Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Moloka'i?

In my dreams I am still there, or I have returned...and often I can't contain the joy in my heart as I swim towards the shore.  The sensation of the pebble sand and the warm breeze brushing against my tanned skin is a memory that never left me.  Deep ingrained in my soul is a bronze and orange sun that sets against a sparkling ocean, full of life and mystery but what was out that horizon that never got touched?  The thunder of the waves as they landed on the wet sand was like a heartbeat that rang in my ears many years later.  That was my Hawaiian childhood.  The last place I remember being truly happy.  How many of us have a place in time they go back to in their dreams?  The place where the whole future seems like a fantasy just waiting for us to embrace set out and conquer that fear, to dance on the big stage of life, to live a life that brings us the deepest joy!

In my dreams I return to that beach, to that sunset, to that thunder rolling ocean.  I return to my 7 year old self.  I return to my innocence.  I return to Hawaii.

Recently my book club decided to read the novel Moloka'i by Alan Brennert.  My first question was, "Why would I want to read a sad book about people being banished from their homes to spend the remainder of their life losing limbs and suffering unimaginable depression?".  That is now the question of the year.  After reading just 3 pages of this masterpiece, I realized why it was so important, I discovered "Why 'Moloka'i'?' was a must read for this grown little blonde haired girl...a girl who grew up wearing Muumuu's and Lei's...a girl who danced the hula, ate poi (and sometimes seaweed unwillingly, thanks Chad!) and combed the shorse for Portagee man o' war.  I was young...and to some it may seem a little too long ago.  But not to me.  Those are the days I cling to when I want to give up hope.  Those are the days I cherish because there is something about Hawaii, there is something (in this case) about Moloka'i.  And this book brought many of those "unseen" things back into my heart and back into my mind.

A Hawaiian girl named Rachel (so close to my name) yet born in the late 1800's, is sent away from the only home she has ever known, separated from her entire family, to live in the secluded region of Kalaupapa, Moloka'i - to face her future with Leprosy!  Rachel's imagination was running wild, and she was naïve to what Leprosy meant and was certain that her death was minutes away.  Much to my relief, the book covers the 70+ year stretch of her life.  All the hopes and desires any girl would have, yet suffering physical and emotional scarring few of us can come close to understanding.  As the story develops you see a very real person who loves the land and who takes her surroundings in with the same fervor as I hope I do in my life.  Deep and thoughtful but also skeptical and untrusting - for many good reasons.  There wasn't one possible way I couldn't love this story as it painted a very accurate portrayal of island life and the simple pleasure of breathing that the Hawaiians have mastered.  Watching the ocean and all of God's creation in a paradise much like Eden - however set in a tragic historical reality called Leprosy.  I think the most beautiful element to the story for me was to see the heart of a child ebbing and flowing as each trial was surmounted.  I loved the realness I felt as she talked with her new "Ohana" and the dialogue was written so perfect you could hear it come out of your own mouth.  She also develops a close mother/child relationship with a nun that is set over her as a teacher and guardian.  And at one point this broken little lamb - one you would see as only a victim - saves the nun from a terrible mistake of suicide.  I didn't cry while I read the book - too stubborn...until the very end.  It was because I didn't want it to end.  I wanted to stay in Moloka'i...with Rachel.

I am haunted by this story in a way I can't quite put my finger on but I am eager to find out.  I know about 3 people in my personal life that need this book...and you might know who you are.  Although a fictional character, Rachel has given me...or should I say God has given me through the story of Rachel, a perspective to look that I hadn't thought of before.

In my dreams I return to that beach, to that sunset, to that thunder rolling ocean.  I return to my 7 year old self.  I return to my innocence.  I return to Hawaii.

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