May 31, 2004

A Heightened Perspective.

3:00 in the morning is usually about the time I scamper off to bed (or the floor, depending on the moon) these days. Today, however, something compelled me to step outside into another calm, clear night. I exited through the back door and crept, as is my natural tendency, along the wooden deck that wraps around my house. As I reached the west end, I noticed the waxing moon, appearing frail and yellow, just dipping below the trees in the distance. After that row of trees which stood roughly a mile away, the hill plummets over the course of two miles and eventually meets the sea, and I could imagine for myself the splendor of a moonset over the true horizon on a morning as pleasant as this. Due to the tall trees in the neighboring yard, my view of Luna's majesty was partially obscured from my vantage point, so I rounded the deck and ambled down the south side, pausing at the palm tree which leans rudely over our roof. If we didn't maintain it now and then, it would surely poke out our window screens with its gargantuan fronds. I stood and gazed up the tree for a few seconds longer, and in an act of complete spontaneity, jumped up on the narrow wooden deck railing and latched on to the roof gutter with my hands. Extending from the tree like hard, smooth stepstool rungs were closely cropped frond stems, wide as my leg and seemingly very sturdy. I decided to rely on them, placing both my bare feet and eventually all my weight on one, which raised me to chest level with the roof. From there, I used some crafty foot/handwork to ease myself onto the roof, which I immediately noticed was damp with morning dew, and quite slick. Of course, it slopes upward at a thirty degree angle before reaching the apex, then slopes down the other side in the same fashion. I essentially crawled away from the tree and up to the apex, reluctant to stand up straight anywhere near the edge. The grooves of the aluminum panels were coated with a thin, slippery film of some type of growth, which surely makes walking around on it barefoot dangerous. Then again, danger is perhaps the reason I actually decided to climb up on the roof. No, that cannot be all. I've always had the tendency to want to be higher. As high as I could be. When hiking trails, even as a younger pup, I'd always take the high road. When wandering amongst a series of tall hills or mountains, I'd always long to scale the highest one and reach the top. I simply want to be higher than everything, and reaching the summit of whatever I happen to notice surrounding me is truly a spiritual experience. What else could explain my affinity for scaling radio towers or ascending trees or climbing up on roofs?

Well, I also get a better view. A different view from the one I see everyday. In the daytime, I wouldn't feel secure being up there. Too many neighbors would look up and see me sitting or lying back and wonder how much lead I consume in my paint chip diet. Not to mention, the sun would too likely be in my eyes, then. Perhaps I climbed the roof to be that much closer to the stars. And the stars, how they glimmered so brightly, so arrogantly, as if they were all conspiring to band together and swoop down and tell me I'm insignificant as a speck of space dust. To simply be up there was truly beautiful. The cool, mountain breeze rustled the treetops and ruffled my hair, as I sat staring out to the north, my eyes following the ocean eternally spreading. The only noises to be heard were compliments of the insects and the horses stirring, leading one another to investigate the strange spectacle of a tall figure on the roof at such an odd hour. I hadn't been up on the roof in years. It's such a secure place to be. No one could ever find me up there for as long as Dawn keeps her torch low. I can hardly justifiably describe what a Raptorial experience it was to be up there. It instilled in me that precious, passionate sensation of liberation; of wanting to fly. It simply reminded me that I needn't become enraptured in some epic adventure to experience that prodigious emotion.

I would like to embark on another epic adventure soon, though. I may very shortly go camping down on the south end of the island, where no one lives for dozens of miles around, and the sprawling landscape is wide open from the mountain to the sea. The last time I was there, I rode my mountain bike all night long beneath the full moon along the shore, and experienced quite possibly one of the most legendary adventures of my life. I'd love to revisit that place again and have a similar adventure, and what better time than this time of the month? At any rate, this leads me into posting the highlights of my previous adventure there:


Around 12:30 or so in the morning, my father ambled off to bed, and I ventured over to my bike. Well-rested from my nap earlier in the day, the prospect of lying down and sleeping away such a perfect evening simply did not appeal to me. Luna had once again tapped wanderlust's dagger into the most sensual depths of my spirit. My domesticated canine friend's ears popped up as he gazed up at me. Yes, we were embarking on an expedition. The moon in all her glory cast her innocent light down from directly overhead, and the cloud cover had rapidly dissipated. I shut off the lantern and left the fire to die a slow death as I took off down the beaten path, my pointer in tow. Now, using a bike to negotiate a road predominantly comprised of loose boulders and small pebbles is difficult enough in broad daylight, but in the moonlight, it becomes an even more formidable challenge. Without the moon's light, it would have been impossible for lamentable human vision. Still, I opted to escape from the grove of mesquite trees, where the road is smooth and sandy, and ride out onto the barren, open lava field, where the road is comprised of small boulders and rugged natural lava formations. Definitely, a technical challenge. The road curves around the back of the inlet, continuing down to the shoreline opposite the side of the inlet where we were camped. ...Shoreline I had only once before explored, and not in exquisite detail. I followed the road, managing to stay on my bike most of the time. If the black beauty wasn't equipped with dual suspension, I wouldn't have made it.

