As a child I was always interested in maps and far away places, and in particular I was attracted to maps of Hawaii. Not all the islands would do for me though, I had decided that I needed to go visit one day the Big Island. I am not sure how these thoughts come into the head if a little kid, I know I was not more than seven or eight when that decision was taken, and certainly I must have known that it was just fanciful imagining. Still, it was fun to think about for a kid growing up landlocked on the steppes of Eastern Washington State. The day-to-day concerns of being a kid and growing up quickly pushed aside such notions and by the time I had gotten to university, Hawaii was little more than a distant memory, an old dream, a wish and nothing more.
In my third year of university my roommate, Bob Maier, and I got the chance to spend our Christmas holiday in Hawaii. The offer came quite out of the blue, from a friend of a friend of Bob. This random chance was all the more extraordinary since this friend was from the Big Island. Recalling that distant wish of mine, I quickly agreed. Now I found myself relaxing on the Kona sand. In the morning I would be leaving for the mainland. I had seen and done a lot in the ten days I had spent on the island. The places I visited still sound like music, Waipio, Hilo, Kapoho, Kilauea, Pohakuloa, Ka Lae. Before the trip I neither knew of most of them, nor could I even pronounce them correctly. Now each held a special place in my mind. Waipio valley, home of Kamehameha, last king of independent Hawaii. A full day hike across thirteen smaller valleys eroding deeply into the old Kohala mountains to arrive, but solitude awaited us there. Kapoho, the village on the east point that was destroyed by lava flows only a few years before. Kilauea crater, an impressive National Park on the east flank of Mauna Kea, destined to be its own mountain, and the vaporous cliffs of the Halemaumau Fire Pit glowing in the late afternoon sun. The smell of sulfur returns to my nose even as I write this.
On the saddle road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa we stayed at Pohakuloa, little more than a cabin on that high arid volcanic plane. There Bob and I hiked up Mauna Kea to what passes as timberline and looked out west towards Hualalai surrounded by a skirt of clouds in the evening light. The sun set as we descended and, returning to our cabin, the deepening twilight turned to night. We had a splendid view of the Milky Way stretching overhead as we arrived. We visited Ka Lae, the south point of the island in a search of Hawaii's green-sand beaches. There the water, deep blue, thunders against the exposed basalt cliffs. The sand is a mixture of white coral and green olivine crystals brought up from the earth's mantle by the deep chimneys of fire below the islands. Born in violence, the green sand now forms a calming fringe between the brown land and the blue water of the Pacific.
Finally Keei, (pronounced "K,A") a village on the Kona Coast where I stood reflecting on all these places and many others so recently familiar to me. I wondered then, as I do now, at the remarkable luck which brought me there. How is it that the childhood wish of a boy infatuated with maps should be realized so completely. It was, and is, a fairy tale where wishes come true. I knew that day, looking out past the coconut palms, that I was indeed fortunate.