Mar 14, 2005

A refuge from the norm.

This Saturday has been spectacular; much more memorable than the Saturday a week ago, during which I barely made it through a rather dull field trip to the museum due to a very unpleasant short-lived illness. I was in peak condition this time around, ready to charge out and immerse myself in some grand adventure. That is exactly what I did.

I was supposed to join my class group at the Natural Energy Lab for an all-day field trip, which necessitated me arising at 7:15 in the morning to get ready and be there at 9. I had stayed the night at my parents' house, since the drive would be only an hour from here, as opposed to two hours from my home. Waking up wasn't a problem, since I had gone to sleep no later than 9:30 the previous evening. The major incentive for climbing out of bed, perhaps, was the enthralling sight of the rain sheeting down outside my window. As my sleep-heavy eyes glazed upon the dark, heavy fog tangling itself in the tree canopies, I developed a sudden feeling that today would indeed be something special.

I did make it down to the proposed meeting spot with time to spare, but no one had arrived. Twenty minutes later, still no one had arrived. I could have been in the wrong place, or had the wrong time. Whichever the case, the realisation hit me that I was entirely unenthused about meeting up with a group of humans and conforming to their agendas like a little elastic drawstring all day long. Therefore, I simply dropped everything and took off into town, as it was only seven miles past the lab. The freedom to do as one pleases is a wonderful thing. If the field trip required a major written assignment, I would not have jeopardised my mark by ditching, but since it did not, I ditched. I felt I had much more to gain than lose by doing so.

First stop in town was Costco. I had arrived there ten minutes before opening time, and already dozens of diehard, loyal shoppers were lined up outside the door, as if they composed an army with a vast surplus of shopping carts at their disposal, poised to storm the great fortress of commerce as soon as the heavy iron door was hoisted open. I waited safely on the outskirts, letting everyone else trip over one another in their mad rush to see who could be the first customer of the day to check out. Once safely inside, I almost compulsively nabbed an accessory kit for my iPod, and journeyed across to the other side of the vast warehouse for items of perishable sustenance. Regrettably, the time was too early to locate an empty shopping cart to hijack, so I ended up juggling a pile of cold commodities in my arms. That could have been my workout for the day.

I spent a considerable amount of time in Borders Books & Music, enjoying the atmosphere, a smoothie, and a gander over all the products that were too over-priced for me to ever consider buying. Actually, I did come away with one interesting purchase: "The Dictionary of Dreams and Their Meanings." I should find this a fascinating read, to say nothing of all the remarkably surreal and disturbing colour images throughout the book. For a mere six dollars, I could not pass it up.

While tolerating Wal-Mart, I also discovered something of great use: a miniature tripod for digital cameras. It's something I can take with me, certainly, to use for those majestic twilight shots where dim light becomes a severe handicap to good photo quality. When I exited the store, I felt scattered raindrops, and not faroff the shore, a truly mean, dark-looking band of rain clouds seemed to be drifting closer by the second. By the time I left the parking lot, in fact, the rain was coming down in a torrential cascade. I turned up my beloved This is Neo-Goth album and cruised through town, slowly mind, as the visibility was terrible. My mood, however, was not. The atmosphere of the experience was wondrous, and I enjoyed watching tourists in their flimsy bright aloha shirts and expensive video cameras running for cover left and right.

Eventually, I opted to leave town and head off toward the City of Refuge, a national park area which I rarely ever had the chance to see, due to it being on the other side of the universe as far as an islander is concerned. Essentially, it is an ancient Hawaiian settlement preserved, and is an extremely touristy area. Well, not on this day. Cold fronts tend to keep a lot of visitors in their overpriced hotel rooms, for some reason. It was merely drizzling as I showed my pass (which expires in September, I must remember) to the guard, and proceeded to the picnic area. Beyond was a trail I had not been on in years, and much desired to hike. Though I think nothing of getting soaked, I decided to bring an umbrella along, if only to look wise and protect my delicate digital camera. As pleasant as the day had been so far, this walk was certainly the highlight.

