After It Rains
When I was a child, my family lived right next to the ocean. My father, my mother, my brother, and I lived in a white two-bedroom house on Kaneohe Bay. The beach house was right off the scenic Kamehameha Highway, which wraps around the quiet North and East sides of the island of Oahu. It is a beautiful place in a beautiful place, where the verdurous Ko'olau Mountains rise majestically at the edge of Kaneohe, making its boundaries the tall green mountains and the deep blue sea. The waters of Kaneohe Bay hold transfixing properties. Other beaches of Hawaii are beautiful, such as Lanikai, which possesses the type of beauty that makes tourists and locals alike fall in love...the calm blue-green waters and the fine, fine white sand. But the ocean of Kaneohe belongs to those who cherish it—it is the ocean that we love, and it is the ocean that loves us back. Like a doting parent, its water holds secrets in wonderment until you are ready to receive the revelation. The revelation falls like light rain, a grace that is unrepresented in the manmade world. Whereas the graceful seas of Lanikai might be an impossibly irresistible seductress that deep down, you know can never be owned; Kaneohe Bay is your own.
As a wide-eyed and light-footed young girl, the sea whispered to me as its waves softly lapped up on the shore. My earliest childhood memories consist of waking up eagerly and running outside with my brother to play on or near the ocean. Left to ourselves, we could spend each and every day swimming, kayaking, fishing, or making up our own games near the shallow warm water. I would spend every single minute that I could spend in or around the water.
As it turned out, my favorite times became the times after it rained. After the rain passed, the water was clear as glass when we would look down, but a perfect reflection of the clouds and sky from the shore. Kaneohe Bay is beautiful at all times: a natural, unadulterated beauty. But looking across the Bay on a calm glassy day, even in my mind, still elicits the transcendence of an irrepressible peace. It is breathtaking, and I always thought that it is what catching a glimpse of a bridge to Heaven might be like. After it rains, when the water is as flat as a mirror, there is no visible horizon, except for a small, flat, green island in the near distance.
Since we were not allowed to play outside in the rain, my brother and I would run, skip, or hop outdoors the second it stopped. When the smell of the rain still lingered, we would head out in a kayak or just wade around in the water with bare feet. We could barely contain our glee. After the rain, all the creatures would come out, the wonders of Kaneohe Bay on display. I could clearly see every small patch of scruffy brown seaweed strewn about the amber-brown sand, and every fish darting about. There is any unknown manner of creatures in the bay. When we were still for a just a second, and quiet, the life came out. Through the clear, calm water, they were all there: the fish—angelfish, trumpetfish, parrotfish, goatfish, squirrelfish, stickfish, rubbishfish, pufferfish, tiny little fish, fast fish—and sometimes even dark purple octopus, small cupcake-sized jellyfish, small hammerhead sharks. I thought of various situations that would cause everyone to come out after it rained. The best that I could figure at the time was that the fish were doing the same thing my brother and I were doing—coming out to celebrate after the rain was over. Maybe they wanted to see the sky clearer through the crystal water, I could never figure it out on my own, but I at least knew to count on the fish coming out after it rained.
We moved from the Beach House when I was eight and then subsequently moved to a bunch of different places. The other houses were fine, I guess, but they were not Beach Houses. I never forgot about the days of running around with little red scoop nets, walking out at low tide, or lying on the dock at night, looking at the stars amid the cool, salty breeze. All of us were affected in some way by leaving the house: my father got angrier, my mother got meeker, my brother grew emotionally distant, as so many boys do. As for me, through the years I physically distanced myself from them all so I could try to make it back somehow to the days of the Beach House. Like so many other young adults, I loved my mother and father, but I felt in some way that I was beyond them, I understood things about the world that they did not even think to observe. The things they said were old-fashioned and uninformed, and my impatience was often obvious when I spent too much time with them.
Years later, when I was visiting home as an adult, I was sitting on the carpet of my parents' living room when my father and I started reminiscing about those Beach House days. When I moved from away from Hawai'i, those days were all I thought about. My father talked about them as any other bygone days. He was saying how he could not even really remember us kids from those days because he was always so busy working.
"Oh man! That house, that house was the best." I needed to talk about it with someone who was there.
"You know what was the best?" It was more of a rhetorical question.
My dad turned from the tv. We were watching some local fishing show while my mom was in the kitchen cutting some fresh fruit. I was glad to be visiting with my parents, but their home was hot. My neck and the backs of my legs grew sticky from sitting on the carpet in the humidity.
"After it rained, when all the fish would come out? I mean, not just fish, but everything. The water was so flat and so clear."
His eyes smiled, but his mouth didn't. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I just...I remember that I never really knew what was out there until after it rained, when all the fish, the eels, the snails, everything...they would all come out." My eyes have a bad habit of welling with tears when I am impassioned about something, and they betrayed my passion here.
Here, dad laughed. "Ahh...I think you've misunderstood," his twinkling eyes foreshadowed a revelation. Mom brought out the rich and fragrant orange mango, cut along the seed, scored, and inverted. Also, a papaya cut in half, its red-orange flesh scraped clean of black wrinkly seeds. The fragrance of these fruits was intoxicating, there were like ambrosia served for the Prodigal Child. I do not eat enough foods like this, I thought to myself. She offered these to me with an ice cold glass of water and a silver spoon.
"The fish. The sea cucumbers. The eels. The starfish. They're always there, you know." How he could dispel this longstanding fantasy from my childhood without bursting into laughter, I will never understand.
More tears were welling up. I still cannot understand why this happens to me.
If I had said something here, it would have been something along the lines of a question mark. As it so often does in Kaneohe, a light rain began drizzling down from above.
"They're always there," dad calmly explained to me, "it's just that after it rains, it's easier for you to see what's out there."