Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I fear no Evil…
Where the road ends at Pololu Valley Lookout on the “Big Island” Akoni Pule Highway deposits us at the beginning. Well, close. It’s a few valleys further beyond Pololu, up the other side, down again and up again on a trail used more frequently by pigs than men. The forth valley is were his first memories begin. There are seven valleys on the Northeastern tip of the Big Island which long ago cut into the Northeastern side of Kohala Mountain. His world was smaller then, and he knew just the one.
Radiant red flame streaked over the heights. Our piece of the rock turned to greet the star. Dense fog which had settled heavy on jagged peaks resisted the change like a depressed glutton ensconced on a bench at an all you can eat buffet. As the warm glistening rays increase over Maine’s High Peaks Region they articulate a whisper of relief, sending streams of brilliant starlight tumbling across the tops of hearty Pitch Pines.
What had begun as a night of uneasy concern, had blossomed into fulfillment and hope.
A child was born.
She had fought hard for this one and her eyes reflected the struggle. She lay back smiling with quiet joyful peace and relieved exhaustion. Sleep my love. Yet sleep escaped both mother and child, weariness and immediate need taunted the two. Hearty lungs in concert with thrashing arms and legs demanded just compensation, for he too had contended, willing himself into this new world.
It was late October and we should have been comfortably settled in our winter home weeks ago. Summer surrendered quickly to the chill of mountain shadows this late in the season. Damp pregnant clouds hung suspended over the land, behemothic celestial lakes in desperate need of release.
Revisiting those days, we both recognized our focus must remain on this new life. Yet nothing would dispel the nagging suspicion, we had overlooked the signs. Our human drive to understand, to be in control, having compelled us to stay, grasping for some reason in this harsh veiled land now smugly uttered accusations of doubt, leaving us unsettled and uneasily straining at the ghosts of illusive probabilities.
The Child Grew, spirited, loud, filled with zestful exuberance. Days melted into weeks, weeks into months, and the child grew strong. Toy cars became dinosaurs and dragons. Dragons became shadows in the dark. The blackness withheld secrets from this child of light. Someone was watching.
It is said, “Fortune smiles on the Bold.”
Fortune exploded in unrestrained mirth when Gabriel shouted his introductory breath. Spewing her coffee she leaped in enthusiastic anticipation exclaiming, “The places we shall see together. The truths we shall discover,” She twirled in graceful dance with abandon.
Time smiled on the two thoughtfully. He knew…
Minah birds swore vociferously, excoriating young Gabriel as he leapt out of bed disrupting their predawn tranquillity. Raucous avian chatter reprimanded him harshly like harpy moms castigating the referee at a little league game. It was 5:00 a.m., and he was hungry, first however he needed relief. He pulled the double hung window in his upstairs room farther up and sighed in release. The view through the wood frame window in the muted predawn light depicted a subtle masterpiece of rolling campestral splendor many attempt to capture on canvas and few achieve. His small remote island home sat on the lower Northern slopes of Kohala Mountain on Hawaii’s “Big Island” and it was a glorious morning. An audacious new day he murmured softly. He was in a good mood this morning, yet brooding disquiet tempered the moment. Why do I rarely feel one way about things he questioned? My existence is an unsettled treatise between feelings, opinions, predilections, and convictions. I’m expected to sort it? I’m six. Just let me have fun and do what I want! In one breathe you encourage me to be true to myself, and others, WE DISAGREE! Adults. They’re screwed up old children.
Lochlan is arriving today…
The cousins relationship was spirited, fun, and fiercely competitive. While he loved the attention of a single child, Gabriel also thrived on the camaraderie, and dynamic energy of other children. It seems relationships are replete with fates/kismets? neither child nor adult can resolve, he sighed. The sound of Mourning Doves cooing their familiar refrain brought a cynical smile to his eyes, “It’s OK, It’s OK, It’s OK. He picked up his “Hubba Bubba” bubble gum from the dresser and began down the stairs grabbing his backpack and hooking it over one shoulder as he descended.