The entire trail I opted to follow runs parallel to the coast--a delightfully isolated coastline whose beauty lies in its rugged, remote nature. The rain did not deter me from taking a few pictures of the coastline and of the trail itself:

I did encounter a pawful of tourae along the path, mostly at the beginning. Fortunately, they all seemed too bothered by the steadily falling rain to give me a big, friendly greeting and a vibrant bouquet of flowers. It wasn't long before I left them all behind. As I strolled along, my bare feet scrambling over the wet sand and rocks, I thought deeply. It only comes natural when I am moving, and fall into a relaxed, perfectly content state of mind. As much as I may question who I really am at times, I thought, who I really am must be who I am naturally inclined to be. That is, I really cannot be a potential social butterfly who is in truth struggling to be freed from his coccoon and the while denying to himself that he needs the company of others for maximum enjoyment. Today helped me realise all the more that I will always much prefer my own company to that of a group of people I hardly know. To be so independent and still have friends that means as much to me as my own salvation is truly a gift.

After awhile, I arrived at a small cliff, upon which was built an ancient stone ramp--a structure I had always marveled at in the past:

As I climbed the walkway, I happened to glance to my left, and noticed something I had never caught before: a tunnel leading into the cliff, barricaded by steel bars:

The gate was locked, as one might expect. I'm sure something "sacred" lurked inside that tunnel--maybe an evil dragon to slay!! Regardless, only a little farther up, another lava tube lead through the cliff, but this one had also been closed relatively recently. Only a sign denoting its "closure," however, stood between the entrance and myself.

I skirted past it and made my way through the dim, twisting, supposedly dangerous cavern, provided with just enough natural light to see what was overhead. At one point, the ceiling descended so low I was nearly forced to crawl. Where did the lava tube take me? Well, right out to the sea:

At this point, the only way to go was either straight down into the abyss or back the way I came, so I backtracked, and continued farther along the path as the rain fell ever harder. A little off the trail was this large concrete slab which appeared to be a grave marker of some sort:

Interestingly, after I took the above picture, my camera shut down and displayed the message "NO MORE POWER." That would mark the first time my camera had ever simply run out of battery power. Not long thereafter, I opted to turn around, mostly due to my sharp hunger pains. If only I could have typed "/pizza" on my cell phone and had Domino's air-delivered to me!

My computer is showing obvious signs of self-destruction again. It will no longer charge the batteries, and it shuts down at random times and won't power on again for a good two hours afterwards. I may very well be restricted to doing my plethora of projects over the next couple months on university machines.

Oh yes, projects. For my next English essay, which involves methodically testing a product for a week, keeping a log recording the results, and analyzing whether it lives up to its advertising claims, I chose to research Juicy Fruit. I'll chew approximately five sticks a day, and see how much it "moves me and gets right to me." As for my poster project for cultural geography, I'll be doing participant observation in the local mall for a couple hours and recording the general behaviour of shoppers, incognito. Malls are fascinating landscapes, indeed. As for my hydrometeorology paper, I'm handicapped due to my inability to order research materials from the flooded Hamilton library in time. I intend on completely finishing my term paper on Hurricane Andrew for nat. hazards over Spring Break, though... and possibly following that with my paper on the global cruise ship industry for economics before the end of the week. As far as what's already been done... I discovered I got an A+ on my musical landscapes paper today, and the instructor wants an electronic copy to show to students in future classes. In English, I recieved the top grade in two classes for my first argument essay, and that instructor also wants to use it as a model example for her other classes. I also got a 92% on my last midterm, and feel I aced the last economics test. It's difficult not to feel greatly accomplished and proud of myself as far as my academic work is concerned. I am grateful I have finally been given the incentive to be a little more serious about my college work. When I want to do a great job, I do a great job.

Even though I'll be spending most of Spring Break researching, reading, and writing... I look forward to escaping the routine of awakening at 8:30 every morning for lecture. A break from the norm will do me a lot of good.

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