes didn't like it .. OK, that was enough for me. We moved on a few hundred yards.
On the downhill side of the road we found another soft flat space overlooking silver magic Maui. I spread out the tarp 8' by 6' as I've described and folded it over me. Babe lay alongside, and we watched the moon pass, and the island and clouds and ocean shine, and it was good.
The early light of dawn woke me. My glasses had come off during the night - I always fall asleep with them on if I'm in a new place, since I'm so blind without them - and I had to scrabble and grope for half a minute to find them. When I finally got them on, I saw millions of crystalline sparkling dew droplets. The air was so clear that the west Maui mountains seemed almost within reach. I could see features on Kaho'olawe and Lana'i, and in the distance Moloka'i and O'ahu stood out like rocks in a pond.
My body felt like it needed about twelve more hours of sleep, but my mind was up. After lying there for about half an hour or so, I got up and ate. Except for getting supplies, I was a full day ahead of schedule. If I left my pack here, I could bring up a ton of food, then explore the crater at leisure. I decided to stroll down to the store this morning, take my time shopping, and climb back up later in the afternoon, when the sun had passed its peak.
I hid the pack in some thick underbrush, called Babe, and started down. Babe started up the road, gave me a look of utter disgust when she saw I was going the other way, then, dog fashion, joined me and trotted along happily.
In the daylight I could see how thin she was. Even though she had a thick lustrous coat, her ribs stood out pretty starkly. Maybe she was lost or abandoned, rather than some volcano spirit. I hoped that when we got back to the houses she'd turn out to belong to one of them, but she followed me through the ranch gate, all the way down the ranch road to the store.
I explained the situation to the store people, and they gave me a few phone numbers - of the Humane Society and radio stations that had lost and found broadcasts. They didn't volunteer the use of their phone, though, and no pay phones were around, so I bought a loaf of twelve grain bread and a pound of salami, went outside and shared sandwiches with Babe, and waited. Within an hour or so the store manager - who looked like a pretty fine mother herself - took a liking to Babe and busted out some real dog food and water. I stuck around long enough to be sure that Babe was in good hands, then went back inside and did some real shopping, and disappeared out the back door. I felt bad doing this ( about 1% guilty ), but I couldn't see taking that poor dog over the mountain in her condition.
In addition to the usual dried foods, saimin and peanuts, I'd bought two things that had me excited gastronomically. One was a pound of sirloin steak chopped stir-fry style, with an onion and squash to go with it. This, I anticipated, would make a great real meal tonight, and give me a good healthy energy reserve. The other was an eighteen ounce bag of chocolate chip cookies, for climbing fuel. I don't usually like sweet things to eat, but my body was craving sugar type food, and my taste buds told me they wanted those cookies. I ate a half dozen, and headed up toward base camp.
What a difference 24 hours made! My legs, feet, and crotch had recovered, and with energy renewed from the rest and food, my body enjoyed the walk. I had to walk slowly because of the altitude, but I was able to maintain my normal breathing / walking rhythm: inhale for two steps, exhale for four.
This led to speculation about the Asian religions and their use of controlled breathing. Had that originated on the Himalayan trails, as early monks made their long treks up to the monasteries? And was that one of the reasons that the Asian martial arts were so successfully permeated by their religions? Martial arts and mountain climbing certainly have that in common: if you lose your breath control, you have had it.
It was a long peaceful afternoon. My breaths pulled me up the mountain smoothly, and my only regret was that a certain black dog wasn't waiting as I came around the switchbacks. At each corner I found myself hoping that she'd be there, although if she had been I would have been scared witless. Well, maybe. I had to admit that I'd suspected that she was an incarnation of Pele. In fact, I'd wanted to call her Pele instead of Babe, but hadn't dared to - what if her eyes had lit up in red fire?
Now a curious thing happened at base camp that evening. I wasn't sure if I was on the ranch or in the park - camp was in a forest of pines, but there were still a lot of cattle roaming around - and I didn't want to get in trouble for having a cooking fire. There weren't any signs at all, regarding fire or anything, and I really wanted to eat that chopped steak, so I decided to go for it.
