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Saturday, August 11, 2007

The still Hawai'ian night

It happens every time I'm here.

It amazes me every time.

This is my fourth visit to Hawai'i - my first in the summer. I'm surprised at the mild weather. It's actually more comfortable than some summer days in New Jersey.

Mostly, I've been here in February or March to visit my friend Rob. The airfares are much more affordable, and it's a great way to prepare for Lent.

The climate then is very much like the mild temperatures of a New England summer. There's a gentle rain in the morning and perhaps in the afternoon which appears as the sun continues to shine.

It's as if The Creator God is also The Sacred Gardner, carefully tending to the beauty of Paradise with a gentle spritz of water. A magnificent rainbow - or two - usually appears right after the rain stops.

I figure it's just Mother Nature's way of giving thanks to God. And, maybe, just maybe, showing off a little (I mean, can you blame her, really?).

It's funny, but you get used to it.

I remember the very first time I came here. Rob drove me home from the airport, and as I got out of the car and looked out from the carport, I saw the most breathtaking view of Diamond Head with two - count them, two - vibrant, beautiful rainbows.

I gasped and said, "Oh, Rob, look! It's beautiful!"

Rob looked, expressionless, at the vista before us and deadpanned, "Yeah, that's the second one today. There'll be a few more before the day is over. Don't worry. You'll get used to it."

Part of that is just Rob's sense of humor ("He's an acquired taste," someone said to me yesterday. She now loves him as much as I do.). Another part is that, unfortunately, is true.

I always get excited when I see my first rainbow on my return visit here. Two days later, I simply call out from the back seat, "Oh, look! A rainbow." Everyone looks up, smiles and renders silent approval, but no one gasps or applauds the way we all do when we first arrive.

And yet, it continues. Boundlessly. Effortlessly. Endlessly. Reminds me of the introduction to the song,
"Pennies from Heaven." ('A long time ago / A million years BC / The best things in life /Were absolutely free. . . .') Listen to it when you have a chance. The song will make much more sense to you then.

Perhaps this is the reason I am now more astounded by the Hawai'ian night.

I've never slept in air conditioning while in Hawai'i. Don't need it. Just open a few windows or a sliding glass door and the gentle trade winds will come in and caress you and cool you all through the night.

Except, there is always this time . . . this moment . . . when everything is suddenly still. I always awaken - even out of a sound sleep - to hear it.

Yes, that's right. I awaken to hear the silence.

It happens sometime between two and four AM. Suddenly, I'm aware that there is no breeze. I feel mildly uncomfortable with the heat, but certainly not enough to awaken a peaceful sleep.

It's the silence that arouses me from the depths of my sleep and interrupts my dreams. It's the fullest, loudest silence I have ever heard.

Everything is still. I can not discern even the slightest movement of air.

The silence, I have discovered, is full of expectancy. I half-wait for a sound. Dare I say it? A voice. Or, at least a very loud thought.

Sometimes, it comes. Once, I heard a gentle, loving voice say, "Go back to sleep, now." And I did. Instantly. And slept, as they say in Ghana, "Like a foolish man."

Once, I heard a segment of a sentence that didn't have any logic, rhyme or reason. At least, in that moment. Later that week, I was in a situation and found that I was using those very words as part of a sentence that was enormously helpful. I was deeply, deeply grateful for the gift that came to me that night.

Mostly, though, there is simply silence - the kind with a deep, peaceful beauty we rarely get to experience in our post-modern, chaotic lives. The only response is to sit silently, reverently.

And, when it ends, to give thanks and praise to God for the sacred gift it is.

It is the sort of stillness of which I suspect God first spoke to Moses, the prophets and the psalmist: "Be still and know that I am God."

It is, I suspect, an earthly experience of "the peace of God which passes all human understanding."

It is like that picture at the top of this post. In case you didn't recognize it, that is a sunflower, waiting to bloom. It is vibrantly green, full and ripe and ready to open to face life with new life. You can feel the energy, almost detect the movement as you look on it in this moment, and yet it is perfectly still.

We can not possibly tell the amazing beauty that is about to burst forth, except we know that it will. Perhaps this is why there is so much natural beauty here - because of this stillness - this expectant waiting - this moment to pause and give glory to God for all of creation.

I love the long, wonderful days of outrageously abundant beauty here in Hawai'i. It is the stillness of the Hawai'ian night, however, that will keep me coming back - even if only in the memories of my heart.

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