I live on a magical island. A secluded gem where stars twinkle in the clear blue skies, following storms that raged only the night before. These torrential upsets come to cleanse the island, leaving behind a beautiful, crisp, sparkling day for all island residents and visitors to marvel at. Then, when it is time for the island to sleep, the sun sets and leaves a crimson masterpiece, making it nearly impossible not to dream.
In the magical land of which I speak, the turtles crash against the shorelines, seeking their next meal of sea grass and algae. Residents who have been blessed to witness these beautiful creatures for decades, still marvel at the turtle’s resilience and beauty. People here swim with dolphins and surf and play in the water to their heart’s content. This island’s beauty and diversity is like no other place on earth. The picturesque scenery is accentuated by the volcano’s steam, which seeps into the air from deep within the earth, casting a billowy, dream-like haze on the land.
Yes, the land in which I live is as close to perfection as I believe a person can get. However, there is a secret about living here. While everyone is welcome, not everyone can stay. This is because the beautiful goddess, Pele, who created and rules the island, does not put up with anyone who wastes her time. So what is it that Pele wants? Why does she accept some with open arms and hurl others away so forcefully, they are often left to the streets in nothing but a shell of their former self?
It seems the island embraces a certain kind of individual. People who flourish here are generally creative, expressive, joyful, and compassionate. They lovingly give with no expectation to receive. They understand Pele and respect her land. They are true to themselves and are often drawn to the island to grow and flourish, but never to escape or profit. They fully appreciate the beauty here and rarely take it for granted. Yes, it takes a special kind of person to be blessed with the riches of Pele’s treasure.
I hope to be one of these special people. I often describe myself as a ‘baby’ on this island. Each day, I look around in wonder at the beautiful, soul-cleansing water, the tropical greenery, birds of all shapes and colors, and boats cascading across the glistening waters. Sometimes, spinner dolphins can be seen close behind. They occasionally leap out of the water, high into the air, and give a world-class show to their smitten guests. Giant manta rays glide to the surface of the water each night to partake in their plankton meals, allowing guests to watch or even swim with them. Fishermen cast their nets into the waters with a skill and expertise that clearly flows through their veins.
Although my time on the island has been brief, I am firm in my belief that this place contains some of the most unique and beautiful people on the planet. People in every color, shape, and size. Their dress is always casual and often creative. They express their creativity and individuality through avenues such as art, music, jewelry, and farming. They show Pele respect by picking up trash that floats upon her shores, volunteering in community fundraisers and projects, giving each other a hand at the grocery store, talking story with their neighbor, and in so many other ways. The people here all work for a common purpose. They are family. They care for one another like their own because the island is big, but it is also very small. The residents recognize the importance of extending love and generosity to their neighbors, since they may one day need it back.
Many people who come to this land are not accepted. Often, these are people who are seeking to fill a void and arrive with pain in their hearts. They want a place to ‘start over,’ and believe the island will care for them. This behavior is upsetting to Pele. She is a very determined Goddess and does not have time for humans who are not contributing to the growth of her beautiful land. She will not care for anyone who is not willing to care for her. Inevitably, these people befall some sort of misfortune and must leave. They are heartbroken.
I visited Madame Pele the other day. In our ongoing mission to learn every nook and cranny of the island, my family spent Labor Day exploring Volcanoes National Park. This is the place where Kilauea lies. Where the lava slowly spews out virgin earth amidst quiet onlookers, silenced by her power and grandeur. This is the place where Pele’s heart lies. Where she can sometimes be seen walking along the roads all in white. I peered across the sunken crater to the center of the volcano. I breathed in the beauty of this place. Where flowers that can be found nowhere else on the planet bloom. Where steam spews out from the heart of the earth and fills the sky. Where cleansing storms always bring a sparkling new day. I thanked Pele for allowing me to be her guest. I asked that I might make her proud. I hope I will stay.