Hawaiian Moonlight Ride
During the busy holiday season we tend
to overlook the gifts that lie right before our eyes. The blessings of aloha
are all around us. They are in the hearts of our people and in the
spectacular beauty of our island. Taking a break from our time-consuming
lives to truly appreciate what surrounds us can often seem unaffordable. Yet
in fact, it is something we cannot afford to miss. From the back of my
favorite horse Mina, I recently had a chance to experience the bountiful
gifts of Oahu.
After a long afternoon of shoeing
horses from Maunawili to Punalu’u, I decided it was finally time to take a
deep breath of fresh mountain air as my work had taken its toll on both body
and soul. I turned my truck toward Waimanalo and headed for the ranch. On
the drive through the country, I gazed out over the ocean where the sea and
sky joined in perfect harmony. The promise of a majestic moonrise beckoned
to my heart. I decided to observe all this in a more soothing position than
that in my worn-out pickup truck. After two cold sodas, and the morning’s
leftover Agnes’ sweet-dog, I pulled my tired Dodge into the gravel drive
of New Town and Country Stables.
As I stepped into the quiet of the
evening, I heard my old friend Mina come from behind the shade trees to
greet me. I moved toward the pasture gate to acknowledge her welcome as her
elegant neck arched over my shoulder, hopeful for a few strokes. Her breath
was perfumed of local cane grasses and her eager spirit was soaring like the
evening trade winds. Mina’s persistent nudging confirmed my own quiet idea
of a moonlight trail ride. A few moments later, I had my dappled mare
lightly bridled and ready to ease out of the stable.
I wanted to take advantage of the light
provided on this breezy tropical night as the full moon was just beginning
to rise over the Mokulua Islands. The moon caressed the Waimanalo surf and
vast Pacific Ocean with exotic hues of color that flowed endlessly across
the sky. Wisps of orange, red and yellow filtered through the fading rays of
sunlight. The silhouettes of birds were visible against the night sky as
they flew toward home.
As Mina briskly trotted onto the trail,
I could feel how free and relaxed her shoulders moved. I eased into the
center of her back as she comfortably carried her head low to the ground.
Her strong hind legs urged our forward motion up the trail ridge. Yellow
mountain guavas lay scattered on the ground, their aroma floating like an
ocean breeze. The ride up the trail was breathtaking, high above holiday
shopping traffic jams and hurrying bargain shoppers. Mina’s tail swished
away at fairy gnats while my spirit found solace in the cool night air.
Gaining elevation on the trail, I
turned to look over my shoulder at the beauty below. The once
immigrant-worked lands of the Waimanalo Sugar Company now provided a place
of rest and recreation at Bellows Air Force Base. Unmarked immigrant graves
and deteriorated runways memorialize days long-gone. Across the road,
Waimanalo Polo fields were now quiet as the current season had finally
ended. The remaining horses were settled in behind long rows of pipe railing
where they softly munched sweetened feeds. Favorite local shops, Point
Break, Sumo Connection and Naturally Hawaiian, had shut down for the night
and were now able to recuperate after the holiday shopping rush. It seemed
that Olomana Golf Course had gratefully reclaimed her composure, and was
finally free to recover from the day’s aggravations. Even from my elevated
vantage point, I felt in touch with the stillness of her quiet greens.
Mina moved cautiously to the side as
she maneuvered past a massive hau tree with its interwoven branches and
tangled vines. The intricate twists and turns seemed to have neither
beginning nor end. For just a moment the mesmerizing pattern conjured
childhood nostalgia and stories my father once told of Menehune running
through the mysterious forest.
The moon’s power and grace at its
fullest would be discovered at the peak of the incline. Mina’s sturdy back
legs urged our motion up the trail ridge as her strong shoulders directed us
forward. Evening stars danced through a canopy of shower trees and jungle
foliage. Waving palms and swaying vines welcomed us into a mystic Hawaiian
Mina pressed on through age-old lava
beds that silently concealed the secrets of past warriors. Mongoose burrows
and wild boar trails were hints of Nature’s frolic. Hypnotic clouds
drifted over Oahu’s immense, deeply carved cliff walls. A refreshing
evening mist cooled my sun-beaten body. Together with my old gray mare, I
inhaled the breathtaking scenery. I felt my lungs fill with pure, mountain
air as the island seemed to relax with a deep breath of its own.
As we reached the trail’s end, Mina
slowed her stride and lifted her head into the cool night air. I slid from
her back down to the lush mountain grass. My fingers stroked the warmth of
her back as a cool trade wind swept through her mane and tail. I felt myself
comforted by the delicate mixture of mountain and equine scents. For a
moment we must have both been lost in the peaceful tranquility. I closed my
eyes to enjoy what lay before our thirsty souls.
The grandeur of the Ko‘olaus awed my
thoughts. Deeply etched and chiseled angles boasted the skillful
architecture of a Master Creator leaving no doubt of His existence. My own
existence, by comparison, felt as no more than a faint whisper on the wind.
Tucked away behind this scenic ridge
lay the fruit of a farmer’s diligent labor. Taro patches and vertical rows
of banana trees revealed themselves as works of art from this bird’s-eye
view. For this generation, at least, it remains securely nestled in the back
of Waimanalo country, flanked gallantly by Mount Olomana.
An artist’s pallet of purple and blue
reflections brushed over landscapes of ancient grounds below. Deep green
pangola grasses caressed the mountainside as if soothing the land to
slumber. We stayed until dark, watching an arch of brilliant stars surround
the moon in cosmic wonder. God’s amazing grace was displayed from that
mountaintop in an open-air gallery.
A haunting wind howled through the
forests that warriors had once hunted. Mina’s silky gray coat appeared
translucent, almost ghostly. Her huge fluid eyes mirrored the shimmering
moon, parallels of iridescent surf, and dancing palms in a dark panorama.
With ears perked toward bellowing winds, she stood in a youth that had long
since passed her by. As a pueo flew overhead, I felt my own spirit renewed,
made one with her and this island.
Reunited with horse and nature, my mind
was cleansed with a new clarity. Pivoting her haunches, we began our slow
descent. I watched Mina’s shoulder’s mechanically rotate as she
sure-footedly carried me down the red dirt trail. Pushing myself back to
provide her with better ease of movement, I
found myself in perfect unison. Homeward bound, Mina needed no
navigation and gladly accepted all her rein.
Glimmering lights from Waimanalo
homes, and cars cruising the cooled asphalt of Kalanianaole Highway
lit our destination home. Guarding the sandy shores, sturdy ironwood
trees lined the 4-mile stretch of
coastal highway. Makapu’u lighthouse stood like a pillar of
strength offering her bearing to ships passing through the Molokai Channel.
In the midst of it all, Rabbit Island seemed lulled to sleep like a giant
hare collapsed in the Waimanalo tides.
My heart felt lighter as the cattle
pens came into sight. This spiritual renewal had nourished the very core of
my being. I felt the moon had extended its energy and revived every part of
my body. Familiar scents of pine shavings and alfalfa cubes blanketed
me in warmth. Mina tossed her head back as if to say, “I needed this,
too.” Turning her loose, I watched as she cantered off on the gently
sloped pasture as if she were a yearling once again.
I have realized that it only takes
moments to appreciate the generosity of Nature, be it an island’s
sweet-smelling trade winds, the simple comfort of moonlight, or the beauty
and grace of an old gray mare.