I had forgotten how the ocean smells different here. Of course it does -- different geology and different biology -- but it was something I hadn't remembered until I was standing on a craggy black pumice shore looking out over the water.
My grandparents lived here for about the first twenty years of my life. We visited in the summers. At least us kids did. I've been back to Hawaii once since then, but a different island.
We weren't more than a few hours off the plane yesterday before I was waist deep in the ocean of my childhood, trying not to get knocked in the shins by two pizza-sized sea turtles surfing their way over to some mossy rocks to munch, and as ambivalent about my presence as ever they were.
People picture the beaches in Hawaii as sandy white expanses under perpetual sunsets. That's what makes it on to the postcards. You can find those beaches on this island somewhere, but this how I always see it. Overcast skies, ashy black volcanic rocks in chunks and boulders dotted with discarded lumps of coral. Air thick with humidity and plumeria and the acrid smell of salt water on volcanic rock.
In an inexplicable burst of femininity, I had a pedicure last week, thinking of elegant polished toes in my sandals on Hawaiian beaches. Once I was in sight of the water, I tossed my flip flops unceremoniously in a rock crevice and I was clambering over rocks and into the water. In ten minutes I had chipped the polish on one toe and scraped it clean off three others. It's a good reminder of the kind of girl I am. The ocean remembers.