"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

28 January 2016

Notes from Camp 1 I; Experiences

Two aspects of the same location...

The place we slept; Moana I'Kena Huina. If the House of Owls and Bats is basecamp, then this place was Camp 1...


The last time I saw the ocean I was a teenager. What I saw was bluer with higher tides than my adolescent memories of the Atlantic. At one point, storms in the Pacific Northwest would be the cause of big waves that would batter the coastline. It was fascinating to watch. On a few occasions, I saw flying fish, but never what caused them to come above the water. Sea turtles would ride the waves. Surfers of the most ancient of orders, surviving from a time of dragons and titans.

We went to the water a lot. Sabina would speak about the fascination with it. Something primal being felt in watching the ocean. In the mountains, I watch the river, sometimes with monkish concentration, and the high lakes carry a certain sense of zen. For me, I think going to watch the water-aside from wanting to catch glimpses of the life contained therein-was the sheer scale of it. Like looking up at the night sky into the totality of the cosmos, the enormity is right there, but it is difficult to comprehend that you are staring into yet unseen depths.

Perhaps my favorite vantage point...

The coast, like everything else on the island, was borne of lava. I really liked the ruggedness of where we were staying. No resortie-sand beaches with hula-girls for us. I lost track of how many times and routes I took bouldering the rocks, occasionally getting spritzed with sea spray.

It was along this section of rocky coastline I would see my first whale. I was coming down to the water on what would become perhaps my favorite vantage point for the first time, when, for the briefest of instants, I caught the fleeting glimpse of a pectoral fin coming out of the water. Much like the only time I've ever seem a wild mountain lion, had I been a second earlier or later or blinked, I would have missed it. I all but teleported to the edge of the rocks for a further look, but it was gone. This did not prevent me from returning to the house with the most wicked grin of joy on my face. 

"I saw a whale! Guess this means I can go back to Colorado now."

The other time I would see whales was back on the way to the Kona airport. It was witnessed from a distance, but the countenance was unmistakable.  Looking out the window toward the ocean, I counted between six and eight spouts, which I postulated were mothers and calves, and two breaches. That was the total National Geographic moment. Yes, I clapped my hands together excitedly and may or may not have yipped like an excited puppy.

Certainly, I'd love to say seeing whales, even and especially that first glance and/or the breaches, was magic and mystery that filled me with a deep sense of cosmic oneness for all other living creatures upon the Earth, but I'd be lying. I'd like to say witness not one breach, but two, was like having a prayer answered by mythological anthropomorphic deity, but the only time I prey is in the context of the food chain, and I'd not insult the Divine by tarting it up in anthropomorphic drag. It comes down to this; that seeing whales was nothing like I figured, but it was no less really fucking cool.



Hilo was a dirty, stinky places hemmed in by stripmalls. Its downtown reminded my of a strange sort of amalgamation of Denver's Asian quarter with my years-old memories of East Colfax thrown in for a spice. The difference here was more people of European descent in aloha-wear looking for a thrill. The oddest thing I found there was it was another of our number, not me, who got city/crowd-stabbie first. We departed directly after that.

Pahoa, on the other hand, was a funky little 'berg, and you gotta have the funk. It was a strange crossover of a tropical Morrison, maybe some of Pearl Street in Boulder, a Pagan sabbat, and some aspects of the towns in our Sahel. I know a few mountain acquaintances who would probably feel right at home. I realized I could potentially get in a little trouble there and have a fun time doing it. The woman who ended up doing my latest tattoo reminded me very much of the bruja.

Said tattoo...

Unlike the mountains, upon initial inspection, there does not seem to be a lot of archeology here. The tropical climate and the still-active lava devours it. Even though a town like Pahoa is a sugercane station almost as old as my town, it sometimes seemed hard to grasp. Up in the mountains, even being on the edge of wilderness, one did not have to walk far to find the passage of Man, be it a rusty miner's nail or a beer can from the 1970s, preserved in the alpine air. Where we were, one had to hack into jungle in hopes of finding remains not made from less-permanent material. I heard tell of ancient petroglyphs, but never got a chance to see them.

This has gotten put on a list for next time...


Other Places;

A couple sea turtles at the Black Sand Beach...

Observatories up top of Mauna Kea. To someone who sees playing outside as holy sacrament, these are the equivalent of monasteries of esoteric orders...

A lotus pond...

We traveled to two different beaches in the same day. Both had different color of volcanic sand, one green, the other black. Oddly enough, the ground and the water at the black sand beach was cooler. I couldn't help but wonder if it was the time of day.

During most of our stay, the only water we encountered was salt. Fresh water came out of a tap. Some squatters further in the jungle used rain-catchment to get water. I began to wonder if there were any rivers on the island. On the last day, we were taken to a waterfall, plunging four-hundred twenty feet into the jungle. It was striking. Sabina and I agreed the sound of the river it fed reminded us of home.

The way Mauna Kea rose up reminded me of every picture I've ever seen of Kilimanjaro. Well, sans the snow, which I found queer. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I kept hold of the calendar dates, and I knew it was still winter, even if it felt like July. Sabina remarked the mountain's visitor center, being at ninety-two hundred was almost like being home. I countered only if it were late September or early October.

We beheld the sunset at thirteen-thousand seven-hundred seventy-nine foot summit, watching the observatories open up like night blossoms composed of tech. I was fascinated by those and the tropical sun setting from the summit of what is truly the tallest mountain in the world. I was also fascinated by the lack of snow. Being a thirteen-thousand back home would have involved snowshoes and down and checking the slopes for the possibility of avalanches.


I realized during the trip I would make a lot of comparisons. North Carolina for the humidity and greenery, Kilimanjaro for a thirteener, places in Colorado for some of the towns we ended up in. Under  normal circumstances, I would be vexed by this, the comparisons detracting from the uniqueness of the actual experience happening right in front of your eyes. However, I think what I was doing was something of a human thing; drawing on personal experiences and stories-in context all the National Geographic and nature documentaries I've seen-to make sense of where I found myself. Perhaps I'm wrong and that was a rationalization. I've yet to find a satisfactory answer.         


  1. Good pics, was the house a Airbnb thing? Did you notice any altitude issues up at the observatory? My wife went up there once and had quite the headache.
    Cool stuff about the whales, I've seen them a couple times off the CA coast.

    1. Where we stayed is Sabina's parents' winter home. They do rent it out to friends and family over summer when they're in Fort Collins.

      Nothing with altitude. Perhaps it's because our house is at ninety-one sixty. However, I also drink at least a liter of water of day, and often more than that. My pen, however, was not so lucky and exploded in my pocket.

      I hope to see more whales. They've been in my dreams lately. If you remember, I was dreaming of seeing whales after reading about Alaska when we first started corresponding ;). Not that really means much other than I'm apparently fascinated by very large sea mammals.