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. The dense fog which had settled heavy on jagged peaks resisted 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 above 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 control having compelled us to stay, to grasp at 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 has been 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 dance with fluid grace in abandon.
Time smiled on the two thoughtfully. He knew…
Minah birds swore vociferously, excoriating young Gabriel as he leapt out of bed disturbing their predawn tranquillity. Raucous avian chatter reprimanded him like harpy moms at a little league game. It was 5:00 a.m., and he was hungry, first however he needed release. He pulled the double hung window in his upstairs room farther up and sighed in relief. The view through the wood frame window in the muted predawn light displayed a subtle painting of rolling campestral splendor many attempt to capture on canvas and few successfully achieve to young Gabe. 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, to others, and my environment. WE DISAGREE! Adults. They’re really confused big kids.
Lochlan is arriving today…
The cousins relationship was wild, fun, and fiercely competitive. While he loved the serenity and attention the single child enjoys Gabriel also thrived on the camaraderie, excitement and energy of other children. It seems relationships are replete with circumstances neither child nor adult can resolve, he sighed. The sound of Mourning Doves cooing their familiar refrain brought a modest 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 started 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 good natured verbiage. It felt too quiet. As they approached the turnoff to Kona Airport coming from the east Gabriel gazed in awe, fascinated by the huge apparition. How do they stay up there he contemplated, while Nana occupied herself with driving. Traffic had moved nicely and she did not notice the landing gear had not deployed. As they approached the entry to parking Gabriel shouted, Nana! She looked up as the big jet leveled out above the runway and struggled to gain altitude. With a gasp she pulled into the parking lot and whispered a quiet prayer. The giant aircraft slowly rose and lumbered into another 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 followed the pilots instructions as he prepared them for an emergency landing. Tension in the plane rose quickly but in the calm reassuring voice all pilots seem to be born with, the Pilot averted panic for the time. On the ground rescue and fire services were put on standby and the airport was closed to all other traffic. Air traffic Controllers transferred to another frequency, maintaining close coordination with ground emergency units. They assessed 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 was heard over the intercom, this time to reassure anxious passengers the landing gear issue had been resolved and clearance is given for landing. All breathed a sigh of gratitude when the main landing gear touched the runway, but the nose landing gear was still not fully extended. Suddenly the resounding crash of strained metal as it failed and the nose of the plane slammed 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, resigned hope and prayers of frightened individuals. Lochlan and I along with several others however remain silent, observing in fascination the events as they unfold.
For seemingly endless moments the airplane skidded on its nose then came to a complete stop still on the runway. Emergency doors are opened and passengers began to hurry toward air filled slides eager to disembark. There was an air of relief and gratitude for their safe arrival on the 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 thanks heavenward.
The promised rain hadn’t arrived.
“Meteorologists, they need a trained mongoose or consultation with a seer. Their predictions are wrong more often than not.” Lochlan stated.
“Yeah, the coin flip really 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 to 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 trees drew them into the yard. They were 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 reality 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 barked and ran off to investigate. He wasn’t a particularly brave mutt, but he was curious. Arthur! Arthur! the boys called knowing 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 froze, then was pushed aside by an invisible hand as the feral hog brushed 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 complemented Gabriel as he brushed the mud off himself. Gabriel seemed distracted. He gazed in recognition at Fortune standing, smiling unseen by Lochlan to his left. She was a beauty by any standard. A gorgeous apparition appearing different to diverse individuals. Maternal, evoking an instinctive affinity and peace in those fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of her. She was ancient life and wore it with grace and understated elegance not only surviving the ages but thriving in every experience. Why she concerned herself with humans baffles me but I am grateful she does. She seemed especially found of both boys.
Confident Arthur would find his way home eventually the boys turned 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 their 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 rose at a steep angle in the direction of the house where they had come from then leveled out across the stream where the boys were sitting in the tree. As they watched a Hawaiian Hawk landed high on a coconut tree about 50 feet from them briefly then rose into the air again with a small mynah bird in one talon. As it gained altitude two mynah birds dove at it in an attempts to drive the predator away to no avail. Three more times the Hawk returned and stole small mynah’s from the nest as the parents tried fruitlessly to dissuade him. The boys were silent as they watched. It was saddening and incredible at once. Nature in it’s harsh yet responsible parenting cycle. Both sets of parents feeding their young and the offspring of one becoming food for the other.
Elaborate the above
The boys discussed what had just transpired as they climbed down the banyan having decided not to go any higher this day. As they crossed back across the stream and began the climb out toward the house the faint sound of drums echoed from somewhere behind them in the denser section of Halawa.
What are ‘Night Marchers’ doing out at this time of day laughed Lochlan?
Shut up, replied Gabriel. Neither of them were overly superstitious, yet their experience had them both a little unsettled.