Happiness is an inside job, even when your home is a tropical island paradise.
Extreme beauty can actually distort perspective. Every other place is then seen through rainbow-tinted spectacles. I’ve been fortunate by design, spending the majority of my life in physically beautiful settings, corrupted by growing up on Kaua`i and now, happiest out in gorgeous nature. All this to say that I’m home on Maui for a week, housesitting for a friend, and it’s glorious.
Mom picked me up at the airport and we went straight to the beach. I dove into the ocean for the first time in six months, swimming out past the wave line and frolicking, reveling in the silky warmth of my beloved ocean.
But let me back up and say, I love my spot in California too, perched above the river, watching the ospreys hunt and the light rays fall through the redwoods. Can you tell I feel like a woman torn between two lovers?
My friend Ilima showed me around her jewelbox of a little Hawaiian plantation cottage, nestled between a blanket of blooming ginger and a pillow of gardenia patch, with the umbrella of a koa tree in the front yard. I get to stay here a week and water her ferns, deadhead her gardenias, and pet her loving old dog while she goes eclipse chasing for a piece she’s writing.
“How is it to be back?” she asked as we drove her to the airport.
“Surreal,” I said. And so it has been.
Mom and I reminisced about the puka shell picking days on Kauai, when Mom would pick up these small circular ends of cone shells, tumbled by the sea, and string them to sell to tourists back in the 60s and 70s. We kids helped find the shells, poke the sand out of the holes with a needle, and sort them by size. She said she was wearing her puka shells again, and I thought, in that idle way you do, “wow, I’d like a necklace!”
This morning, I walked the beach to my favorite sitting tree, past rainbows and turtles, through a parade of color saturated, over-the-top beauty. I just took it slow, soaking it in, and when I reached the long, bouncy ironwood limb that protrudes onto the beach where I liked to sit in the past, lo and behold! A puka shell necklace lay arranged there.
I just looked at the shell lei for the longest time. It was almost creepy, like getting too big of a flower arrangement after a first date. All morning I’d been feeling so deeply grateful and blessed, like everything about this island and all the dear friends and family that surrounded me were enfolding me in love and welcome. And now this.
It just seemed too much, bordering on ridiculous. No one could be this lucky!
So I walked away and did my exercise and swim, and as I headed back I felt that still small voice inside telling me, “if you keep refusing my gifts I’ll stop sending them.”
The beach had woken up, the hardbody crew were out jogging and swimming and even some tourists and families were setting up camp with body boards and towels. The tree is a popular spot to stop, and the necklace was bound to be gone. “If it’s still there, I guess it’s for me,” I thought as I meandered back.
Along the beach I passed multiple sand messages featuring hearts, and “I love you” written inside. Even the bathroom’s graffiti was a love message! I wished I wasn’t alone so someone else could see how ridiculous the whole thing was, witness how unworthy I felt to be singled out this way by the loving Presence that was surrounding me with all of these gifts.
I got to the tree and the necklace was still there. So I took it and said, “thank you, God,” and as I held it I realized that any one of the busy people passing to and fro, stepping on the sand messages and bypassing the rainbows, could have found the necklace, and it would have been for them… they were all loved too.
Just as much.
But my eyes were open to see it, my heart to receive it, and thus this message of love was for me.
I was overwhelmed. And I’m sharing this so you know you are loved too. Open your heart and eyes to what’s all around you, and be amazed.
What will happen when I return to California? More of the same little everyday miracles, I have no doubt…and though I’m loving being here in Hawaii, I know we’re meant to be where we are for the time being. You know that saying, “bloom where you’re planted?” Yeah. That. Take a little time to sink into gratitude today, and let it color you through and through, until everything you see is gilded by love.
I can hear the nay-sayers now: “It’s easy for you to say. You aren’t sick, abused, poor, in a divorce, fighting cancer….And what about our political times?”
I could respond that I’ve been sick, abused, poor, struggled in my marriage, fought cancer, and experienced many hardships, too—and that I’m horrified by our political times. But I won’t bother because it’s not a contest, and it’s not about that. It’s about choosing, no matter what is going on, to be grateful and open to both giving and receiving love. And that changes everything, even our political times.
Happiness is really an inside job, not outward circumstances. Love is all around you, if you’ll open your eyes to see it. What’s a tiny miracle that you’ve seen happen? Share and uplift others today.
(Click on any photo to open up a slide show by clicking sideways)