The Unfinished Life
Note: This article was previously written for and published in “Shaumbra Magazine – Inspire Consciousness February issue of 2023. Below is an edited version.
Who would go to the Big Island of Hawaii to stay in the place they rent for more days than they go about exploring?
Not me. I had my snorkel trips booked, my hiking shoes packed for the cold mountain summit, and my 5 swimming suits selected…
Friday night, right after my 4-day workshop finished, my host Scott graciously offered to take Tim and me to the summit of Mauna Kea in his mighty jeep Wrangler. What a dream come true! Mauna Kea is the highest volcano in the Hawaiian Islands with more than a dozen astronomical observatories crowding its summit. It could also be considered the highest mountain on Earth if you counted from its base more than five thousand metres below sea level. I carefully packed my layers from summer to fall to winter. At 3:30pm, we set off. The weather was the clearest we could ask for. The 2.5-hour drive was stunning, with all sorts of changes in landscapes along the way. Scott was an amazing guide for us. When got to the visitor’s center, the unexpectedly crowded parking lot reminded us it was the American Thanksgiving long weekend.
Everyone is encouraged to spend at least half an hour at the Visitor Centre to acclimate to the altitude. We wandered around the visitor’s center and vicinity for twenty minutes before joining the line of jeeps waiting to drive up to the summit. When the journey to the summit and observatories started, the real excitement began—that feeling of being on top of the world, land, water, clouds, and sky. The very slow pace of traffic started to stress Scott out, as we could see the sun getting ever lower on the horizon with each switchback we went around. It must be some inexperienced tourist driving a rental and being extra cautious. We began to think we might miss the sunset. “Well, there will be colors,” Scott tried to comfort us, or maybe himself. The sky was ever-changing. The clouds below us rolled away in waves. The driving itself was so amazing that watching the sunset or not, I was already on cloud nine.
Just then, an unmarked left turn appeared. Without hesitation, Scott’s hands made the left turn, and we ended up on a hill surrounded by observatories with no-other people around, just in time to see the red sun sink, inch by tiny inch, into the horizon.
The white domes of the astronomical observatories decorating the mountaintop magically began to open. So did my arms open to embrace the sky as my heart soared. We then drove the short distance the rest of the way up to the summit and stayed there until the park rangers came to clear away us tourists so the observatories could do their work, free from the stray beam of a random flashlight or headlight.
We went back down to the visitor’s center where we set up some camping chairs and brought out our picnic dinners in the picnic area. Scott surprised us by bringing out a spotting scope. Seen through the scope, the new crescent moon revealed its unreal grey texture on the surface.
We picked another shining star to look at through the scope. It looked like a planet, and it seems to have three “moons” on its left side lining up. It was Jupiter, we all decided. Now it came the time that I truly wanted to sit down on the rocking lawn chair, and give myself a moment, to absorb, admire, and adore the – STARS!
That time… never came. To get myself comfortably ready, I decided to go to the lady’s room first. I knew exactly where it was…
When I stepped out of the lady’s room, the dazzling night sky and the milky way immediately disoriented me. I spun underneath their gaze, while my feet took me to a parking lot. In the darkness, I knew the visitor’s center was to the right, and my group’s direction was just down the hill to the picnic area. Between two parked cars, I moved my feet straight in that direction. They met a little raised curb. I stepped my left foot over the curb, reaching out to find a landing place. But my foot went down deeper, and deeper, my weight shifted to follow my foot, which still could not find purchase on solid ground. It just went…
I fell onto my left hip, left palm, and elbow. Finally, I landed, full body. I rolled to my back. Oh, the stars! Let’s get up, my mind said. My body felt the ache and shock. I would lie there, for just, a, moment, to catch my breath.
A group of three or four or five came over, “Are you okay?” A woman asked.
Always. But now that you ask, I want to say no. How did they even know someone fell? It was almost pitch-dark.
“Oh, I heard it. Loud!” The woman said. She came down and gently raised my feet with her hands. “Close your eyes and take some deep breaths.” She commanded.
No, I want to see the stars. But I followed her instruction. She could make herself a decent hypnotist, I thought. More people gathered; they shone their phone flashlights onto my awkwardly dressed body (two pairs of pants underneath a long skirt, with a mid-length bright yellow rain jacket on top. But I didn’t come up the mountaintop with being the center of attention on my mind.)
Thankfully, the five layers for the bottom and four layers for the top all gathered at my hip area, which created a cushion for the four-foot fall. Even though during the fall all my attention went to the left side of my body which hit the ground, a day later, I discovered it was my right knee that was sprained, in the sudden jerk from walking in one direction to falling in another.
After confirming I had no broken bones, Kona Community Hospital gave me a long knee brace to wear. In the days to come, all my valley and coastline hikes had to sadly be cancelled—you don’t even know what you have until you lose it.
Beyond all the new travel adjustments, my biggest regret was still the immediate loss of the opportunity to sit in the rocking chair and gaze at the stars. When they found me on the ground, Scott and Tim decided it was time to help me back into the vehicle and drive home.
Every moment on Mauna Kea was beautiful, but it was still deeply unfinished.
With no hikes to do, we shifted our focus to beaches. The Complete Guide to Big Island Beaches website lists all the beaches that Big Island has. I picked out Anaeho’omalu Bay (A-Bay) beach. When we arrived, it looked beautifully sandy. The beach is between the ocean and two ancient Hawaiian fishponds. Two bodies of water, palm trees dotted a white sand beach. What could go wrong?
