[Congratulations to Julie Wu for her runner-up written entry in our 2012 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next week as we post other recognized entries.]
Hopena sits up from a cool grass mat on the ground and stretches his back. It cracks. He just woke up from a restful sleep. Although, he wished he stayed out with Ehaka last night. He gave her a bright red hibiscus flower from in front of his hut and she wore it all night in her hair at the bon fire. He can still see her radiant smile shimmering in front of him.
All the tribal people were at the bon fire, nobody wanted to miss the festivity. Some were sitting and chatting in groups. Some were listening and nodding to the drum beats. The atmosphere was lively. There were kids playing catching games. Laughers were everywhere. The tall ferocious bon fire was in the middle of their habitat. Different sized huts enclosed their land from the outside. The air was warm with cool breeze.
Among the crowd, Hopena and Ehaka stood close next to each other listening to the drum beat, “Daa Daa Da Daa, Daa Daa Da Daa, Daa Daa Da Daa…..” two long, one short, one long. The drummers continued this rhythm. It mesmerized Hopena’s whole body and he naturally rocked from side to side like ocean waves flapping to the rough sand. His heart was beating with excitement. There were dancers, waving their arms in circular subtle motions while alternating lifting their legs, dancing in joy. The bon fire, behind the dancers, casted beautiful curvy shadows on the sand, doubled the number of dancers, all in sync with the drum beats. Hopena took a quick shy look at Ehaka’s face which was basking in the reflection of the bon fire. He glanced away couldn’t resist a proud smile.
The brilliant white full moon hung on the sky was translucent behind the opaque black clouds. Not a star in sight. The full moon although seemed so far away was telling Hopena everything would be all right. All through the night, the ocean waves murmured as he slept. He felt so happy and he wakes up with a fulfilled feeling inside of him.
Like a ritual, Hopena looks out the small window with his sparkling brown eyes which sat tightly underneath his bushy dark eyebrows. He counts there are exactly eight casuarinas. The sea is calm with soft ripples. He takes a deep breath inhaling in the sticky salty sea. Golden sun rays are seeking through behind a giant thick gray cloud above the horizon; and it formed a pinkish orange silk band wrapping around the infinite sky. Ocean, pinkish orange silk band, giant thick gray cloud and golden sun rays are stacked on top of each other. It’s like the sky is a canvas with the most amazing painting. How does it do it every day? He is astonished that nature can be so miraculous. Click! He captures a mental picture of this magnificent view.
“Hey lazy head, wake up!” Hopena taps Mahope’s head.
Mahope is his older brother and they are going to the South Shore today. Hopena has to plant a eucalyptus tree at the end of the tree tunnel and he needs Mahope’s help.
Mahope doesn’t appreciate the morning as much as Hopena. He grunts, waves his brother away, then turns his body to another side dozes off again.
Hopena shakes his head then walks out. He has to lower his head in order to exit. He is too tall, at six feet and three inches, already a heroic height for a young soul. He gains a quick view around then stretches his arms, relaxed and confidently walks toward the crowd. His father is already at the communal fire serving breakfast to the tribe.
Hopena’s father, Moholo, is the tribal cook which means he is well respected. The whole tribe’s welfare relies on him. He is humming a cheerful tune as he is serving his people.
Today is auspicious.
“Good morning father.”
“I heard you slept well.” Even though Moholo is a head shorter than his son, he reaches out his aged left hand and proudly messes up Hopena’s hair like he is still a six-year-old boy.
Hopena shrugs his slouching shoulders weighted by strong muscular biceps as he is getting his breakfast. He can’t believe his father is still treating him like a child, especially in front of Ehaka. He sees her sitting on the grass eating with her little sister.
Ehaka has on hala leaves braided haku on her head and ankle leis. She is wearing a green pau skirt matching the grass. The pau skirt has sea turtle patterns around the bottom and pineapple pattern around the top. Her long black hair, full with curls, is hanging loosely around her slim even toned shoulders. She is wearing ivory seashell necklace and peridot ear-rings.
Her chubby little sister is chatting non-stop with animated expressions seems to recount weeks of events in a millisecond.
“Good morning, Ehaka.” Hopena’s voice is cheerful.
“Good morning.” Ehaka has a sweet voice. She looks into Hopena’s fantasy telling eyes. She loves his angular face and sharp jaw line. She thinks his prominent nose defines his powerful character.
“Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, did you?” She smiles like an angel.
“Yes, thank you.”