Staring out the window of the half filled Boeing 737-800 our island home came into view as the 526 seat aircraft banked into approach at Kona Airport on the “Big Island” of Hawaii. The ‘Kung Flu’ had cut sharply into tourism, the main economic industry of the state. The imposed flight restrictions which had virtually eliminated jobs in the industry didn’t concern the boys however, they were six. For Lochlan hurdling though the air in a 174,000 pound metal miracle, propelled by the scream of tortured air thrust through twin jet engines was a thrill. He dreamed of sky surfing every day.
Gabriel and Nana were both eagerly anticipating Lochlans arrival, the house just wasn’t the same without his incessant affable verbiage. It felt too quiet.
Traffic had moved nicely as they approached the turnoff to Kona Airport. Gabriel gazed in awe at the appearance of a huge jet approaching the runway. How do they stay up there he contemplated while Nana occupied herself with the driving. She had not noticed the landing gear was not deployed and as they approached the entry to parking Gabriel exclaimed, Nana! Nana startled looking up to see the big jet leveling out above the runway struggling to gain altitude. With a gasp she pulled into the lot and whispered a quiet prayer. The giant aircraft slowly rose and drifted into a turn then circled around again re-approaching at a higher level to give air traffic controllers a view of the landing gear.
Inside the airliner Lochlan along with all passengers follows the pilots instructions as he prepares them for an emergency landing. Tension in the plane rises quickly but with the calm reassuring voice all pilots seem to be born with, the Pilot averts panic for the time. On the ground rescue and fire services are put on standby and the airport is closed to all other traffic. Air traffic Controllers transfer to another frequency, maintaining close coordination with ground emergency units. They assess aircraft fuel endurance with the crew while notifying Kona Hospital and other emergency services to prepare for potential casualties.
The Captains confident voice once again is heard over the intercom, this time to reassure anxious passengers the landing gear issue has been resolved and clearance is given for landing. All breathe a sigh of gratitude as the main landing gear touches the runway, but the nose gear is still not fully extended. Suddenly the resounding crash of strained metal as it fails and the nose of the plane slams into the tarmac sending cascades of sparks and debris angrily showering passed windows of terrified passengers. The sound is deafening to young Lochlan. He clings desperately, a silent question in his eyes, “Are we okay?” The stench of tormented metal permeates the air combining with wisps of dark putrid smoke as it creeps into the cabin. We careen, skidding out of control down the runway to the screams, resignation and prayers of terrified individuals. Lochlan and I with several others however remain silent, observing in fascination the events as they unfold.
For seemingly endless moments the airplane skids on its nose then comes to a complete stop still on the runway. Emergency doors are opened and passengers hurry toward air filled slides eager to disembark, an air of relief and smiles of gratitude for their safe arrival on ground. Lochlan and I are the last two passengers to exit. He smiles through smoke teared eyes and leaps down the slide with the explosive shout of a conqueror.
Nana and Gabriel stood transfixed as they observe the drama unfold from a distance. Holding onto one another for an eternity in hope and disbelief they finally catch a glimpse of a young blonde boy sliding down the emergency ramp with a shout, voicing his appreciation heavenward.
The promised rain hadn’t arrived.
Meteorologists, train a dang mongoose or consult with a seer Lochlan muttered. Their predictions are wrong more often than not.
Yeah, the coin flip doesn’t work so well. Gabe replied.
The boys were crawling through the eight foot guinea grass down in the gulch below the house following a pig trail. Wild boar made tunnels through the invasive grass and they were on hands and knees making their way through a maze of pathways unseen by the casual observer. They had been warned of the danger, but it was another beautiful day and they loved exploring the area around their home. With no natural predators wild pig roamed freely throughout Hawaii rooting in an endless search for anything they found edible. Macadamia nut, mango, and avocado trees drew them into the yard. They are alert yet comfortable within the proximity of humans.
