Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The ancient Hawaiians had too many possibilities to make mistakes. A very complex systems of Kapu (Taboos) ensured they were constantly offending, making atonement, or suffering the punishments, including death! When one had broken such a serious Kapu, there was only one thing to do: Run. Run as fast as one could to a Place of Refuge, where, once safe inside its walls, one could make atonement and be forgiven.
The Place of Refuge on this island, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, is a thatched temple surrounded by an almost insurmountable wall, at the bottom of a cliff, bordered on most sides by pounding surf. As with most Hawaiian Heiau (temples) it exists on one of the most beautiful pieces of Real Estate on the coast. However, it seems like quite a journey to get there, especially while running for your life from angry warriors.
These days Kapu are long gone, yet we still often need refuge, rest, and forgiveness. Saturday I went diving at Honaunau Bay, the protected bay adjacent to the temple. The bay is designated as a marine sanctuary, and is teeming with diverse life, including many snorkelers and quite a few divers. The topography varies from deep sandy bottom, to a steep sloping coral wall to about 70 feet, up to a vibrant coral garden around 30 feet, then shallower, sunnier corals full of snorkelers and kicked up sand at about 10 feet. It makes a spectacular shore dive due to the varied topography, the diverse life, and the ease of entry and nearby parking. In fact, I mapped this site for my Divemaster certification.
Saturday I took my brother, visiting from the mainland, and we met a friend of mine there for our second dive. We shared two hour-long dives filled with fish, protected turtles, beautiful corals, and even a large snoozing white tipped reef shark! In between dives we shared a walk in the park, pineapples, bagels, and croissants, and a bit of a sunburn. (Wetsuit sunburn: Top is burned and legs are white. Comes from folding down only the top of the suit!)
These days diving feels like my refuge. For that one hour I am floating only in the moment, free of worries, appreciating the world around me. My existence is whittled down to only my breath and my body's placement, and the beauty before me. Through monitoring my breathing, I can extend this moment for about an hour. And then the weightiness of the land crushes down upon me again.

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