I stopped when I reached a small, protected pebble beach accented by a small stand of palm trees. From here, I caught my first glimpse up the mountain, and immediately noticed the exiguous array of dull amber lights marking the tiny village of Waiohinu. It looked about a hundred miles away from where I now stood. Though one might think the presence of the lights would detract from the natural beauty of the scene, I felt they simply contributed to it, through sheer contrast. The only other lights I could see were the intermittently flashing red lights atop two distant radio towers to the west. Without those few lights far up the mountain, I would have had no immediate proof, other than the primitive road upon which I treaded, that I hadn't magically stumbled into some undiscovered realm. Truly, the feeling of isolation that I was experiencing was intense ... and beautiful. We were the only ones around for miles and miles--I could feel it in my soul.

I scoped the area around a little more, and discovered a broken old pier leading out to sea. Unsurprisingly, little else remained of the old structure but its concrete foundations, continuously weathered by the ocean waves. I reckoned it to be a by-product of the days when highways were minimal, and steamboats, rather than tractor trailers, shipped commerce to towns around the islands. Yet another relic of a bygone era added to the area's overall mystique. Of course, everything appears a little more mysterious under the moonlight. I re-mounted my bike and rode up a small bluff, noticing a small shelter facing the sea. It was comprised of rock walls on three sides, several poles of bamboo thatched together, and a plastic tarp, and was obviously designed for rain and sun protection. I continued to follow the road along the shore until it reached a small pebbly beach accented with patches of white sand, then looped around a tree right back on to itself. I immediately realized that I must have missed the real road somewhere.

This little dead end, however, proved a pleasant, and at the same time, relatively unpleasant, discovery. The spot seemed an excellent place to camp. Not only was it entirely out of the way, at the end of the road, but a small cluster of dense foliage also stood over soft white sand, providing luxuriant shade in a region where protection from solar radiation is scarce. The calm ocean waves gently lapped onto the sand. The site simply instilled in me a marvelous feeling of tranquility, especially as I paced about it in the moonlight. Of course, every rose has its thorns. The sheer amount of trash at the site was appalling. Perhaps even more appalling was the fact that it had all washed up from the ocean. The beach was littered with old detergent bottles, several worn down tires, broken shards of plastic floats, and piles upon piles of driftwood, amongst innumerable other unidentifiable plastics. In short, the beach basically constituted a colorful array of manmade rubbish that had been floating about the Pacific ocean currents for months or even years before washing up ... here. Admittedly, I've always found combing through flotsam and jetsam an entertaining activity, but when I see it in such massive quantities, I become disgusted. It simply serves as a reminder as to how impure and polluted our oceans really are.

After laying on an unlittered portion of the beach for awhile, staring at the moon and absorbing the vibes, I took off in search for the road that continued on down the line. I did find a poorly marked fork halfway between the beach and the shelter I had seen earlier, and the route was barely navigable by bike. In fact, I had to walk it. Eventually, however, it improved, but not by much. I was curious as to how long my tires would hold up as they traversed the small shaky boulders and tough patches of lava rock. The road graced almost intimidatingly close to the sea at times; so close, in fact, that when a considerable-sized wave hit the shore, the spray would soak part of it. After grinding over a few dips and rises of lava rock, I rode into slightly different terrain. The road became a mixture of small pebbles and coarse, hard-packed sand, and I was surrounded by tall beach shrubs. Definitely more rider-friendly. Every once in awhile, side-routes would lead off to the sea, and I'd follow them, arriving at magnificent campsites standing on narrow, curving sandy beaches fronting a protected reef. I vividly recalled my hermitical aspirations of living out there for months and writing a book. One could certainly get away with it.