This morning Arthur had followed them into the labyrinths. Arthur was a “Poi dog,” a canine catastrophe of unknown pedigree. He had memorized the popular doggy book “The top 100 bad habits of annoying dogs” after listening to his mom read it three times to her incorrigible litter of playful puppies, and he exhibited all of them flawlessly. It could be said he had a mind of his own if one cared to be polite. In truth he was an annoying, self serving, impulsive class A pain and did not give a rip about proper human, canine relationships.
Lochlan loved him in spite of his complete lack of etiquette and decorum.
Gabriel would have driven a thousand miles and dropped him off at a ‘mad mutts and mongrels’ asylum if he could drive and knew the location of one far enough away.
Nana is one of those inveterate individuals that pity homely, ill mannered mutts. As a sentiment it seems of late to have acquired a rather large following. I have heard there are stadium’s filled with people who consider ugly, the new beautiful. They have contests awarding thousands of dollars to the most visually unappealing four legged felon.
People are strange. It’s a bi-product of boredom. Good entertainment commands a premium and when it is in short supply humans have a startling capacity for twisting and warping truth into fantasy. They become lost within themselves as they invent grander illusions morphing into characters they themselves can’t recognize. In a consumer driven economy I suppose it’s beneficial for Shrinks, drug companies and ancillary businesses.
Standing, staring at a enormous banyan tree growing along the bank of the stream at the bottom of the gulch after exiting the undergrowth the boys heard the grunting of several pigs. Arthur barks and runs off to investigate. He isn’t a particularly brave mutt, but he is curious. Arthur! Arthur! the boys call know the danger an encounter could present to the impulsive puppy to no avail.
Fortune smiled on Gabriel once again, she was never far from him and felt a kinship with the young lad. Gabriel had shot off after the puppy instinctively and came upon four pigs which Arthur was harassing. At the sight of him with Lochlan close behind the swine scattered. Three ran away with Arthur in pursuit of the closest, then the forth, confused by the melee ran straight at the boys. Gabriel caught off guard freezes, then is pushed aside by an invisible hand as the feral hog brushes by. Wild pigs had been brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesians around 700 A.D. and were not generally aggressive unless cornered or in defense of offspring. This one wanted out and it was after all, his trail.
Nice move, Lochlan complements Gabriel as he brushes mud off himself. Gabriel seems distracted. He gazes in recognition at Fortune standing, smiling unseen by Lochlan to his left. She was a beauty by any standard. A gorgeous apparition which appears different to diverse individuals. Maternal, evoking an instinctive affinity and peace in those fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of her. She is ancient life and wears it with grace and understated elegance not only surviving the ages but thriving in every experience. Why she concerns herself with humans baffles me but I am grateful she does. She seems especially found of both boys.
Confident Arthur will find his way home eventually the boys turn back to the banyan tree. It was a very large ficus that as it grows chokes and kills the host tree sending down roots of its own. It was also one of their favorite to climb and explore.
Half way up the Giant banyan the boys sat and viewed their surroundings. Here the sides of the Halawa gulch rise at a steep angle in the direction of the house where they had come from. It then levels out across the stream where the boys were sitting in the tree. As they watch, a Hawaiian Hawk lands high on a coconut tree about 50 feet from them briefly, then rises again with a small mynah bird in one talon. As it gains altitude two mynah birds dive at it in attempts to drive the predator away to no avail. Three more times the Hawk returns and steals small mynah’s from the nest as the parents attempt fruitlessly to dissuade him. The boys are silent as they watch. It was saddening yet incredible at once. Nature in it’s harsh and responsible parenting cycle. Both sets of parents feeding their young and the death of one becoming life for the other.
Elaborate the above
The boys discuss what they have just witnessed quietly as they climb down the banyan having decided not to go any higher. They cross back across the stream and begin the climb out of the gulch to the house when the faint sound of drums echos from somewhere behind them in the darker sections of Halawa.
What are ‘Night Marchers’ doing out at this time of day laughs Lochlan?
Shut up, replies Gabriel. Neither of them are overly superstitious, yet this experience has them both a little unsettled.