I even brought my wet shoes, but I “forgot” and left them in the trunk of the car. Tim insisted that I went with a boogie board, to save my right knee from bending too much to swim. Very soon, I drifted onto a coral area that was too shallow to paddle the board, and too jagged to stand up and walk across. I leaned on the board, walking my feet in the water.
Excruciating pain pinched the bottom of my left foot, like hundreds of needles piercing it all at the same time. Ouch! What was it—was something trying to bite me? I raised my foot, but the sharpest pain continued.
At the shore, once again, a crowd gathered around me. A woman from Virginia told me I must have stepped on a sea urchin. “There are 18 spines in your foot!” Did someone actually count? I felt utterly helpless. A man from Ottawa kept digging the sand below my foot so the seawater could enter to soak it. A young girl came by to say she heard urinating on the foot would help. A great idea that was dismissed by my quickly assembled care team. “A tweezer, who has a tweezer?” The Virginian woman requested. Tim said nothing and went away, most probably to ask everyone sitting on the beach for a tweezer. Should I have hope? Should I curse? Should I panic? Should I stay optimistic? Maybe it means I needed to slow down, maybe there is a blessing in it… But right now, I could only sit on the beach empty-minded.
It turns out nobody goes to a tropical beach with a tweezer packed in their bag. Tim returned empty-handed. The Virginian woman tried to pinch the skin on my foot. “No, I don’t want to make it worse.” Soon she gave up. The pain subsided, or was I just distracted? She suggested that I go and visit the nearest Urgent Care clinic. It was almost 3:30pm, I didn’t have much time to waste until they closed. The Ottawa guy and the Virginian woman’s brother used their hands and arms to make me a chair and carried me from the beach to Tim’s car—because remember? I had a sprained right knee so I couldn’t hop. Google told us no Urgent Care clinics were open. Right, it was still the Thanksgiving long weekend. I told Tim we could go back to Kona Community Hospital. After all, I had just set up a patient profile with them two days ago.
Noticing my mouth very dry and my head buzzing, I remembered the Virginian woman said there might be some venom. Maybe I was reacting to it? It could be deadly, who knows? Could my body endure the 52-minute drive? This is the time that I, out of all the people I knew, needed to use the power of my mind to ensure the infected area stayed on the foot. But no, what if they needed to amputate my foot? I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live without my foot either.
“Maybe, you just need to drink some water?” Tim suggested, as he was speeding and passing other cars.
What a magic solution for a serious problem!
The front guard at the hospital emergency brought me a wheelchair while asking, “May I know what for?”
I told him the story.
“I’m pretty sure the nurse is going to tell you the same thing. Just go home and soak your foot in vinegar.”
I looked at him. Right, this is Hawaii. It couldn’t be that I was the first case of someone stepping onto a sea urchin. Maybe he had a point. The doctors and nurses at the emergency room were nice, but if I could do without them, I’d prefer.
I stayed in Hawaii for five more days after A-Bay. With my right knee still sprained and my left foot now hurting when trying to walk, there wasn’t much left for me to do. Yet looking back, my biggest regret was that I never had a chance to enjoy the A-Bay beach, as I just got there when my foot stepped onto that sea creature.
A sudden disruption, life unfinished.
And life was unfinished for the rest of my Hawaiian stay. I made my way home fine. That first night, I slept 14 hours straight. Early in the morning, I was enjoying a very thorough, very engaging, and very meaningful dream. My hypnotherapy mentee Candice was leading a group of teenagers. They came to a big building where Obama lived, and Candice was demonstrating to the group how they could get what they desired when they expressed themselves clearly and confidently. She called Obama to the window and expressed her need for him to meet her group. Obama came down. I, observing in my dream, was very delightfully surprised and proud of Candice. And I knew it was time for this young lady to teach me something…
I walked toward the group and Candice. A nice musical tone rose. Ha, it’s like in a movie, there was a soundtrack coming along. Cool!
But the tone was repetitive. “It must be Tim’s alarm o’clock! How annoying! But no, I am not going to wake up yet. I can either go on in the dream pretending it’s a soundtrack for me, or I can suspend the dream until the ringtone exhausted itself. Tim is not even close to waking up.”
I waited and waited. The tone finally stopped, but I forgot where I was in the dream….
Still struggling to go back to my dream, my own alarm o’clock started. It was time to get up for my work after the vacation…
How can I ever start a new chapter when the old chapters are not even finished?
It seems the question is an oxymoron. I don’t need to start a new chapter. A new chapter starts for me. I don’t need to move on in life. Life moves me on, obviously. Damn it.
A memory surfaced. When I was a kid, I saw life as an experience. I told my friends life was not for anything, and there was no meaning but an experience. “Therefore, everything IS it, because everything IS an experience.”
“What if things don’t go my way? That’s bad.” They said.
“Then you get to experience something else. You will never stop experiencing something. No matter what happens, it’s impossible not to experience anything. And that’s the point of life, to experience what comes.”
“What if I make a crime and go to jail?”
“Then you experience that special experience of being in jail. You may even like it! It doesn’t have to be bad. It’s life’s experience. Everything is meant to be an experience. No one experience is better than another when you go through it. Only your man-made standards make you suffer or not.” I said it so firmly that I surprised myself. And yet it was extremely comforting to my child self at the time to realize I could never fail as no experience is above or below another. And whatever came my way, I could choose how to experience it.
Of course, I struggled through these experiences as my adult self knows way too many “should-haves” now.