Layover of about 6 hours in Tokyo, then on to Honolulu, another 3 hours, then on to Maui. Our little villa in Lahaina, just perfect for us, restoring ourselves for ten days after the recent hectic travel in Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. The town of Lahaina is small and attractive, except, of course, for the usual knick-knackery and t-shirts. We found an excellent beach to visit, where we could read in peace – Sandy beach, but rocky sea bottom there, so we had to tread gingerly once we were ten feet into the water. A good route for running near our villa, so I could keep up the fitness. Did some Christmas shopping, of course. Met friends for dinner in Wailea one night.
Our days at the beach were relaxing and quiet – the beach was not crowded at all, especially since we would tend to go in the mornings, whereas most people go to the beach in the afternoon. We saw frequent paddle boarders on the water, riding the small waves, long paddle in hand like stickmen and stick-women against the blue ocean and the horizon. The only imperfections were the rocky bottom that started about fifteen feet out, and the proximity of the busy two-lane highway that went along the beach.
One typical day I happened to be sinking myself into the shallow water to cool off a bit, one hand resting on a large rounded rock and the other resting on the best smaller rocks I could find. Looking out at the ocean, I couldn’t see a single paddle boarder, actually, and up and down the beach few other pairs of people were stretched out on their towels.We seemed to be the only ones who had beach umbrellas we could stick in the sand – something so obvious that these Hawaiian beachgoers need to learn from their European counterparts, where small beach umbrellas are de rigueur, and widely available. I am sure someone has thought of it, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why people don’t use them in Hawaii.
All of sudden the calm was rent apart by a screeching of tires, a couple of deep, earth-pounding thuds, the loud sound of wheels on gravel, followed by some more screeching of tires. And then silence. I had been waiting for the sound of cars crashing, but it never came. I tore out of the water. Past our parked car to look out at the highway, where, on the opposite side, a car was steaming, facing the wrong way at the side of the road. It had come off the road on our side, taken out a road sign made of solid metal, skidded in the very wide shoulder (at least 25 feet wide before you go to the area where you could park a car for a day at the beach) and missed our parked car by about six inches, it seemed. The trail of skidmarks went just past the end our car, back toward the highway, started to do a donut that obviously continued out on the highway itself, before the careening car came to rest, having done a complete 360 before coming to rest on the opposite shoulder. The highway was busy, but no other cars had been hit, which would have been devastating. Some bits and pieces of bumper and headlights and turning signals were strewn close to our car and along the shoulder on our side. The tall, sturdy road sign that had been taken out was lying about 15 feet from our car.
But everyone was okay, and all the damage seemed to be superficial. After a long breather, the car in question turned around and headed back to Lahaina, at a more chastened speed, clearly.
It wasn’t until several hours later, when I finished my run, that I realized I didn’t have my wedding ring any longer. It is a wide gold band, substantial enough to have an intricate Haida carving in it that Joan chose when buying it. I wracked my brain to figure out when I had taken it off, and checked or beach bags, and the bathroom counter and the bedside table – any places that might possibly invite one to put down a ring. But I never take it off, and was genuinely puzzled. Then in one of those moments of epiphany, I realized that it had come off my finger when I tore myself out of the water at the beach.
The light of day was fading, but I knew the best thing would be to go back as quickly as possible and have a look, before the light died. In my favour was the fact that probably no one else would have been in the water since we left, the beach was that deserted. I went and looked, as carefully as I could, but the light was fading too fast, and I had to give up.
Back at our villa I found and washed out a diving mask to take with me the next morning. As soon as it was light, I was out at the beach, scouring the seabed where I was pretty sure I had been sitting in the water. The large rock I had been resting a hand on was distinctive. I tried looking through the diving mask, but it didn’t help, and actually the surface was smooth enough – no wind that early – that it didn’t make much difference. The ring wouldn’t necessarily have fallen off right next to the stone I was using for balance. In the violence of swinging my arm to get out of the water to make sure no one was hurt in the car accident, the ring could have flown quite a distance.
I hoped not. I gradually widened my search, methodically back and forth, gradually a few more feet out into slightly deeper water. I do have reasonably good eyes, and reading glasses do help. The seabed here consisted of a solid layer of small rocks and stones, mostly rounded, varying shades of gray and brown and white and black. It was actually a small bit of slightly duller rock that caught my attention. I was looking for something bright gold, but in the water, the carvings on the ring actually made the total effect of the ring’s appearance darker. I still wasn’t sure it was the ring. It was another three or four feet out. The care with which I stepped on the unsteady stones and slowly reached down was accompanied by holding my breath the whole time. It wasn’t till my face was right at water level that I was pretty sure it was my ring. I forced myself to extend my hand in slow motion, so that I didn’t dislodge it and send it down into the rock below. Success. Unbelievable. I stood up in the sunlight, breathing deeply, catching my breath. I could hardly believe how fast my heart was beating, how still and quiet the world was around me, in the midst of such private tumult.
Needless to say, breakfast was a happier affair than it would have been otherwise. Joan and I aren’t people who cherish “stuff”. But some stuff has more meaning than other.