“Can we go now? I’m cold!”
“It’s almost time,” I said for the 15th time in 20 minutes. She burrowed deeper into the layers of beach towels wrapped around her, put her head on my chest and went back to sleep. I squeezed my arms around her a little tighter. My husband squeezed his arms around me a little tighter. We were waiting for what Mark Twain called “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.” The Haleakala sunrise.
We left our vacation condo at 60 degrees in the dark at 4 AM and slowly drove upward for 2 hours. By the time we arrived at the summit of 10,000 feet we were wondering why we had left our ski suits out of our suitcases when packing for Maui. We layered up the best we could and wound our way through a dark parking lot, past tour buses and rows of bikes on trailers to the path on the edge of the black abyss. It was dark, the air was thin, and I could not feel my fingers. I found a photographer with a tripod pressed against the security rail and sat down on the ground beside him facing the direction of his lens.
Wrapped up in beach towels with my baby on lap and my man behind me we huddled in the blackness listening to the flapping of rain ponchos of the other tourists who were smart enough to wear something to break the gusts that cut through every layer of cotton on your body.
“Can we go now? I’m cold!”
More people crowded behind us. More wind. More flapping. Losing feeling in the lower half of my body.
Nothing but obscure shadows in front of us.
Then it got colder. So cold I could barely breathe. I concluded I was a terrible mother for bringing my 4-year-old. But, hey, she was sleeping through it so she wouldn’t remember.
Four times I decided this was a stupid idea – mine of course – but I conjured up my resolve to experience this spectacle. It was slightly stronger than my will to not freeze to death.
Suddenly, we were looking between the tips of mountains across a sea of fog that filled the crater up to the far ridge. A great glistening ruby rose slowly, so slowly, from behind the jagged black tips and washed the world in layers of gold. The fog shined. We could almost will ourselves to be warm.
Then a park ranger employing the voice of a male drill sergeant correcting a new recruit broke the magic silence. “Hey you on the rock! You are disturbing the habitat of the endangered species of the Nene (Nay-nay) bird. Get down from there immediately!” He tacked on in the sweetest hula girl tone, “Aloha.”
We all returned to our photo taking while soaking in the light and the rise of 2 degrees in temperature. The sky turned the perfect color of sapphire. Then someone else did something dumb.
“You in front of the railing there!” the drill sergeant park ranger called out again. “You’re going to fall to your death. Get back behind the railing immediately!” He again switched to the hula girl voice. “Aloha.”
You know that person who thinks he or she can say whatever he or she wants as long as the statement ends with an earnest smile and the sweetest “in a good way”? The Haleakala Aloha is Hawaiian for “in a good way.”
“I don’t need solar for my house. Now take me off your list. . . Aloha.”
“You cannot give my daughter a flu shot the week before our family vacation. . . Aloha.”
“I don’t have time to bake 30 dozen cookies. . . Aloha.”
“That was my parking space you *#^#^*&^%$&. . . Aloha!”
The Haleakala Aloha opens up a whole new solution for dealing with stupid people in a pleasant way. Polish up your hula girl voice and earnest smile before you head to the DMV, a PTA meeting or the used car lot. Get out there and Aloha!
If you ever get to Maui, make the Haleakala sunrise drive. Every frozen moment was worth the sight of an island waking up. Wear a rain poncho but don’t climb on the rocks.