More careful than usual, I meticulously cleared a spot for a fireplace, and double lined it with rocks. There was a lot of dry wood around, and I gathered enough for several fires, but when I tried to light it, none of it would catch fire. An hour after dark I was still fanning and feeding wood onto the pitiful little pyre, but it never got up enough to keep itself going. I put my pan of steak, onion, and squash right over the "blaze," and huffed and puffed and fanned it for about two more hours, but my water (I had about 1/2 inch in the pan, instead of oil ) never even simmered. Finally I just ate everything raw and drank the bloody broth. Sashimi pipi.
Oh, well. The way everything else had turned out so well, I couldn't really bitch too much. I admired the regal moon as I folded myself into the warm tarp and burped raw onion.
Iniki: Pangs of Love
The tarp flew off me and a wind-driven blast of icy rain drenched me to the skin. A loud crrr-a-a-c-k … kssshh told me that a tree had been snapped and flung about fifty feet. The wind howled - all around me trees were cracking, their roots groaning as they tried to keep their grip on the ground. I rolled with the wind, got a grip on the tarp and managed to wrap it around me, then lay there, trying to collect my wits.
My God, what had happened? This must be that hurricane I'd seen in the weather picture, but how had it sprung up so fast? How could I have slept with such sounds of destruction all around? I couldn't … Faint pre-dawn light back-lit the trees as they bowed and writhed and whipped to and fro, looking like black flames out of hell. Al, baby, I thought, none of those questions or their answers are worth beans. You'd better do the right thing and do it fast, before one of those trees kills you.
I got the tarp and dirty dishes into the pack, and the food and water into plastic grocery bags and was ready to go in about a minute. It was the fastest I've ever broken camp. What to do now, hide or move? As if in answer, a large branch broke off a tree right in front of me and was slammed to the ground at the base of its trunk. If I'd been hiding under that tree, I would have been impaled. No, the forest was not the place to hide. The ranch below me had those thin groves of wind-break trees that were probably even more vulnerable, and I'd have to walk miles down to the nearest buildings. Whatever was ahead was unknown: the road led into the park, but was it near or far? Were there buildings there, and would they be any protection in this weather? Most of the State park "buildings" I've seen in Hawaii are just roofs on four corner posts, with no walls at all. Above the park, from what I'd seen on clear days, the tree line ended; there would be far less flying debris than anywhere else, but the wind would probably be stronger. On the other hand, on O'ahu I'd climbed right through the top of several storms, come out above the clouds, and been the only person on the island to get a sun tan.
I opted for the unknown - up the trail and into the park. The closest buildings should be there, and if they weren't, I'd climb above the tree line. There, without worrying about flying trees, I could wrap myself in my aluminum emergency blanket and the tarp. The blanket was another thing I was proud of having. Every time I'd tried it on O'ahu it made me sweat too much to be able to sleep. It was, after all, a survival blanket.
As daylight came on it was possible to look when I heard a tree snapping off, and see if it was flying my way, so my paranoia about getting hit by something eased a bit. The awesome display of nature's power became fascinating and exhilarating, and the successful struggle of most of the plants to hold on was inspirational. The small of pine resin emanating from injured trees reminded me of Christmas, and Minnesota. In fact, I was getting about three months worth of northern forest storms in this one morning. I had to smile … to laugh. Yes. I was here for this as much as the moonlight magic.
The road forked. To the left it led up the crest to the summit; to the right it went down to civilization. If my map was correct, the park headquarters ( and maybe buildings! ) were very near, along the right fork. I was shivering pretty violently by this time, and needed shelter, so I headed down. I saw no buildings, though. The pine forest ended, and eucalyptus trees became dominant. They were much more brittle and less well rooted than the pines, and the destruction and flying debris seemed about ten times worse. A hundred yards into the eucalyptus I stopped where a huge fallen tree blocked the road. Buildings or not, I didn't want to go any further into those trees.
The fallen tree provided a little shelter, though. I crawled under the trunk and broke out breakfast and my map. As I munched a can of chili, some bread, and another half dozen cookies, I scrutinized that map. If it was correct, I should have reached buildings by now. A sign back at the fork had mentioned public restrooms ahead, but they were probably port-a-potties, blown out to sea by this time. The way it looked on the map, my shortest route to guaranteed buildings was back up the crest and on to the summit.
I hadn't walked for about half an hour, and my shivering had turned to shaking. I had to get moving and create more body heat. Before I left the fallen tree I took out the tarp and strapped it to the outside of the pack, partly to protect the pack, and partly to have it readily available.
