“I knew I would be saved.” Those are the words I keep hearing him say, our 23-year-old son, aka His Majesty, who ran and then hitchhiked the 25 miles across Puna to our house three days after Tropical Storm Iselle hit.
We are cleaning up the yard all day on Monday, piling up ohia branches and huge palm fronds and other debris.
The power is still out and even though we’re off grid and using a generator until our solar panels are connected, we are still without internet or phone.
His Majesty leaves the 27-acre Kalani campus in Kalapana after working his 6am-1:30pm kitchen shift, running north on Highway 137, also known as the Red Road because it used to be made of red lava cinders, with his cell phone and wearing only shorts and running sandals.
He is looking for a cell phone connection, for a nice run, and for us.
“Let’s just drive down there,” I say to the Bearded One as we collect fallen coconuts. “We can ask around, find him, see that he’s okay.” I’d said this exact same thing to him and our friend Tom the night before, and neither thought it was necessary or advisable. He’s thriving, said Tom. He doesn’t want you checking all over campus for him, said the Bearded One, who is not worried at all and who gives me the same answer today.
So instead I imagine him at Kalani and send a feeling of concern and love his way. I imagine him wanting to contact us and not being able to. I imagine him getting a ride here somehow. I help the Bearded One lay mulching donut rings of debris around the base of the palms.
His Majesty’s skin glows light brown and his blond Mohawk ruffles in the breeze. He runs virtually barefoot, just a thin strip of rubber with a strap. He has been craving a nice long run for weeks now. He is strong, his yoga practice coming into its own.
The Red Road is a tiny roller-coaster road running adjacent to the Puna coastline along the ocean.
Three nights ago 30 foot waves crashed onto its narrow two lanes and 70 mph winds downed hundreds of trees and branches across it. It’s passable now, but power lines still dangle along its shoulders throughout the hamlet of Opihikao 2 miles into his run. They say it will be 2 weeks or more before power and any phone reception is restored this far south.
His plan is to run until he gets some bars of reception, then to call us to come pick him up. Unfortunately, we have no phone reception at all and he realizes this after he calls 3 times, stopping his run, over the course of an hour. After the last call, a woman working in her yard greets him warmly. “Out for a run?” she asks. She isn’t hugely concerned for his safety. She tells him she enjoys a good run, too.
She offers him water, which he declines but which, he tells me, also somehow clarified his feeling that not only was he okay, but he was also supposed to be there. He’ll run to Pahoa, he decides, and then hitch a ride from the main highway, Highway 130. It’s a popular spot. Even we have picked up hitchhikers there, people we recognized. His chances are good. This will be his first hitchhiking experience. Not a good idea in Seattle. So be it.
The Bearded One says then, “Check this out.” He’s discovered a coconut with a new tree sprout growing up out of it.
Treasures everywhere. Chain saws whine in the distance, and another helicopter swoops overhead and races up the coastline toward its destination.
A policeman stands in the middle of Pohoiki Road, just a mile from the junction with the Red Road. “You can’t go through here,” he says.
“Yes, sir. Is there a detour route?” His Majesty is a bit lost. He smiles and is uber polite. The aloha is not returned. “No,” says the officer curtly. “How far to Pahoa from the Red Road?” “I don’t know.” “Where does that road go?” “I don’t know,” and the officer turns and strides away. He’s probably stressed about his own family and he’s just stranded out here, is how His Majesty continued on with his good feeling as he turned around and ran back down Pohoiki toward the Red Road.
Albizia trees grow an inch a day. The locals call them the tree that ate Puna, and this has come true with Iselle.
Hundred and twenty foot tall albizias tower over the roads to Pahoa. They are huge and round and can shade half an acre. One was just cleared today from our road. We decide to take a walk down to Maku’u, which has lots of albizias.
He’s run about 10 miles, two toes are sore and blistering and he sticks his thumb out. A handful of cars pass by, and then a Camry pulls over and a woman about my age smiles and asks where he’s headed.
She shakes her head, says she isn’t headed there but did he realize that Pahoa is a long long long way on this road?
“It is?” He shrugs and smiles. “I’m new here.”
“Yes, it is. Perhaps next time a map is in order.”
She smiles and wishes him well.
He thanks her, waves goodbye, breathes, stretches, and focusses on the next step. He is not concerned. He decided to have this adventure.
We step out of our driveway, and I admire the silvery and gold windsock from our wedding that I hung on a tree in front of our house.
“Someone’s gonna steal it,” says the Bearded One, but he doesn’t suggest removing it. It’s too beautiful, shimmering in the breeze after the storm. We hang a bag of pineapples on our neighbor Jim’s gate, and then head off on our walk.
His thumb is out but he’s walking, so he smells the marijuana before he sees the low-rider red pickup truck pull up beside him. Two huge Hawaiians say, “Brah!” They tell him they are headed to Pahoa and to hop in the back. As they turn down Pohoiki and pass the same policeman, he and His Majesty spot each other and wave the shaka, the Hawaiian aloha hang-loose hand gesture of pinkie and thumb.
As a child, His Majesty was mystical, a Hogwarts graduate, eager to learn to use my pendulum and fill in his own numerology chart. And now here he is, magically dropped off on Pahoa’s main drag by the Hawaiian brothers, in front of the Thai restaurant where two of his Kalani friends eat dinner. The island will provide. These are friends who insist on sharing their food and giving His Majesty a ride straight to us, the last 8 miles of his trek.
“Someone’s here,” says the Bearded One. We’ve just returned from our 2 mile walk, it’s about 5:30, and there is a strange silver sedan in our driveway. It’s empty. We see no people. The Bearded One marches ahead of me and opens the gate. I’m still pondering the car when I hear shouting. The instant I hear it I know who it is.
He’s already given his friends the house and grounds tour and each man carries a perfect white pineapple. I hug them and thank them and then I pluck white and yellow plumeria blossoms and poke them into their pineapples as they leave.
He gives us the story in pieces, the spirit of it wholly magical. The island simply picked him up and delivered him.