The seas effects on me are greatest when I’m alone. I imagine it’s because I am in a more heightened state and can more prominently feel that energy that pulses through everything. That energy that is neither fixed nor permanent. That energy that holds in its realms the possibility of both creation and destruction. That energy that exists beyond time, molds all that we see, and drinks our prayers.
It’s a pure power that can get so easily muddled on this planet of people.
And each time I set sail I feel a deep trepidation. Like I’m trespassing into the secrets of the sea and if I am not careful, I will get caught and the wind and the waves will swallow me in a rush of screams.
Then the sea will spit out my skeleton on some desolate shore without even the blessing of a flower or a shell in my honor. And nobody will cry, because nobody will know, except for the sea which is too wild and rambunctious in its wanderings to care.
Things that are wild don’t care that bones are sacred. That bones disintegrate in sunlight and should only be excavated under the night. That bones hold the power of life.
Hawaiian’s know this. They call bones iwi and believe that they contain a persons mana (spirit or life force). After remains are cleansed by fire, bones are wrapped in a cloth woven from trees, and buried either on land or at sea.
I hitchhiked with an archeologist the other day. He works with the bones of the long dead that are found on construction sites in Kaua’i.
“Do spirits linger around you?” I asked.
He looked like a musician high on an impossible dream. He had long hair, his car was filled with marijuana smoke, and rap music was playing loud on his radio. He and I communicated by shouting above it.
“No, because each day after work I cleanse myself with the sea, just like they did in the old days,” he screamed.
The cleansing practice he is referring to is called pikai. It’s a ritual sprinkling of seawater to purify a person from spiritual contamination. Pikai can be used after a canoe has been built, during childbirth, at the end of a woman’s mensuration cycle, during a boys circumcision, etc.
It also eliminates helpless feelings and the fear of something. I should practice pikai before I sail, perhaps it will ease my mind as I wander in the energy of the sea.
I wonder what leads me to keep doing something that can make my heart howl and cackle and cry? That can make me petrified until I am a stony substance that shouts prayers into the clouds of the sky.
“Holy Wings of the Heavens, have mercy upon me! Take my first born and feed it to the fish, have my tomorrow, just give me one more today!”
I suppose it’s because out at sea, where I can predict nothing— where I am stirred and shaken— a strength is gained. And that strength is electrifying. So electrifying, that the risk of dying is worth sacrificing.
It is not the type of strength that inflates my ego and feeds it fruits straight from the vine. On the contrary, it is a strength that destroys any false bubble of air within me and feeds my soul and subconscious with some spiritual spitfire that empties me out.
That’s why I love the sea, it empties me out. It empties me out, washes away my confusion, and leaves its lessons lingering on my skin. Afterwards, I dry out into my new shape like a drop of water absorbed by the sun of high noon.
I then become a harmonic current crashing into all that is, and all that is crashes into me. Together we sing, me and everything.
How does the sea do it? I am not sure. That is the power of the sea, forever a moving mystery… moving mystery…moving mystery.
Ko Olina Sunset Chant
*Traditional Hawaiian chant for the setting sun*
The sun is descending
Dusk is approaching
The descending at the root of Lehua
At the horizon
Greetings, O heavenly foundation
Greetings, O foundation of the world
Chilled to the bone I am.
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