As I'd thought, there were far fewer flying objects above the tree line, but the wind did get stronger when there was nothing to slow it down. About noon I reached the crest of Haleakala's southeast ridge, and the wind direction became more consistent, blowing up the east side of the ridge and across the crest. The road curved in gentle switchbacks just barely on the west side of the ridge, and every time I rounded a curve on the crest side it was a battle. It would take five minutes to go thirty feet around a curve.
At the 8000 or 9000 foot elevation it became a battle to just stay on my feet. "Progress" consisted of staggering 10 or 12 feet left and 10 or 12 feet right, and maybe picking up 3 or 4 feet in the process. I took off my glasses and cap and stuffed them in my pocket, and had to crawl sometimes just to see where the road was. The road had leveled off and straightened out, though, so I knew I was near the summit. If that wasn't the good news and the bad news: it meant that I was almost there, but it also meant that I was totally exposed right on the crest. There was wind coming up the slope from way down at sea level compressing against wind coming in at 9000 feet, blasting across the crest with nothing to stop it except me.
A gust flung me across the road into a boulder, and my left arm was wrenched from its position holding my glasses in their pocket. The glasses and cap flew away. Oh, God, no … not my glasses! The bag holding my water bottles ripped and the bottles rolled away into the slipstream mist. I crawled behind the boulder and sat panting and shaking. Shaking in huge spastic shivers. This was so strange. I'd eaten well, and my inside furnace was stoked. I had the strength and energy to battle for hours more, but on the outside I was frozen. I couldn't clench my fingers. Every limb was jerking in six inch shakes.
And I knew I was almost there. The last trail sign I'd seen - hours ago - had said 2 1/2 miles, and I'd gone the bulk of that distance. Just ahead of me was Science City, the observatory, the visitor's center. Just ahead. Buildings. People. Warmth. I tightened the pack, grabbed the food bag firmly, put my head down like a football lineman, and pushed into the wind.
It was a stalemate. I could stagger left or right or maybe forward, like before, but the wind pushed me backward even when my feet were solidly dug in. As tightly as the pack was strapped to me, the wind pulled it away from my back. Caught it like a sail, flew me through the air. Slammed me to the ground. On hands and knees I crawled back to the road. The wind blew me over, rolled me over, into the rocks.
It wasn't a stalemate, I was losing. It didn't matter that I had energy and strength, it wasn't enough. There was no point in wasting that energy trying to find buildings. It was time to crawl under that tarp and hope that the storm ended soon.
Lying on the road, I struggled out of the pack. Holding the food bag with my legs, I tried to loosen the tarp from the pack, but my frozen fingers couldn't do it. I had to assist with my teeth, and had to lay on both the pack and the tarp to keep them from blowing away.
Finally it was loose. I wanted to undo it two folds, so it would be 4' x 6'
with the crease side upwind, then crawl in with the pack and food. I spread it out to 4' by 3' and tried to position the pack so I could slide it into the crease at the next unfolding.
The food bag broke loose, and when I reached for it, the wind tore the tarp free and set the pack rolling. I grabbed the tarp - ah, my fingers could
grip - but the wind unfurled it in a flash. It fluttered like a trapped panicked bird and shredded before my eyes. In five seconds I was holding two tattered remnants … shreds between my fingers. The tarp was gone. The pack, the food …
Just like that, I had no shelter, no reserve. I couldn't see the pack. The food bag was rolling away. It was a large trash bag, and so was catching the wind, but the heavier items inside sort of held it down, so all in all it rolled , like jello rolling downhill. I sat on the road in shock, shaking, and watched it disappear. Oh, man. Up until now I'd had everything with me. Oh, God, I was dead.
"Up until now" didn't mean anything at all. I had to go on. The summit was 10,000 something feet, and even without the wind chill of a hurricane it would get too cold ( as low as 30 degrees, one pamphlet had said ) to spend the night without shelter, or at least a jacket. I was wearing a tee shirt, a pair of pants, and hiking shoes. If I didn't make it to those buildings, I was dead.
