I spent the day with Happy, Shiny People! Yes, it was the Earth Day Festival all day, and Maui is a great place to celebrate the aina. Colorful, flowing garb, sparkles in the hair and twinkles in the eyes of people high on life. Well, some of them were smoking pakalolo, but the majority looked clean, healthy and vibrant.
I have been to quite a few festivals on the island, and the same people tend to be there. Not this time! Some of the neatest little vendors had come out of the woodwork. These people were generally living off the land, making money doing and creating what they love, and spreading the love and joy and passion of a people in love with life and all of its wonderful gifts.
It is no surprise that my daily snorkel had a different feel after all the festivities and talk centered around our bountiful Earth. The water was not as clear as usual, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to see a turtle unless it was pretty close. The wind was blowing, making the water choppy, which I actually enjoy. With each stroke, I am rocked side to side, up and down by the waves. It’s invigorating to be swept around by the water.
I headed around Kam III and across Kam II, into the current. I love looking up at the surface of the water, where today all types of seaweed bobbed: bright green and fuzzy; almost clear ribbons; palm-size golden bushes with hundreds of tiny bubbles glistening in the light of the sun beaming through the water; and the occasional green ribbons we expect to see.
Mesmerized by the bubbles cast off my hand with each stroke...smooth…gliding…sun illuminating the glitter in my nails. Little globes of luminescent eyes floated toward me. I think they are sea sparkle, and I could watch them pulsate for hours. The sound of my breath coursing through the snorkel gradually slowed and softened, combining rhythm with my strokes.
A little golden bush of seaweed caught my eye, and I scooped it into my palm, entranced by the play of light on all the bubbles and pieces of sand enveloped in its ribbons. Hanging there in the ocean, a sea vegetable in my hand, I was acutely aware of the primordial soup I was immersed in. Every bit of the water teemed with life.
I swam on until a golf ball on the floor of the ocean stopped me. It upset me that someone was probably throwing balls flippantly out to sea, as if the vanishing of the item into the water meant it no longer existed. That action alone is a blatant statement of the fact that the majority of people on this earth have not experienced the magic of the ocean, or of any form of life on this Earth. I dove down, grabbed it, took it to shore, and tossed it far away. I knew someone would eventually grab it. I swam back out, and within a couple of minutes spotted another golf ball on the floor of the ocean. I dove down again to retrieve the “haole” object, then tucked it into the back of my bikini bottom to keep it secure while I swam.
All day at the Festival, we talked about the injustices done to the Earth and about people needing to respect the island that gives them so much. Yet, how many children are taken into nature to enjoy the quiet, the rhythm, the life and breath of the planet Earth itself? Instead of rejoicing in the fact that we are made of the same stuff as all these magical sea creatures and even the sand we sink our toes into, we separate ourselves from nature. Kids are protected from their environment with floaties, foam noodles, inner tubes. Children are discouraged from getting sand all over them, even though they are surrounded by it. People wear swimsuits, sunscreen, and more, all to separate their bodies from the elements.
People pay money to look at “wild” life through windows, and they pay money to “swim” with dolphins held captive in a space so small they can’t swim freely and play like they are designed to do. Our society has made nature into a seemingly separate entity to investigate through windows, in tanks, and under microscopes.
I am amazed at how many tourists stand at the edge of the ocean, waiting for the water to come up to them, afraid to just walk into the ocean, sit in the sand and let the waves suck them out and spit them back onto the beach. Two teenage girls standing with their feet in the ocean, facing a brilliant sunset over a great span of ocean, both engrossed only in their phones.
The ocean is cleansing. My stresses wash away when I swim, no matter how choppy the water, no matter how clear or cloudy. Perhaps it’s the rhythm of the ocean that helps to reset my internal rhythm. Perhaps it’s an energy cleanse, and literally a way to immerse ourselves in nature. We certainly cannot deny the power and size of the ocean when we are bobbing around looking at hundreds of fish, crabs, turtles, eels, manta rays, and even sharks living their lives in this amazing world just under the surface, where so few ever take the time to look.
I am convinced that this culture of denying ourselves immersion in nature has only perpetuated the destruction we see around us. If we were taught about the magic of our planet Earth, allowed to enjoy it, play in it, cultivate it, celebrate it, from day one of our little lives, our world would be thriving. When one realizes he is an intimate part of the grand cycle of life and values nature, how could he do to the Earth what we have done? We need a culture shift, and it starts with the adults, and continues with the youth.
How do you separate yourself from nature? Are you more worried about nappy ocean hair than you are about connecting with the ocean that nourishes so much life? Do you slather on sunscreen, or do you let your skin tell you when you should get out of the sun? Do you take boats fueled by gasoline into the ocean, or do you paddle out with your own energy, leaving no footprint? Will you sit on the sand without a towel? On the grass? Will you bury your arms in the earth, or submerge your legs in flooded taro patches?
It’s never too late to capture the magic of nature, and hence never too late to expose someone else to the magic of the planet Earth we call HOME. Just walk outside and look around.