Punalu’u, a black sand beach on the southern tip of Hawai’i Island, is one of my favorite beaches, and I go there every chance I get. During one visit, I came across a crowd of tourists huddled around honu, green sea turtles, sleeping on the sand. The tourists kept a few feet away from the honu as they took pictures, but they were still closer than the 15 feet required by law. I watched from a distance, hoping the honu would stay asleep so the crowd wouldn’t stress them.
Close to shore, a honu peered its head above the water. Moments later another honu did the same. A receding wave revealed the first honu on the sand, and I smiled. The tired little creature waited at the water’s edge for its companion, and together the pair started their slow climb up the beach. Instantly charmed by them, I took a picture with my phone.
With the sleeping honu resting peacefully, I gave my full attention to the new arrivals. The pair could have veered in any direction on that beach, but, to my surprise, they headed straight toward me. Each time the honu got close to me, I walked back and to the right or to the left to get out of their way. I moved several times, but each time the honu changed direction and continued their deliberate walk toward me. It felt wrong to keep moving, so I stopped.
One by one, the tourists noticed the honu appearing to follow me, and I could tell they wanted to swarm the pair as they had the sleeping honu. Standing firm, with my eyes locked on the honu and the wind blowing fiercely through my wild mass of dark wavy hair, I thought, “Leave them alone.” To my relief, the tourists stayed put. With the tourists at bay, I sang “Mele Aloha” to the honu as they approached me. This song is a welcoming chant composed by the revered Mary Kawena Pukui.
Onaona i ka hala me ka lehua
He hale lehua nō ia na ka noe
‘O ka’u nō ia e ‘ano’i nei
E li’a nei ho’i o ka hiki mai
A hiki mai nō ‘oe
A hiki pū nō me ke aloha
Aloha ē, aloha ē, aloha ē
Fragrant of pandanus and lehua blossoms
This is indeed a house of lehua shrouded in the mist
It is the one that I am truly longing for
Yearning for the arrival
And you have indeed come
Arriving indeed with love
Love, love, love to you
The honu finally stopped a few feet away from where I stood. My heart spilled over with love as I gazed at the honu in wonder. The wind swirled wildly, blowing back my hair, whistling in my ears, and wrapping my body through my clothes, but never drying out my eyes. I waited until the honu fell asleep before I left them.
Since that day I have never doubted that the universe notices, feels, acknowledges, and returns the love in my heart. People may be indifferent to love; they may choose to ignore it; they may mock it; and they may even hate me for it. But the spirit of love that permeates all of creation greets love with love.
©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.