Friday, June 3, 2011

The Big Wave

My husband and I recently visited Hawaii—the Big Island—for 11 days and nights. It was wonderful, a long saved for treat. We’d been to Maui, but never the Big Island.

The west shore, including Kona, boasts bays rimmed with lava flows worn smooth by waves, sun and wind. The water is clear because not much sand is roiling in the surf. Our favorite? Honaunau Bay, home of the Place of Refuge state park. If you visit Hawaii, be sure to snorkel at Honaunau. The reef is full of beautiful fishes, eels and turtles. Some days the spinner dolphins come in to rest and they'll let you swim with them, something you'll never forget.

Our condo was on a Kona beach aptly named Magic Sands. In winter, the waves are so strong the sand all but disappears, to be washed back in the spring. Even then, the beach is dotted with old lava rock, worn smooth, but still dangerous if one is dashed onto it by a wave.

The local Hawaiian body surfers and boogie boarders come and play there, as graceful as seals in the surf. The tourists try it, too, with varying degrees of success. My husband grew up in California, and is very comfortable in the ocean. Me, not so much. Give me a calm lake. I swim well, but I'm nervous negotiating the surf break.

My husband wanted to body surf, so I swam out with him, floated on the waves and watched him play, strong and graceful. When I was tired, I waited ‘til a big wave passed (usually followed by a series of smaller waves) and then swam in. I stood up, got my footing, and started wading up onto the shore.

My husband yelled, I turned and saw him with his hand outstretched for me, and then what must have been the biggest wave of the day (and possibly the month!) came barreling up onto the beach. A wall of turquoise rimmed with white slammed into me, knocking me head over heels, somersaulting me in its depths.

I really don’t remember getting out, just that I was dizzy and sick and needed his help to get up onto the dry sand, where I more or less collapsed. I wanted to throw up, but there were people everywhere—too embarrassing. I put my head on my knees and waited it out.

I’d forgotten the primary of rule of the beach—never turn your back on the ocean. I was very lucky—although I bounced off the sandy bottom several times, somehow I missed all those lava rocks. Just an upset stomach from swallowing salt water, and a red face for being such a touron—western slang for moron tourist.

The rest of our visit was blissful. All too soon, we returned to the mainland, and life settled into the routine of work, writing and home. Now I'm awaiting the end of the school year, and a summer of writing and playing in the sun.

But if there's one thing I know about life, it's that just when I get comfortable, a big wave may hit me.

That wall of water can come in any form—illness, job loss, bad news about a family member or friend. When it happens, I'll feel as if I'm back in that Kona wave, being thrown head over heels, at the mercy of the mighty ocean. (I know, you saw this analogy coming, right? Hey, I'm a writer, I can't help it!)

None of us know what's coming next. All we know is that life has big waves. I do know that no matter what, I have my faith, and the love of my family. Even if I'm dashed on the rocks, they'll be there.

And maybe … being shaken up by life will land me right where I’m supposed to be.

How about you? Any big waves rock your world lately?

If so, I hope you land in the sand, and find yourself holding a drink with one of those little umbrellas, and a great romance novel.

Aloha, Cathryn