I forced myself into the wind again. Without the pack and food bag progress was only slightly better, but it was progress - staggering sideways or forward, flying backwards .. crawling .. shaking too much to control my steps .. crying, dying ..time stopped .. time was the blasting howling wind .. eyelids too weak to open against it .. my face slammed into the rocks .. dirt in my mouth ..freezing wet since before dawn .. flying .. shaking, shaking .. shaking …
In a flash - an infinite instant - I saw two eyes staring through me without focus or recognition. Dad, in his semi-coma at Straub before he died. Back then I was mindless, from my concussion, like Charley in Flowers For Algernon, and I didn't want to live. I marveled at how hard Dad was fighting, and for so little. He had no hope of any kind of quality life, but he fought for it so tenaciously. It was unfair, I'd thought to God, that Dad should be dying when I was the one who didn't want to live. At that point I would have traded my life expectancy for his, if it was possible. His arm was as solid as a block of wood, even though his mind was deep, fighting the hardest battle of his life, the battle he lost.
Mind deep. I saw.
This was where he had been.
"Dad!" I cried. "Dad …"
Who art in heaven. The eyes stared through me, through the rocks, through the shrieking wind …
Oh, God, that was my sin, that was why this was happening to me. We are each allotted our time and our struggle, and I had scorned mine. If I didn't want my life, God would take it back. So there.
I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry
There was pavement, there was a road, there were buildings … They were only equipment sheds, locked. I followed the road up through driving rain / mist and found more locked buildings. Electric generators, humming. The wind slammed me against a wall, a sign. U.S. Government No trespassing. No entry.
I tried to hide behind a building but the wind and rain swirled, laughing, howling, following me, and stung into my bones. If anything, the storm was getting worse. The light was fading. I was turning to ice and it was only starting to get cold. Thirty degrees. You fool. You fool.
One building had only a latch on the door, and no lock. My stiff fingers my shaking fingers … No. No they couldn't. I managed to knock the latch off with spasms. The door slammed open and the wind swirled in creating a welcoming mini-hurricane. Laughing. Ready to cradle me. Inside, there was no way to secure the door closed. The hurricane came right in full force along with me. Water, blasting. Wind. Ice. Oooooooooooohhh, and now it will get cold.
O to lie down in the water on the floor and shake and shake and shake flex hands and toes and shake breathe two in four out shake shake shake shake shake shake shake
BREATHE two in four out in out shake shake shake breathe shake shake shake shake shake shake BREATHE YOU FOOL shake shake
I can't say it enough; shaking shaking shaking shaking
Big, violent spasms that wracked my entire body. I curled up in the fetal position on my side; of all my body points that could touch the ground - foot, ankle, calf, knee, thigh, hip, butt, ribs, shoulder, arm, elbow, hands, and head - maybe two or three of those points were in contact at any given time. The rest were spasing into space.
If I didn't flex my hands and feet they started to lose sensation, and several times I "woke" from a vision of a black hole floating in front of me, to find my limbs cold and numb. Now I wasn't shaking, because my body was frozen too stiff. Very scary. I'd start flexing and breathing again, and as sensation returned, so did the shaking.
Stay awake and breathe and shake. Twelve hours until daybreak. For twelve hours don't fall into that black hole. Shake, and breathe, and listen to the wind howl.
I see scientists coming to this building in about three days, finding me dead.
I'm in an oxygen tent, with pneumonia.
You're gone, you fool. You'll be lucky if you get pneumonia.
mmmmm the wind
no body no shaking no cold flex something flex hands
hands breathe flex hands shake shake shake
shake shake shake shake shake shake breathe shake
I fell into the black hole
I fell into a dream
In a dream, the wind stopped howling. Ice water on the floor.
My body lay frozen. From somewhere, there was light.
In a dream, machinery hummed. There was light. the floor was cold. My body was cold. Quietness. No wind …
My body - shaking no more - feeling nothing - rose like mist from ice water on the floor and drifted to the doorway. Dawn was clear and cloudless. Haleakala - house of the sun -
In a dream, my body came out into the open. I moved from the shelter to the road, and started ( walking? ) down. My body started shaking but it was in the distance - I felt nothing - I felt nothing. I weighed absolutely nothing.
In my new incarnation, still shaking, I floated down the road, found the trail, and started down it, hoping to find some of my gear. In a few places I saw parallel scrape marks on the road - up to 20 feet long - and realized that they were tracks of my feet when I was getting blown backwards. After walking the better part of an hour downhill, I came to my pack, snagged against a rock about 50 yards off the trail. Strange, the day before, I'd thought it was only a five or ten minute struggle from the time I'd abandoned the pack till I got to the road.
