The Pacific Ocean and I were not quick to become friends. I met her after arriving to my Maui hotel over Christmas in 1996. It was my first visit to the Hawaiian Islands, and there she was, looking energetic and calling me over. Or so I thought.
I was traveling with my good friend, Melissa, and her parents, and as soon as we dropped our bags off at our rooms, we went to explore the coastline. There, I fell in love, but she didn’t love me back. I dipped my bare toes in the salty water and stepped further in. Melissa and I were smiling, dazzled by the tropical paradise surrounding us and the vast beauty of the sea.
New to us also was the power of it. Her waves were forceful and tall, and she pulled like a bored dog on a tug-of-war rope. I was upright one moment and face-in-the-salt the next. Though I was a strong swimmer, there was no avoiding her grip. She had me by the ankle, pulling and dragging me across coral shards.
I righted myself, shocked and blood pumping out of a gash on my right ankle, when big local man from the hotel suddenly scooped me up into his arm. (My memory casts him in the role of Maui from Moana— muscly and bold). He carried me to a car, where he sent us off to the emergency clinic.
I got six stitches after they cleaned the sand out. It wasn’t so bad, really, except I wasn’t allowed to get the wound wet. So I had to wear a plastic sleeve-like thing secured around my foot to swim in the pool, and there would be no more ocean-dips for me. Welcome to Maui.
But somehow, I kept loving the ocean. I went back to her years later to kayak in San Diego, and she flipped me over again. This time, though, I got back in the kayak and tamed her. Now, kayaking is one of my favorite things in the world.
And right now, I’m supposed to be painting scenes of fall and maybe even winter, but all I hear is the sea calling. I’m imagining the power of the waves and the beauty from a safe, cozy spot in the sand. How do you feel about the ocean?