Still, I pressed on, as if I had somehow not seen enough. I had never found stopping before the road reached its end to be easy. When hiking as a child, I cried whenever we had to turn around before the trail ended. I always wanted to reach the end. I always desired that sort of closure. Of course, some roads never seem to end. I continued on until the road began to run parallel to a beach that contained the most ocean trash I had ever seen in one place. Yes, this one not only took the cake, it sold the whole damn bakery. I could have gone wading through the sheer amount of trash washed up on the beach, but I didn't. My dog sure enjoyed himself doing so, though. If I were a hobo, I probably could have used that beach as an inexhaustible resource for containers, furniture parcels, large strands of rope, fishing nets, firewood, and collectible treasures. Even the surface of the road itself at this point was paved with colorful shards and strands of flattened flotsam and jetsam. I was rather astonished, and at the same time, fascinated. Just how much garbage is there in the Pacific Ocean after all?

I moved on, thoroughly impressed with what I had seen thus far. The road dipped down onto a tree-lined sandy stretch--a stretch with such deep sand, in fact, that I had to walk it instead. The road eventually curved back inland and became rideable again, as I left all semblances of plantlife behind for the first time in awhile. As I once again hit deep sand, I decided on a change of pace--I temporarily abandoned my bike and began walking. I felt as if I was truly getting a long way from "home," now, as I watched the violent surf crash against the rugged shoreline, sending salt spray into the air. Before long, I happened upon a gargantuan tree stump, its diameter about as large as I am tall, just sitting upright on the side of the road, bleached white and attached to nothing, as if it had actually washed up from the sea. It seemed to cast an eerie glow of its own in the moonlight. It looked positively surreal against a backdrop of desolate uniformity--something from a Salvador Dali painting, or a Pink Floyd album cover. Suddenly, I remembered seeing the very same stump a few years ago. Last time, I had gone no further.

The coastline seemed to sprawl out in front of me for an eternity as I wandered on. After yet another mile, the road curved inland and forked, one road leading along the coast and the other up the hillside. I followed the coastal fork for a little ways and stopped. As I gazed up the hillside, I literally began to feel as if I were wandering the landscape of some other planet. The terrain seemed otherworldly. From this point, I could see no lights up the mountain; absolutely no signs of human civilization. Everything was bathed in moonlight, including the patches of glowing sand rippled by the wind amongst the sparse, rough patches of lava rock. I looked up at the sky and half-expected to see the earth as a distant planet. I do believe I was rather spellbound.

I turned back and began following the road that led up the hill, planning on turning back and heading home soon, before the rising sun caught me off guard. Of course, I still had a good 2½-3 hours of darkness to play with. I noticed a small group of peculiar-looking structures not far up the hill, and decided that would be my turn-around point. The narrow, rocky road led gently up the hill, and my destination grew closer--though slower than I had expected. Misjudgment of distance is drastically facilitated by moonlight, for it casts myriad deceptive shadows. The road continued past the structures, but I stepped off of it and headed up to them, quickly realizing they were made of stone and produced through natural volcanic processes. The sheer appearance of these impressive rock columns reminded me of Stonehenge, only this was nature's invention. As I walked around to the other side of one, admiring it, I nearly fell down a 100-foot drop.

One of the last things I was expecting out here, besides a human being, was a large hole in the ground. Indeed, the rock structures were surrounding a crater, as if actually guarding over it. I peered down into it, noticing that one half was basking in shadow and the other half was illuminated by the moon. Several shrubby mesquite trees grew amongst the rock on its steep southern slopes, which seemed to slide on down into eternal darkness. Half the crater projected the optical illusion of being entirely bottomless. I went around to the south side, sniffing around and allowing the sheer surrealism of it all to sink in. On one of the stone columns, I discovered an old radio/CD player someone had left. It had no batteries and the screws were rusty, but its presence merely contributed to the sum total of surrealism. I scoured my mind's vast musical database and eventually found the perfect song to complement this scene. Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" fit the bill. Music. It's always with you. It's one thing they can never take away from you, because it stays inside of you. I climbed atop one of the columns and stood tall. My view across the ocean was unimpeded all the way to Antarctica. The mountains to the north appeared loftier than ever in the celestial moonlight. Everything seemed wide open, including my spirit, and this was enough for me to break free. I finally let myself go.

I don't remember much of the trip back. I only know I returned on my bike to my tent shortly after sunrise, and quickly fell into a deep sleep.


When I was done reflecting over that entire experience, I scrambled back down the roof, noting that descending along the tree was a bit more difficult, and perambulated in to write this. It appears I've finally found a way to barricade my writer's block.

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