A Captive Early Life

I see myself in a cat, eyes wide, trapped in harness, tied to a thin leash around my wrist. It lies low to the ground, trying to disappear, horrified by the sound of the wind. A tree. A leave scuttling by. And yet — it does not want to go inside.

I see myself out on a camping trip, by a fire, squinting to see into the wall of darkness. From the unknown sounds rise. I sit up. The same look is in my eyes. My heart pounds out of my chest. It is just a wave crashing or a rock sliding down a hill.

I was born into a tepid, easy, comfortable life. And by that life, I was domesticated hard and fast.

Timidness and a desire to trust the goodness of others made my captivity possible. When goodness was abuse, I hollowed out a hole inside me instead of self-respect. It was easy for those with selfish goals to fill it with fear. I was quick to listen, to sit quiet with chains around my neck, hands, feet. I did not know that things lived free, moved without bounds or walls, made choices of their own accord. I did not know what autonomy was. I was taught to be afraid to breathe.

I lived on shallow half-breaths and dreamed, at night, of long deep sighs.

My leash was short and I was trained to trot along. A lovely breed with weak hips who walks elegant along the rope to win best of show. My trot was perfect, my head held high, my smile bright for I was taught to never let the darkness of cages show in the light behind my eyes. I blinked the tears away just right.

The rod is efficient when it is kept near and employed quick. When it is never out of site.

Adulthood has been not so much a growing out of old ways, but a coming into an understanding of how to live. Not a realization that I had the wrong identity, but that I should have one at all.

This transformation did not come because I was loved, but because I was left alone. To sit in empty rooms and parse the panic I felt from life. From my inability to distinguish needs and wants. From my fear of the unknown. From my own voiceless cry.

I had to live with that broken self in order to know that I could create out of that shell one I liked. I had to understand it well enough to throw it out. To burn it up. To wash its ash away, make soap and cleanse myself for the first time since being born.

Now in this dark outcropping, I know that if I get up and step forward, out of this shelter — I will stand directly in the sunlight. And my whole body will hum with the energy of life.

I am terrified, but I am strong.
And, just in case, I have set failsafes in place so that — should I panic even now — I will still have to go. The first step may be the hardest, but never taking it is the worst of failures to endure.

I would rather burn up from the heat of the sun.
For as I burn, I learn that I am ready to love.

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Coalescening in Shadow of the New Moon

Incense brings my dreams on strong. I don’t remember the images, but the meanings leave me wracked with sobs. I have nothing to grasp and no-one to hold.

I am ensconced in darkness, alone.

Around the edges of everything, I dance with anyone. We parse and parry, but we do not touch. Our hands are speckled in shells, feathers, sand. Relics of mountains and life swallowed and crumbled up.

The ocean, I keep saying, is strong. Given the wrong chance, it would crush me under wave and beach. But I don’t panic with water in my snorkel, mask, mouth, and lungs. I follow young turtles through barriers of reef into hollows where the water is calm. I may be far out, but my heart would never know.

We swim together, keen eye on each other and the water. And after moments passed in hovering and wondering, we both decide we are no threat to one another. You break surface to take a breath. I to find my place.

In this salty buffet where you find everything, I, human thing, am in a desert alone.
I thank you for your trust, but I must go.

In another place, table and chairs and images others have drawn. I try my hand, but you will not raise yours with pencil or pen. I only have sketches, edges of images I know. I am not visual in the same way. My vision is heard but changed. The solstice has come, the sun sets, and the longest night — we must endure.

I pitch a tent in the damp yard, crawl in, and yet again, I am alone. Surrounded by the sound of rain I know in a couple hours will have seeped through, dripping on my inner shelter and my head. Like doubt has seeped through my dreams and drip-drip-dripped a punctuated beat on my heart.

A wide swath of rainbow arched not across but through the sky as we went north in the capsule of a car. I’ve gotten car sick one too many times. I ride higher on my bike, back arched, standing and riding tall. But if I bike, I must ride alone.

I hope on the other side of this long, dark night there is a friend to find.
A body to warm the rooms I’m waiting in. To give breath to the hole vacant beside me. I can feel the negative space like a companion in reverse.

