Often, moments of joy appear in the strangest of ways.
At age 67, I head off to Hawaii for the first time, to what they call the “Big Island.” Friends and family tell me it will be the experience of a lifetime.
Sherry and I stay at a beautiful property north of Kona. Our room looks out over the ocean. We drive around the island experiencing the beaches, rain forests, an active volcano, waterfalls and archetypal, picture-perfect sunsets. We want to suck in everything that is anything.
But, for some odd reason, as we near the end of our stay, the trip feels incomplete.
On our final day, we walk south from our hotel, past the beach, beyond the resort, beyond anybody. We pass by stationary sea turtles and spot whales leaping out of the blue. We navigate for hours on huge black sheets of lava rock, which requires us to jump over crevices, from one jagged rock to another. At times, I need to crawl on all fours to maintain my balance. I play in my head that I am on a great expedition, crossing virgin territory for the good of humanity. I feel young and brave.
Then we spot him. Out of nowhere appears Lava-Man, emerging from a freshwater crater about 100 yards from the ocean’s shore. His only clothing is blue swim trunks he holds in one hand. Sherry and I are drawn to him. He is brown skinned, lean, lined and a decade older than me. This man, this Lava-Man, is magnificent.
Seconds go by in silence. Does Lava-Man talk? Does he ever wear his blue swim trunks? Where did he come from?
At the perfect moment, Lava-Man speaks with authority and warmth, in the voice of Charlton Heston in his prime. He points to other freshwater craters, and to beaches and trees in the distance. He describes the history of the lava flow and the power of the ocean. He does not ask about us and we do not ask about him.
Silence returns. Minutes pass. Then, with a slight bow and a possible wink, Lava-Man retreats a few yards and descends deep into another small crater.
Sherry and I are in awe. This surreal experience has brought us deep joy and a moment of wonder. Lava-Man will always define our image of Hawaii.