Hopena sits down next to Ehaka as her little sister giggles and mumbles about something that she needs to take care of right away and runs off.
“Would you like to go to the North Shore and watch the sunset with me today?” Hopena asks.
“I won’t want to miss it; especially today.”
Both of them smile. They enjoy each other’s company in peace. They stare out into the sea. The ocean is tranquil. Small ripples folding into the sand in serene pace. Hopena can feel his heart is pumping at the same pace as the ocean ripples. The dark cloud has dissipated and now the sky is clear, filled with golden tangerine rays and multiple puffy big white clouds shaped like mushrooms. The magical canvas is producing another amazing painting…
“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” he says as they slowly stroll along the ripples; feeling the ocean embracing him, Hopena recalls his first swimming experience.
“I remember the first time I learned to swim. While walking into the ocean, I felt waves beating on my body and sand moving beneath my feet, caused such an unbalanced sensation.”
Ehaka looks at Hopena’s beaming face. She loves looking at his expressions. Her dark azure eyes are radiating on her tanned face with thick eyebrows angularly curved above them. Her red pouty lips curve up on the right. She has distinctive high cheekbones.
“Was it a good feeling?” she asks.
“Oh, yes. I loved it! I could still feel the sensation as I laid on the ground days after. It’s like the earth was moving and I could feel the waves massaging my body.”
They sit side-by-side for a while, listening to the ocean waves and watching it reflecting in the sun’s glisten.
“You know, I can feel the earth in my heart. I feel the ocean in my heart. I always know that I belonged to the earth ever since I was a boy.” Hopena stops then says, “I will come to get you in the afternoon,” taking Ehaka’s left hand into both of his hands, squeezes it lightly, pauses, then finally letting it go. He feels fuzzy inside and wants to sit with her for a while longer.
Ehaka follows Hopena with her eyes as he walks away. Her eyebrows twitched unexpectedly and she feels a sudden chill wind glooming her face.
Mahope sluggishly walks out of the hut. He has no problem getting out of the door. He is standing straight on the ground with muscular thighs and calves shown that he has been working in the field.
Hopena walks to the Hala tree with its trunk protruding above the ground like multiple tripods and sturdy bi-layer shades of jade leaves like arms. Yo, beastly solider from heaven, you have been protecting us well.
There are tribal people walking by greeting him.
“Have a good day!”
“Going to the tree tunnel?” Someone asks.
“Yes, I am on my way.” Hopena replies.
“You will do fine.”
Their warm wishes make Hopena feels joyous.
When they selected this plot of the land as their home, the whole tribe assisted them building their hut. While Mahope was chopping off trees and putting together the hut with the tribal men, Hopena went to the West Shore to gather volcanic dirt to use as a seal to prevent rain. It is especially deep rich reddish brown dirt found only on this island.
That day, Hopena arrived early in the morning at the bottom of the canyon; he could see the rich red color on the summit. He estimated that it was reachable within a day’s trip. His face glowed caused by sharp pointing lights from the sun. He followed the natural winding road ascending the canyon. Even though as a warrior, he’s not good at adjusting to elevation. He felt sick in his stomach so he took many breaks. He took these opportunities to enjoy the view.
He could see the canyon has many layers and each layer had its own shade of brown earth mixed with different shades of green moss. The whole canyon depicted an evolutional time line! As he continued, he started a game. He searched for any recognizable shapes hidden in the canyon. He saw a figure of an old man with long beard, reminded him of Uncle Ulu; a rooster with multi-colored tail, a bird with red crown that was indigenous only on the South Shore…. They represented endless unique paintings. He kept on taking mental images and rewound them in his head. It made the trip so much more enjoyable.
That day, the gray speedy clouds covered the sky like it was concentrating on an impenetrable task at hand. Is the Earth moving faster than the clouds or the other way around? Hopena looked down the steep canyon and saw the infinite bottom. The higher he climbed the brighter the red dirt became. Looking at the red dirt, he felt alive and powerful. The wind was strong propelled him further into the canyon.
The indigo sky appeared and the pure cloud seemed to be underneath his feet. He ascended into the clouds! Did I enter into heaven? He advanced so high that the bottom of the canyon disappeared. Haze and cloud merged beneath his feet. It’s misty and the air seemed to sizzle around him. The air is thin. He rubbed his eyes, when his vision came into focus; the brightest red dirt was right here! He started digging. It popped!
