I once stood at the north shore on one of the islands in Hawaii and watched teams of surfers try their skill on some of the greatest waves in the world. This was like nothing I had ever seen before. There were others watching with me; there were others staring out with the hints of sunset coloring our faces.
The incoming waves slowly built into tall curling walls of water. Then they crested, and then they folded into the shore.
One of the spectators mentioned, “People come from all over the world just to surf here,” and I could see why.
Whether they rode the waves or failed in a tremendous wipe-out, they tried. Whether they had a good day in the water or bad, they dove in and touched the face of something beautiful.
Behind me was the small island of Maui and in front of me was the open ocean. Its blue water moved and swelled, and I became aware of exactly how small we are as a species.
I watched a dog give birth to a litter of puppies once. She was clearly in pain, but after the last pup fell from her body, the mother licked each one, cleaning them, and then she curled around her pups and nursed them as a mother should.
What I recall most was the sincerity in the mother’s eyes. What I recall was her instinctive love and dedication. Perhaps I was too young or small-minded to truly understand what I witnessed. But I knew this was beautiful.
I saw a cow give birth to a calf. She mooed loudly as the calf emerged and finally fell to the ground. Then the mother stood. She turned around and licked the newborn calf as it struggled to adjust.
She continued to lick the calf, until moments later, the calf stood under the encouragement of its mother.
Again, perhaps I was too young or small-minded to understand what I was watching. Maybe I was too jaded at the time or spiritually blind, but I remember this well and this too was beautiful.
My views have changed throughout the years. So has life and its crazy angles. My ability to withstand has weakened in some ways and strengthened in others. Over the years, I have learned to rid myself of the nonsense and simplify my status. But this was not always the case.
In the least innocent stage of my life, I was waiting with a friend to hear about a job on the east end of Long Island. The job was low-level and dirty. We were to steal or retrieve a list of construction equipment and deliver the items in return for a debt that was never paid. And eager to be part of something like this, my partner and I decided to take this job, depending upon payment.
It was the start of winter. The nighttime sky was clear and the warmth of summer had vanished. We were one month away from the holiday season, but none of that mattered.
As for me and my partner, we were sitting inside a fast food restaurant on Old Country Road. We were laughing at the time of a skidding sound.
The skidding came from the cars moving on Old Country Road, which was not unusual. The street was busy and the mall was nearby. So rather than look outside, my partner and I continued our conversation.
Suddenly, a tall thin man burst through the side door. “Oh my God,” he screamed. His voice was high-pitched and his tone was very feminine. “Somebody call 911,” he cried. “A woman was just hit in the middle of the street.”
I pointed to the payphone, which was on the wall. “There’s a phone over there.”
“Where is she,” asked my partner.
“She’s outside in the middle of the street,” cried the tall thin man.
He was shaking. His reddish curly hair matched the freckles scattered across his pale-skinned face. The man was not old, but he was old enough to drive, and he was old enough to understand what happened.
I, on the other hand, was young and blinded with hate. I walked outside with my partner and into the middle of the street. Cars slowly drove passed, and there she was, lying in the middle of the road.
She was tan skinned with almond shaped eyes and long black hair. Supposedly, the woman worked across the street at another fast food chain. She was running across to meet her husband when a car struck, sent her into the air, and then as she landed, her body was crushed by two cars that followed behind.
One of the vehicles was a limousine. The driver was a middle-aged man, dressed in a fancy chauffer’s outfit. He was weeping as if it were him that ended the woman’s life.
The driver of the second car was standing quietly. His face was straight and without expression. I hardly remember him. All I recall was blonde hair, parted in the middle, a mustache, and the glowing end of his lit cigarette that hung from his mouth.
Both me and my partner walked out into the middle of the road and stood over the dead woman’s body. Her eyes were opened. She looked shocked, as if someone startled her, and her last expression was forever frozen like this.
The tire marks left her stomach to be paper thin and the back of her head was crushed into the pavement.
What I recall most is I was emotionless. I was unaffected. I was unmoved and unconcerned. I did not see this woman as the young mother she was. I did not see her as an empty seat at her family’s table. I did not see her as anything.
But I wanted to.
I wanted to feel something but the dead woman was not real to me.
I suppose nothing was at that time.
We suspected the tall feminine man was the one that hit her because he was gone when the police arrived. He left as quickly as he ran in and cried, “Somebody call 911!”
My partner noticed, “Look, there’s her pocketbook.”
He said, “Someone’s gonna take that,” but not us.
However, ashamed, I admit that I considered taking the dead woman’s purse.
We left the scene and headed back into the restaurant. A young woman overheard my partner and I laughing.
She asked, “How could you laugh at a time like this?”
She argued, “Someone just died, and you two are acting as if nothing happened. That could be someone’s mother out there, or someone’s wife.”
“It ain’t my mother,” said my partner
“It ain’t my wife either,” I added.
I was never as lost as I was then….
Posture changes as we grow older. So do the facts and outcomes of life.
I see life very differently now. I am no longer blinded by my own hatred and greed. I am well aware of the seven deadly sins as well as my old partnerships with each one.
During the birth of my child, I saw this tiny figure. She was a little girl, swaddled in a pink blanket. The nurses put a white cap over her head and her hands were curled like tiny little fists. Her eyes were closed tightly and she cried the type of cries, which only come from newborn babies.
This is what life is.
This is creation.
This is when my callousness began to heal and my eyes began to open.
I am thankful for my awareness, though it comes with a bitter, painful edge. I will never see things as I once have. Instead, I feel everything.
Sometimes, I think I feel too much. I feel vulnerable, and that was once my biggest fear; vulnerability.
Recently, the news has reported several accidental killings of young children. These children were not properly cared for or watched. Maybe this means dogs and cows have better sense and mothering abilities than we do as humans.
With regards to the north shore of that Hawaiian island, I began with this because I need to remember that through the ugliness in life, beauty still exists.
There is always good in this world, same as there was always good in me.
I just needed something to open my eyes so I could see it…