Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Waking Up in the House of the Sun - Haleakala
Haleakala means "House of the Sun" in Hawaiian and it's the name of Maui's resident volcano and the mountain that surrounds it. When Kanoe suggested that we wake up and see the sunrise from Haleakala, I balked a little. Here's the thing: although it's on a tropical island, it's a tall, tall mountain and the temperature at the peak is much cooler than the temp at the shore. If you go, you need to dress warmly and wake up early. Really early. 3 am early. Therefore, not all of us went -- who wants to wear scarves and mittens on a beach holiday??
For those of us who wanted a different kind of Maui experience, however, the lure of a magical sunrise was hard to pass up. Armed with coffee and a map, blankets and beach towels, Kendra and took off at 3:27 am with four sleepy kids in the back. The drive is fairly long because there's no direct road from where we were staying in Kihei to Haleakala, so it took about an hour and 45 minutes to get up there. The hairpin turns wind and twist up the mountain, and we we had to stop a few times because Emme was carsick. Furthermore, it's hard to see what's around you because it's so dark. But the stars... in the deep black of the sky, the stars look like diamonds sprinkled on an inky canvas.
By the time we finally parked, the faint glimmer of first light was starting to shimmer across the sky. We found spots along the observation deck and waited behind other sleepy tourists, everyone with cameras held up to the light, waiting.
Something about the experience reminded me of yoga, especially the morning meditations that I do on retreat in Ojai, sitting cross-legged in front of a window that looks out over the Topa Topa Mountains, the red sunlight of the rising sun warming my face. I had to get over the annoying feeling of people pushing to see past me, the loud clicks and whirrs of cameras behind and next to me, the cold of my fingers as I fumbled with my own touch screen camera. Kanoe and I giggled about the crazy get-ups of the people around us, as well as my blanket cape and his Taliban-inspired burka.
But when I finally quieted myself down and just observed, I was struck by the movement of the clouds over the mountains. Like the waves crashing over coral reefs ten-thousand feet down at sea level, the puffy clouds pushed themselves slowly up and over the rocky cliffs below us, changing form and disappearing and then tumbling back up again. It was spectacular and mesmerizing, something that my camera couldn't capture, either on video or in still pictures, though I took dozens of photos.
After awhile, the kids begged to get out of the cold. On the way to the car, so we stopped to snap a few more pictures. Then, as we turned toward the parking lot, a cheer roared up from the crowds so we ran back to see what was the fuss.
The sun! It rose, as it always has, over the horizon, over the house of the sun. The burnished orange globe bobbed up, sizzling into the island sky, worthy of a gasp and a cheer. There it was, a reminder of newness and fresh starts and the infinite gifts of a new day.
To say that it was worth the trouble - the suitcase real estate for jackets, the long drive up and back, the sleep deprivation, the carsickness - is an understatement. Sol invictus, the invincible sun. It shouldn't have taken a trip to Maui to see something that is there for me every day, every morning of my life. But I'm thrilled that it did. Now that I've been to the house of the sun, I am recharged, glowing with radiance.
All hail Haleakala.