Just then, his spirit separated from his body as he flew up into the sky. As he was getting exhilarated with the sensation, the next thing he remembered was that he was carrying bags of red dirt as he was descending the canyon following a family of NeeNeee birds swaying their tails in front of him. They seemed to guide him back to the bottom of the canyon.
I couldn’t wait to return home and tell this to father!
Now, Hopena takes a good look at the reddish color accentuated hut and realized that it stands out from the rest of the other huts around their compound. Hopena turns his head and waves to Ehaka.
“Hey, why are you still standing out here?” Mahope taps Hopena’s head and briskly walks to the communal table.
Mahope quickly stuffs his mouth like a pig ready to be roasted making his rounded face even rounder. His large dark brown eyes, with family resemblance bushy eyebrows evenly situated above his eyes, seem to pop out of his face as he is trying to wolf down his breakfast.
“Hey, it’s time to get going.” Mahope walks and talks at the same time.
They set out to the South Shore. The friendly sun is mild, a bit breezy with cool wind. Scattered shower starts to develop.
“I will race you.” Hopena throws out a challenge.
“Not a chance I will let you beat me.” Mahope shouts.
They start to run. They gallop through the over grown field with short fern shrubs high to their knees. Scaring flocks of roosters sending them flying to all different directions. Some quickly escaped to the top of the fern trees with their black, red and blue long cascading tails. Both brothers, have sun tanned bodies, are swinging their muscular arms for speed. Their feet are barely touching the firm ground. Their long dark hair fluttering away from their faces seem to provide them with wings. They are flying!
As Hopena turns his head to check on his brother, he notices a visible rainbow appears behind the mountain. He slows down marveling at the rainbow.
Isn’t this wonderful!
“Don’t you think I will let you win!” Mahope takes this lucky chance and runs past him.
Hopena doesn’t care. He stops and enjoys this moment of glory. He takes in deep breathes of clean air stretches out his lungs and soaks in revitalizing energy.
Mahope stops, realizing his brother doesn’t want to race anymore. He wonders why his brother is this way. Rainbow is a common occurrence on this island. He pulls off a fern shrub, toys it in his hand, and walks toward his brother.
“Hey, it’s not like this is the first time you see a rainbow.”
“I know...” Hopena smiles broadly and slowly joins his brother continuing on their journey. He realized that his brother would not understand his love for this land. The whole field is luminescing in the golden splendor sun. There are violet and fuchsia flowers blooming everywhere. In the distance, lanky old fern trees are swaying gently in the breeze. Far away passed a river is a mastiff waterfall. There are various shades of stubby emerald shrubs growing on both sides reflecting in the water. It is spring, lucid clean water gushing out in full force into an aqua river. They can hear it from where they are and feel the vibration underneath their feet. Is it calling me? Hopena? Is it time to return back to nature? Is it time? If it is not because he has a mission today, Hopena would jump into this blessed river and go for a swim.
It is melancholy shaded and pleasantly cool as they travel through the great eucalyptus tree tunnel. The air is humid. Every time Hopena walked through this 500 eucalyptus tree tunnel, he is always subdued by the soothing minty scent permeating in this area. How can anyone not love his island as much as he does?
After Hopena plants his tree, both brothers take a break as they eat morsels of tender dry meat and fresh vegetables their father prepared for them; feeling the blue tropical breeze as they savor in silence. Hopena reflects on that day after he returned from the West Shore.
After Hopena returned with red volcanic dirt, he told his father about his experience right away. Hopena’s experience spread out the whole tribe and they started to treat him like he was a God.
“Let’s talk, son.” Moholo came to Hopena one afternoon.
After they walked a while along the beach, “You know I am proud of you,” Moholo spoke in an even toned voice, “I think it’s time.”
They arrived at a sacrificial sacred ground on a cliff which is formed with black volcanic rocks in a circular shape. Some tribal people recently visited this place and left fresh flowers on these rocks. They sat down in the middle of this union, Moholo started to chant. Intense wailing sounds echoed throughout the area. Hopena joined his father. After a while, they stopped.
“You know about our people. We believe in the power of gods and we want to become like them. It’s this consumption that allowed our survival. Your story at the West Shore got our people exhilarated. We are all very proud of your experience. It’s time that we proceed with the sacrifice. Our chief has appointed me to following our ritual and the day after the next full moon, you will become a part of us forever.” Moholo recited slowly in a mono-toned deep voice of what he had contemplated for days.
“I see, father. I am proud to have been chosen.” Hopena replied.