I am still drifting through memories of the past, of past understandings, of a distant reason — trying to find out why I have ended up this way.

But why is a cosmically moot word, and what I can know “is”. So, this is. And through this, too, I shall pass.
Words of a distant friend like effervescent comfort to a sour stomach and a troubled mind.

Perhaps, I am not so alone but stuck inside a cave. Cold and dank.
I need to approach the light.

Come morning, I will stretch and feel better.
Come dawn, I will be warm.

And back.

Dropping into the island where I am waiting to embark on another journey, the winds push our blippy little craft away.

I see the stains of society weighing the green down, stamping the life out. And I know why O’ahu maybe does not want us here. We are smothering its beauty with structures that do not fit and do not belong. We are termites building towards to the sun.

A wave, arching high and electric blue, might crash and ruin it all.

Along the Hamakua Coast

Ocean waves crash high on black porous rock. A dazzling water show is foam white and electric blue. Rock crash and clatter, always tossed but never displaced. The formations like hands waving and birds perched resist the powerful fall of the cresting waves boldly, proudly, with a slow eroding grace. I sit in my little home of tent, bike, bags, and a fire ring someone else made thinking, hoping there’s no way the foam will reach me.

I sleep to soft powder rain and wake to a dripping downpour inside my four fabric walls. It is, by the clock, 2.30 and my body has woken full for the first out of three, four times. I sense in my gut it is time to go. I try to deny, to lie back down, to sleep again. One more hour, one more moment, one more dream. But my body screams. Not angry, but urgent. Now — it demands. And so, I sit up and begin to dry my belongings with a square of already damp cloth.

Into dark and night sky. The darkness is not dark but a messy white-pricked scatter of distant dust, glowing through the past at me. I think of seven dimensions, pack my things with eyes on a stranger group doing stranger things in the far corner of what — in some ways — is my park tonight. We are clearly eyeing one another, but neither makes an approach. Neither has any idea what the other does, thinks, wants, needs. We all want to keep it this way. We disappear into the blackness at the same time.

I rise slow and panting toward the main road. A falling rock is a charging boar or a dog giving chase. I panic in my blinding light, only to realize I’d rather see without it. A broad dim scope is better than a concentrated but restricted one.I turn it off to ride in the soft glow of a fogged over moon until a car comes to pass.

I give warning because I am small and you, metal fire-belching beast, are great. I do not need to die tonight. We pass and do not touch, but I use the gust from your strength to rush forward for a quick moment, savoring the stranger help.

Rain grows from damp to cold and I’m sweating but shivering, hungry and drained. Every sound is something to fear and every moment is drenched in discomfort. I stand in muddy grass, spoonful of sticky peanut butter in my dry mouth, and I’m as low as I can go.

Do I call for rescue that I do not really need? Will I get hypothermia if I put my coat on so wet? Will my legs give out? Will I collaspe to be crushed under tires and pavement?

I kick on, desperate near tears, for one more crest. There, at the peak, is the savior of a gas station glowing florescent white, gaslight gold, and pale unattractive green of adverts I don’t bother to read. I take shelter on the curb, shivering and gasping for breath. Scatter of plastic baggies of raisins and oat dusted dates. The peanut butter is almost gone. A bite of carrot, bite of cheese, bread that’s gone to crumbles. A hot air dryer for hands gets my shirt and jacket half warm.

And when I come out to face the day again, the sun and the warmth are coming up. I bike through tall yellow grass fields rolling relics of lava flows. Up and down, up and down I go, never dropping more than I climb. By the end, I’m 2500 feet in the air from sea level and crashing ocean where I started.

In town, I find a real coffeeshop with real baristas and real patrons who greet me and chat about everything. We exchange stories and names, shake hands and share smiles. I depart to the airport where my bike comes apart easily. And the attendant has the bananas I’ve been searching every tree between here and Hilo for. Seven of them from a neighbor’s tree, perfectly ripe and sweet. I eat three of them straight away, share two, and take two as gems of love in my bag across the ocean to home.

