The scent of thick, tropical flowers, fire in the night, wild rain and the crashing sea fill my memory so vividly when I think about Hawaii, these smells become almost visible. My mother had won a trip to Maui because she was a State Farm Insurance Agent, and she chose to bring along my little sister, Maisy, and me. When I stepped off the American Airlines plane for the first time three years ago, I received leis and smiles. A bus took us to our next location, the Grand Wailea Resort, where a bubbling fountain full of Koi marked the entrance. The first few days continued this pattern of stunning vacation experiences. At that time, I was moderately excited and amazed by the island in general, but the crowning moment of the trip came towards the end, when we went snorkeling on Captain Steve’s Rafting Adventure, an ‘adventure’ that changed my views forever.
Hawaii has this essence to it, a sensation impossible to describe: like all nature is in balance. This yin and yang feeling was strong as we rode out onto the open ocean in a little crimson boat, with the sun sparkling in a cloudless sky and the darkness of the depths below. The thrilling voices of Maisy and me could be heard over the motor. Then, the boat stopped, and with it, all noise. We finally got a chance to dive into the quiet, reef-dusted world underwater. Our eyes opened in sheer, silent wonder at the whirl of colors and life flowing like bright ribbons below the surface of the sea.
We were paddled around in delight when suddenly, gracefully, almost mournfully, out of the indigo abyss beyond the reef rose the moon-shaped form of a wild Green Sea Turtle. A marvel, so fluid it seemed a part of the liquid surrounding it, the beast moved until its sharp, shining gaze could survey me calmly. The turtle was so close I could see my own awed face reflected within its eye. It glided to the surface and, after a quick breath, it turned. Surprisingly fast for such a calm creature, it returned to the deep. As our shock wore off, my sister snapped a photo of it disappearing with an underwater camera.
We had nothing to say when we returned to the boat, but it was a companionable silence. The rest of the trip was an education in admiration. After the encounter, I spent the remainder of my time in Hawaii building symbolic connections of human and animal in the sand, like my sister as a mermaid, right next to a sculpture of the turtle inspired by my experience. For me, morals and values had abruptly changed. Before, I had loved animals, but never really been dedicated enough to do more with my interest than that. Hawaii made me realize the definition of the word beauty, and how it could all vanish.
Once, sightings of turtles were abundant, but that experience of mine might be something my children could possibly never have. Species that are endangered are at a critical point, at a moment when one action could make the difference for each of them between their story becoming one of hope and success, or one of irreparable loss. Now, because of that trip, I plan to devote the rest of my own life, fighting, so animals can keep theirs, because life, not just human life but all of it, is like the beat of the heart of the world.
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