The food bag had held together. It was lodged against some rocks about 50 feet from the pack. I carried the food and pack to the road and left them there, then continued down the road to see what else I could find. Shaking. Weightless. Blind as I was without my glasses, I didn't have much hope, but about another half a mile downhill, and 100 feet off the trail were my two bottles of water.
I walked carefully across the rocks to retrieve the bottles, and when I stood up, something sparkled way off in the distance. Everything else was dull, either rock or packed dirt, but this sparkle caught my eye. After all, what else was missing? It couldn't possibly be my glasses, but I had to check.
Sure enough, there they were. Even the lens that was chronically loose in the frame was still in place. I put the glasses on, and the mountaintop sprang into focus. Clear sky and stark barren rocks. The sun had just cleared the lower level clouds. God, the sun. The analogy struck me as deeply as it ever has struck any human. Haleakala - House Of The Son. Thank you, Jesus.
I dropped to my knees and said the Lord's prayer. When I was through I started over and said it again. And again. And again, I don't know how many times. Thank You, God, for giving me this dream, this vision before I die. As I die. I don't know, but thank You.
After a long time it occurred to me that God had probably got the message. As long as he had granted me these last few moments of time, I might as well get up and appreciate this world before it faded away.
In the thin air it took a long time to trudge back up the trail with the water bottles. When I got to the pack and food, a quick check revealed that everything was soaked through and through with water. I consolidated what I could of the load, and started up toward the summit. Progress was slow, let me tell you. At least the sun warmed my body, and it stopped shaking, but I was still weightless.
When I got to the summit observatory, a Ranger was cleaning water from the inside windows and walls. The hurricane had swirled around inside this building, too. A group of tourists stood and watched as I examined the food and pack contents. Saimin packages were still sealed tightly, but the noodles inside were soaked and swelling. The camera was in a plastic bag inside a tupperware container that was double wrapped in two plastic bags. Seeing moisture inside, I unscrewed the lens and poured water from inside the camera.
The tourists' eyes were wide, their jaws gaping. I explained to them that this water hadn't leaked into the camera, it had been blasted down to H2O molecules by the hurricane, and driven through the tupperware and bags and the camera shell. They nodded silently.
I smeared wet saimin broth over some noodles, ate a cold breakfast, and continued over the crater lip into Haleakala's caldera. Why not? This strange weightless dream was lasting longer than I'd thought it would. Thank you, God. I will appreciate.
The crater was pristine. Creation. A new life. I will not attempt to describe it; go see for yourself. That evening I hung my hammock at the North wall of the crater, and, rocking in womblike bliss, watched the silver moon work it's magic over Heaven and Earth..
Still in the dream, I fell asleep … and woke up. Not dead (yet), but on the North end of Haleakala. Amazed, thankful, a ghost, I ate (!) and started down the frozen lava of the Kaupo gap. Across the ocean, still in the morning mist, were outlined peaks on Hawai'i, the big island .. Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai ..
And around that ridge - I could almost see it … Mom's house in Kona.
Sept. 14 . Two days later. I don't really believe it, but I have dreamed through another day and another night. Here I am at Mom's place in sunny warm Kona, finally pulling everything from the pack, and setting it all out to dry on the lanai. Everything is still soaked … food … clothes … camera. I am still weightless, and I do not believe that I survived … that I am actually alive. This is a parallel life, another incarnation, but no, no ..
And here are these two books of matches; dry, ready to light. Candles in the wind. Like those last hours on Haleakala … I know that my life is not mine. It belongs to God, and when the wind blows …
Was it a blessing or a curse?Would things have gone differently if I had kept Babe with me? I thought I was protecting her: was I really scorning Pele's company? Not consciously.
Nor did I really scorn my life. Thank you, God, I welcome the slings and arrows. And I did not tempt fate; it seemed wise to avoid flying trees and head for higher ground. I was not arrogant … until everything blew away, I had everything with me. I thought that at the worst I would crawl under that tarp and eat cookies.
Your life can change in an instant.
That's another way to spell humility. The best laid plans of mice and men … Your life can change in an instant. Maybe it's a backward flip from a piggyback ride .. maybe it's a pack blown into a windstorm .. maybe it's one match still dry …
One more flicker of a candle in the wind …
Sept. 14, 1992