Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wife Rule #29: Rain is for the Birds

When I woke up this morning, I knew immediately that it was a Hawaiian Shirt Day.

My first clue was that is was still black as night when I finally rolled out of bed at 7:00 AM. The switch to daylight savings time hasn't helped my sleep, and late-term pregnancy hasn't helped my wife's either. So after finally giving up on an unfulfilling night of repeated awakenings, I stumbled to the bedroom window to see what kind of morning was there to greet me. The bottoms of the snow-covered mountains emitted a ghost-like glow from the bleary city light. The sun was apparently AWOL; the mountain tops were shrouded in swirling, black, misty clouds.

The pavement was still dry, but I knew it wouldn't last; the ominous clouds overhead meant business this time. Living in a desert, I have become accustomed to constant sunshine and clear blue skies punctuated by occasional cotton-white, fluffy clouds. I don't much care for rain, and rain in March is as bad as it comes. At this time of year the temperature during a storm typically fluctuates around the freezing point, turning the world into a sodden, slushy, sludge pool. Everything is gray and brown and soggy, the wonder of winter in the past and the promise of spring not yet apparent--like the uneaten half of yesterday's donut, still sitting out on the counter long after it should have been disposed of, stale and saturated with room-temperature hot chocolate. Blah.

Fortunately, about nine months ago I learned a potent remedy for such a day: my Hawaiian Shirt. This special shirt is a happy faded yellow, with black and midnight-blue silhouettes of palm leaves streaming from the shoulders down across the front. Every time I wear it I am greeted at work with mock greetings of "Aloha," and occasional wry comments about still being "stuck in Hawaii."

I have to admit that they're right. The Hawaiian shirt means a whole lot more to me than just pleasing colors splashed across a cotton canvas. It's an escape and a rebellion against my current circumstances. So I put on my headphones, turn on my favorite Jack Johnson album, In Between Dreams, and I am momentarily transported back in space and time to a highway coming out of Honolulu, in June of 2007...

Here too, it is dark and cloudy, but there's no lethargy or self-pity. To the contrary, my wife and I are zipping along the dark corridor without a care in the world. It's only about 7:30 at night, but it gets dark early in Hawaii. Due to a long layover in San Francisco, it's taken most of the day to get here, but at last, here we are!

It's taken seven years to build up enough frequent flier miles for two tickets to Hawaii, but that's not the main reason we've never come. We have four kids, the oldest is seven, and It's been seven years since we've spent longer than 18 hours away from our kids. If you do the math, you'll realize that there were precious few opportunities to properly enjoy Hawaii in the last seven years, between four pregnancies and four babies who were very attached to their mother.

But at last, after all the waiting and with the child care help of angel grandparents, the right opportunity is here. And so we are here, finally, together in Hawaii! The anticipation built within us like an insatiable emotional itch throughout the day, as drove and waited, and flew and waited again, and then finally arrived at our destination. When the kind lady at the rental car booth offered to upgrade our car to a convertible for only $10 per day, it took me approximately 4 seconds to decide.

So now we're cruising away from the airport, from the lights of the city, through a cut in the mountains to the far side of the island. Our luggage has been haphazardly piled in the back seat and the top is down. There is a warm, moist breeze blowing our hair in every direction at once, and filling our nostrils with satisfying freshness. We can't see a thing except the road a hundred feet in front of us, but it doesn't much matter right now. There's enough sensation to experience without sight getting in the way.

Suddenly, adding to our sensory smorgasbord, it begins to rain. Not the cold, harsh rain of a late-winter storm, but something more like a welcoming sea spray. Tiny drops splatter on the windshield, but the bubble of warm air in the cockpit of the car cushions us from the effects. The smell of fresh rain through tropical atmosphere permeates the mountain road. Every once in a while we can detect the cool evaporation of a few drops on our faces or forearms, which occasionally break through the bubble of protection provided by our swiftly-moving Mustang, to better soak in our surroundings.

And thus we ride, carefree and content just to be alone together in the rain on a warm, summer night.

Fast-forward a week or so, and we find ourselves on another island road, winding along the coastal erosion patterns of a jungle volcano. We stop the car to embark on a minor detour, a hike through bamboo forest and up a small gulch, to a series of tropical waterfalls. The ground is wet and slippery from the rains earlier that morning, so we make our way carefully along the muddy path. Water wets the intensely green, broad leaves, giving their waxy sheen an extra punch. It's humid, yet we don't feel it due to the perfection of the temperature, here in the island woods.

We reach the first falls, and with it, the small crowd that has chosen this trail today. Our book tells us that up the steep, slippery bank on the far side of the pool, the trail continues. So we splash our way across, and using some sturdy roots for support, ascend to the next segment. Another short walk through dense bamboo, and the path opens up to a much bigger, more beautiful freshwater pool, with a pleasant waterfall at the far end, gurgling happily. A family is just leaving; they tell us that we are the first ones they have seen since arriving here an hour earlier.

So we swim. We are both hesitant at first, not having ever swam in a wild jungle pool before. But after a toe-test reveals that the water temperature is as perfect as the air, we both jump in. The allure of the moment, along with no recollection of our book specifically mentioning pirrahnas or anything of the sort, erases our uncertainty. Soon we are exploring the far reaches of the pool, way over our heads both in water and in wonder. We check out the waterfall and discover crayfish and a small cave. My wife challenges me to jump off the rocks and we both take the plunge. We backstroke, we front stroke, we paddle and pause, with only the sound of the water interrupting the stillness of the jungle.

And then it begins to rain. We're already wet, and pleasantly warm, and the light shower seems to perfect the mood, as if Heaven itself were sending us a soothing scalp massage. So we extend our swim a little longer, two birds of paradise, alone in our own Eden. I think our Heavenly Parents must have spent a while in the garden alone, before bringing Adam and Eve into the picture. I know I couldn't have resisted.

Hmm, there's a break in the clouds, and it appears to be warming up. I'm sure glad I wore my Hawaiian shirt today. I just knew it would be a good day.


Alisa said...

Matt, I totally relate. There's a reason I make all of my computer wallpaper Hawaii photos from my trip there last year. I also use Jack Johnson as a way to take me back. Even good weather reminds me of that fabulous vacation.

LuckyMatt said...

I'm glad you had as good a time as we did!