Afterward, Hopena came to this sprouting horn to pray to the island gods. That day, he listened in peace to the calling of the spouting horn just like right now.
Legend has it that the island gods arrived here at this exact spot. They taught the tribal people about all the treasures that nature was able to produce on this island. Unfortunately, there was no edible flesh so the gods sacrificed themselves. This was the only way that the tribal people would never need to cry out of hunger and pain like the sprouting horn. Hopenao opened his eyes after he prayed to the island gods.
“Do you think the eucalyptus tree I planted will remain on this island forever?” Hopena asks out loud but not really looking for an answer.
“Of course, it will. Your soul will be with us always. The other 500 souls are still here, aren’t they?” Mahope says.
Hopena thinks about his life so far. “I am fortunate that I am able to enjoy all the nature has provided us.”
“Of course, brother. We are fortunate.”
Now the sky is silver blue with patches of mellow primrose clouds shaped like scattered paw prints. It’s getting hot. There is a pair of enormous turtle frolicking in the current.
“I have to get back to pick-up Ehaka.”
“Ya, I have to get back to the field. Come on let’s go.” Mahope pats on Hopena’s shoulder.
Ehaka is waiting for Hopena in front of his hut. She has on a purple sarong with hazel mountain and khaki fish patterns. In her hair is the hibiscus flower still fresh from last night. Her face is emitting a charming smile. Hopena’s heart skips a beat.
“This is for you.” Hopena presents her a chopped coconut ready for consumption.
“You should have it.”
“I want you to have it.”
Ehaka plucks two stems from a shrub and makes them into straws. They share the coconut.
They hold hands strolling along the beach heading to the North Shore, known for its intense colored sunset. There are ancient lush fern trees heavily planted along the way provided ample of shade. In the meadow, soft grass filled the whole area and wild hogs are roaming freely. In front of their eyes, bountiful tiny buds are blossoming instantaneously into flowers. Far away, there is a mountain top shaped like a giant sleeping with his nose pointing above. Looks like, he is drinking raindrops falling from the sky.
Their eyes follow the ocean into the abyss, they can see the ocean with hues of sage and turquoise, and darker the hue the deeper is the ocean. Serendipity, they spot a colossal whale.
“Look, it’s blowing water into the air!” Ehaka says as she points to the horizon.
“Look, there is another whale next to it. It’s arching its back. Oh, it reaches so high! Did you see it splashes into the ocean? Wow, what a sight!” Hopena says as he wraps his arms around Ehaka’s waist. “I can be here always.” He takes a deep breath soaking in Ehaka’s scented hair.
Ocean waves become rough further up north. Hopena walks closer to the current.
“Don’t go too far!” Ehaka warns, “The rip currents are higher than you!”
Hopena picks up a seashell and puts it next to his ear. The hollow sounds extending deep dark secrets of nature.
“Listen to this.” He walks back to Ehaka and puts the white seashell next to Ehaka’s ear.
She smiles and starts dancing with the seashell. Her hair is blowing in the wind and the amber sun is gleaming right behind her. “I love to listen to this.”
They join hands. Sounds of ocean waves are their only companion. They stop, look into each other’s eyes and kissed. Beside their feet, two small red crabs sliding pass in awkwardly funny horizontal steps.
“Let’s go to our secret spot.” Hopena takes Ehaks’s hand and they head to a location where they could see the most intense red and orange hues of the sunset only known to them. A flock of seagulls are flying above their heads. Another flock of brown birds with yellow peaks just took off into the horizon. It’s paradise!
Hopena takes out sliced pineapple and they picnic as they wait for the sun to set. The yellow pineapples are sweet, melt in their mouths. They feel warmth on their faces as they watch the sun slowly dipping into the abyss; gold, pink, red, yellow and so many more colors captivating their feelings for each other.
“I want you to have a good day.” Ehaka says.
“I am having a good day with you.” Hopena speaks softly. “I want you to be happy always.”
“What can I do for you?”
“Just hold me.”
They snuggle in front of the sunset. Time lapses and it is now dark. It starts to drizzle gently.
“It’s time to head back.” Hopena breaks the silence.
The rain persists when they return back to the tribe. The whole tribe is patiently waiting for them in front of their colony. Moholo’s short and stocky body is standing in the middle of the crowd looking proudly at Hopena. Mahope is standing next to him. Moholo, walks to Hopena, paternal affectionately holding a gourd with both of his hands.
“Drink this. It will help you sleep well tonight.”
Soon, Hopena falls asleep in Ehaka’s arms.