At home in the Hawaiian outback.

Dear Sunaina,

This week has been the most enlightening so far, and the challenges keep coming. Frustration turned joy, I met the feral horses face to face for the first time, discovered a beautiful new spot to view the sunset, and finally I feel at home. The only expectation that I had when I got here was isolation. I was wrong, found that I’m not alone, and the mountain teaches me by the day.

Earlier in the week I was at the neighbors house talking to him about working with him one day a week to get some of his cars running, he’s got 5 that don’t run and he’s overwhelmed. I’m pretty handy with a wrench, and he’s older, experienced, and has a lot to teach someone like me, so it’s a good arrangement. There is a lot of work to do at his place too. While I was there his neighbors invited me over. It’s nice to get to know some people my age here, since almost everyone else on the mountain is 60+, which is pretty awesome as well. They have the most beautiful gardens, and are really bringing the place to life. It’s a very active work in progress, and the people that live there are passionate about learning more and doing more to heal the world. It looks like I’ll be able to work with them a day or two a week as well. Who needs days off when you love what you’re doing?

There’s not much crime where I am, it’s like “the wild west” socially, and it’s as close to a voluntary society as a person can get, that I have found, anywhere. Still, I lock my doors. My home town is one of the most dangerous cities in the US, and locking the door comes natural. A few days ago I was going to leave but I forgot something and when I unlocked the cottage the lock decided to eat my key. I tried repeatedly to get it out, used some graphite powder to see if it would slide, tried to brute it out with pliers, no good. I unscrewed the handles and took out the lock. Still, I couldn’t get the key to release, so I unscrewed the back of the tumbler lock and tried to pull the key out again. Of course, frustrated, I pulled the key very hard, and with it came the pins and springs, every single thing that was inside the tumbler lock shot everywhere! Over the next two hours I learned how to take apart and rebuild the lock. It took me a few tries, numerous deep breaths, a lot of cursing (not going to sugar coat it, if I had a swear jar that someone else invested in I could probably retire), and a generous amount of stubbornness, but I go it back together and it works better than it did when I arrived. I’ve decided to rebuild all of the locks next week, in fact, because they could use it and I wouldn’t mind the practice.

Maui sunset.
After the lock fiasco, lots of mowing, weed-whacking, and planting seeds, I decided to go for a walk. There is a boulder on a point, it’s broken in half vertically, and it whistles in the wind. It’s a great spot to view the sunset, with views over valleys and ridges and almost 180 degrees of ocean, and I actually get cell service there sometimes. There is also a wild beehive near it, so the whistling and buzzing fill the air at the point, overwhelmingly so, it’s pretty intense. I took a couple pictures and enjoyed the moment, was still relishing the accomplishment of learning how rebuild the lock, and I decided to leave before it got dark. It’s about a 20 minute walk down that part of the mountain and then 10 minutes up to the point. As I walked back, in the middle of the trail in front of me there were four of the feral horses. I said hello to them as I approached, and with three butts facing me I gave them plenty of space as I walked by. The last horse was broadside to me and as I walked by she took a couple steps towards me, so I stopped, judged her body language to make sure she wasn’t annoyed, horse bites hurt, and when I could tell that she was receiving me openly I let her smell my hand. She stayed near, so I gently brushed over her neck and shoulder, shooing the flies that gathered on her shoulder as I did, and then slowly brushed back towards her head. She shied her head away when I got close to her cheek, so I immediately but calmly continued on my walk with just a slight glance back to keep an eye on the herd. She stood at attention, looking at me curiously, for several seconds and then went back to grazing. The introduction to the herd, in my opinion, could not have gone any better.

That was a very special walk for me. It was the first time that I truly felt independent and at home here. This mountain seems to like to challenge people, constantly, and how people handle it determines how much they enjoy the place. It makes perfect sense, if you think about it, this place is all about growth. This is a volcanic mountain, born from the ocean floor, and she’s growing all the time. The challenges we face can promote or stifle personal growth, depending on how we receive them. I know already, in these few short weeks, that my life will never again be what it was on the mainland. I’m confident that I’ll make it, without having to succumb to the status quo lifestyle that I struggled with for so many years before. To steal a slogan from the Marine Corps, I will “improvise, adapt, and overcome” these challenges, and learn all that I can from what the world will teach me. If we have a purpose in life, I believe that it’s to grow through learning and working to better the world and people around us, and through that we naturally flow towards personal enlightenment.

Every day is a good day to be alive, and a gift.



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