A LONG WAY FROM MANY PLACES
Upside down and inside a wave my thoughts were remarkably articulate even though they were travelling faster than a digital signal in a minute fraction of time that would not register even on the most precise atomic clock. I knew that when I was eventually spit out of the breaker and thrown against the compacted sand it would have all the give of cement. ‘If I break my neck again I doubt I’ll walk away this time. How much travel insurance do we have? Where’s Ann? How’s Ann? Glad our wills are up to date.’
I like water. It constitutes a big part of me and is a key ingredient in beer. I like it from a tap or a shower nozzle. I like wading around in it. I do not like it over my head. When Ann and I decided to spend three weeks on
Maui, beach life wasn’t the hook for me. The lure was
exploring a new place, a tropical place and visiting some of its history. On
our first morning in Kihei when Ann and I walked the gentle arc of
together, I wore socks and running shoes because the flap flap flap of flip-flops is not music to my ears and big toe
loops or dividers feel icky. My one and only attempt at boogie boarding
resulted in an unfortunate and painful sandwich, my right testicle somehow
between me and the board. I’m not a natural seasider, no patience for hours
under an umbrella with a book and a greased pelt and sand everywhere. Charley Young Beach
I landed partially on my shoulder and partially on my head. I belly-flopped and then staggered to my feet. Ann was on her hands and knees behind me, in churning foamy and sandy brown water, closer to the shore. She said, ‘Geoff, help me.’ We were both stunned. As her words began to register I realized that I had turned my back on the water. I looked behind me. The distant blue water horizon was suddenly a few yards away and higher than my eyebrows. The undertow ripped my feet from under me as I tried to dive into the cresting wave.
Ann does a brilliant impression of a seemingly distracted, dog-paddling shark, complete with a hummed soundtrack. I have to quell panic and find some sole purchase after a few seconds of treading water. Charley Young is a welcoming beach for inexperienced toe-dippers like us, benign and of no interest to big water thrill-seekers. And so the high surf advisory in the news and on the orange flagged DANGEROUS SHOREBREAK sign didn’t apply to Ann and me nor indeed Charley Young. No, it was meant for places like Makena’s ‘
also known as ‘ Quad Beach’ in the emergency room of .
And anyway, the real shark biting months, October and November, had passed and
neither of us was outfitted in day-glo, what knowing locals call ‘yummy
yellow.’ Maui Memorial
Ann and I ended up sitting beside one another, both of us dazed once more by the force of the incoming tide, uncomfortable on our butts, just like our Air Canada Rouge flight. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘I think so.’ ‘Was that the seventh wave, the big one?’ ‘Who knows? When do you start counting?’ ‘Is it safe to get out of here?’ ‘Yeah, we’ll just get up and back away after this one. Incoming!’
Bob Dylan wrote and recorded a beautiful song called ‘Every Grain of Sand’ which appeared on 1985’s Shot of Love: ‘I can see the Master’s hand in every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.’ When I hear it I’m reminded of my grade school Catholic catechism; when I listen to it I’m almost tempted to believe in God again.