I love how home is everywhere I am. And friends are everyone I choose to love and trust. My bike and tent are symbols, magical, that make trust grow like grass between us. A fire is still a place of warmth that pulls companions out of the cold and unknown. Funny how a light, a lamp, and distance do not accomplish the same thing. When we sit and risk, we share the unique trust of travellers out on the same road.

My flight showed waterfalls and rainbows over the islands. Each one its own world. I listen as we fly to the accent of the people here, and I am in love. With the green, the black, the slopes, and the plateaus.

I have learned something new on this trip. Life is a series of ups, downs, and plains. We are high. We are low. And we plod along. We dance, we learn, we work. I can accept all these things.

Heading Out

After four days in the company of newfound friends, the contemplative isolation of the wild calls. And I will load my metal steed with my world and take off along the coast. To be alone. To be with the world. To test my strength and my resolve.

Maybe I will even light fires in the night and dream better dreams than these.

The last two nights spent cuddled by nightmares strange and confusing. Waking leaves nothing but the gossamer strands of vague or brief images on my mind. Knives thrown and strangers I don’t know in places I don’t remember.

But the days have been good. Full of learning to attach parts, learning to ask for help, learning to take a break. The best poke was found on accident because I needed a bathroom desperately. And the best fish were found because you had a meeting. And turtles because you saw me ride by. And winning games was easier to do because you had to go home.

The people of this land are giving and good. They ask where you are from not to judge, but to see your roots. To know what kind of tree you are. I have learned that answers given truthfully yield kindness and generosity. I have learned of costal roads and where not to go and been offered food for nothing in return.

Salt on my skin washed off by the rain that didn’t fall near as often as I thought. And on the morning of departure, hugs are warm but the air has a chill in it. And a distant piece of me thinks — I could find myself here someday. Perhaps, should the trade winds catch me.

Either way, we agree. We’ll see each other on the road at some point. Who knows where, when, or why. But chance meetings made good stories, and I am in love with both.

Arrival, Hilo, South Point, and a Volcano

The earth spins away from the sun and the moon, on a gravitational string, crests into the sky. One orange-red, the other gold. A lesser twin? No, but a distant mirror catching reflection of a burning face. The clouds are flotsam in a river of white-blue. The shadows are holes in the watery expanse below.

I sit in a six-row plane, my legs inches from the captain’s chair. I watch screens identical to flight simulators from the past. Cheap, I thought — but here they are. Little knobs select options in boxes worthy of a Linux terminal. And I hear echoes of Charcoal decay in my head. “This is intuitive.”

And I think, yes Mokutan, you are not far from the truth. If my intuition was equivalent to yours.

Night and there are strangers who become friends. Strangers of friends who become friends through faults of perception. And this, I think, is how family gets roots. And how humanity has always worked. We “own” the ones we invite into our lives because we choose to, and before we know what’s hit us – the heart strings of strangers are tangles in with our own.

I get drunk and I don’t notice a lot. I lose the details of a house I do not know. But I move through it intuitively and think of sexuality and I. And I realize, it’s time to be careful, watchful, prepared these days. For I want something, but the something I want will take a god-awful amount of work. And I need to get it started now. Prep, prep, prep and only do when the moment rustles your hair.

I smile at the revelation as the warmth of my sleeping bag cradles me against an unknown bed I sleep great in. First times for everything. In the morning, I am not a stranger but  a friend. And for nothing of my own accord. Welcomed and warmed, I woke to put my metal steed back in one piece. We make breakfast together and you show me the expanse of your growing things.

We gather bags and head out, together for the day. Who knows what we will find. The southern most end of things. We walk through grass plains that remind us of places we have never been. Africa is in the air and on our minds, but who knows why?

In the moon-rise, we come to face to face with the fertility of the earth. The inner fire. The heart and soul. And I am bathed in a distant orange glow, 2000 degree heat that only shows its light. Another place and I am dusted with stars. We stand before the open mouth of the mother of earth, and we are blessed with her warmth. We are but children, the offspring of fire. Let us not forget.

I will not forget. Pieces of the memories, moments like sand will inevitably be inadvertently brushed off my feet. But what I will keep is this:

Regardless of where we stand, you are a good people. An open people with kind hearts and you have given me space and breadth in your life and I am in a great debt.