I had a happy day a while ago, one of my all-too-rare local-girl barefoot days.
Growing up in Honolulu meant lazy days at Sandy Beach sunbathing with a girlfriend in matching red-and-white Tahitian-print bikinis. Or taking the bus to Waikiki for a hamburger and a swim with a friend whose parents belonged to the Outrigger Canoe Club, then a hole in the wall with a prime position on the beach. I'd come home tired, happy, utterly relaxed, with - thanks to my dear parents, a University of Hawaii professor and an elementary school principal - not a care in the world.
Some of that sense stole over me the day I decided to give myself four blissful hours at Keanae. The road was a marvel: overhanging monkeypods, banks of ginger, the voluptuous orange flowers of the African tulip tree lying wantonly on the ground.
I stopped first at the old landing near the foot of the bluffs on the northwest side of the peninsula. A derrick once stood there to load cargo for the community, recognizable from sea in the 1930s by "a yellowish church with a steeple" and a "lone coconut tree, well out on the point."
A black rock about 15 feet high lies west of the landing, and into that little bay, I was told, 27 dolphins came in to sport that morning. I paused to savor the beauty of the sparkling sea - too rough that day for me to venture into - and headed down a curve in the road to Chang's Pond.
I threaded down the rocky path to the pond and found a trail to a vantage point overlooking the falls, my own private paradise. Concealed by heart-shaped ape leaves nodding their pretty heads in the breeze, lulled by the rush of the stream, I lay down and napped. Napped!
Two local guys appeared and the air filled with a heated conversation in pidgin before they dive-bombed into the pond from the bridge, a fine old thing, narrow, built of concrete, its underbelly visible from the rocks below. It's one of the 54 bridges on the 50-mile "belt road" (with its 161 turns) that opened formally in 1926, connecting Peahi with Hana.
All was quiet when I awoke, so I stole down the trail and dove into the pond's chill waters, cool, oh so cool. I swam through a little rocky gorge to the falls before the current pushed me back. A smooth, rocky seat lies hidden under the falls, but it takes the strong arms of fellow swimmers to hold a person in position so I floated back out into the main body of the pond.
A pack of tourists arrived, and they stared at me in wonder as I slid through the water. "You look as if you're encased in glass," one said, awed by the crystalline blue of the pond.
I basked on the rocks like a lizard, until the tourists left and a haole guy with long hair and red trunks flung first his slippers and then himself from the bridge. I climbed back to my lookout.
The drive back was golden. Not one but two slow-moving cars driven by visitors behaved courteously and pulled off the road when I nosed up behind. The familiar swath of coastline near Haiku came into view, the broad sweep of mountain to sea, a beautiful ribbon of road my route into town. How fortunate are we who live here.
A small miracle awaited in the parking lot at Mana - an actual space for once! - how long has it been since that happened? A burly gray-haired man from Rancho Mirage, Calif., and his wife pulled in next to me and spotted something in an empty shopping cart. "You look like you live here," he said. (Swimming suit, pareu, sunburn, Dalai Lama on Maui 2007 baseball cap, how could he tell?) "Do you want this?" It was a treasure, a green papaya tipped in gold, round and fat.
"I don't care for them too much," the man smiled. "My friend likes them, but he's five and a half hours away."
It was so precious, this day of small delights. Some time off, some silence, and the company of Mother Maui.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.