It’s a short walk from my front porch down a single-lane dirt road to the gate, beyond which lies a large pasture, high cliffs and endless ocean as far as the eye can see.
I walk there every evening with my dogs, our steps crunching the gravel on the road. After the first few minutes — out the entrance to the driveway, past the guava trees lining the road — we find our rhythm and march side-by-side, breathing and stepping in sync. We slip through the large metal gate and step onto the grass.
Cattle graze this field. They are not native to Hawaii, and they brought the grass with them. Both have flourished. The grass is as green as emeralds. We step over and around thick clumps with tall shoots radiating from the center. If the pasture had eyes, it would be these clumps. There are hundreds of eyes, each with its own eyelashes flirting with us, beckoning us to romp and run across her face. So we do.
We run and roll our way through the bright green grass, down the hillside, and toward the blue. We leap over the clumps; our legs tickling their lashes. Breath gets dearer, and the dogs start to pant. I am dripping with sweat when we reach the edge of the cliff.
Looking down, the steep cliff face is eroded red dirt. It looks like a big chunk of the earth suddenly gave up holding life and fell into the sea. There hasn’t been enough time yet to smooth out the sharp edges. About a hundred feet down sits a pile of jagged black lava rocks like the jaws of an ancient sea monster left in no one’s memory to the pounding surf. Salty spray from the waves blows up the cliff with the wind, swirling cool air around my body. I close my eyes and breathe deeply. When I open them again, the dogs are panting nearby, gazes fixed on the endless horizon.
The sky is beginning to turn the bright pink of salmon flesh, and the purple majesty of sunset’s end is not far behind. That’s my cue to turn and find my way back to my little cottage before the heavy darkness of night comes. But I’m not ready yet because the cliffs nearby suddenly look different than ever before. There’s something peculiar about the way light bathes the scene: it’s more angled and golden, revealing details that I’d not seen in other seasons.
Those nearby cliffs are eroded, too, like the one I’m standing on, but they look strange somehow bathed in autumn light. I let my focus soften. My eyes relax to see what’s going on. What I see is that the island of Maui is like a giant ship, and these fingers of land that become the cliffs are its many bows. Fortunately, Maui is not the Titanic nor am I “on top of the world”. But it appears that the face of each cliff is a figurehead for the ship, worn smooth over the eons by the gusting wind and ocean spray. The cliffs ride out ahead of us, buffering us from the harshness of the unknown that lies ahead.
Patches of moody gray are taking over for the brilliant pinks and purples. Time to go. I whistle for the dogs, and together we make our way back across the pasture, through gate and into the coziness of our simple home.