We flew into Hana on my sixty-sixth birthday.
The ten-seater plane lurched and bounced a bit in the winds as it rose over Kahalui, but soon glided smoothly along the coastline of eastern Maui heading south to Hana. I peered through the window of the plane as we flew beneath the volcano Haleakala, the green pastures clothing her flanks, the skies framing her summit in a pale misty blue.
The outskirts of Kahalui were soon left behind as we sped alongside the black rock cliffs, mantled in green, and descended to a single runway that parted the rich rain forests of Hana.
It is good to be back in Hana, the setting of my novel Hana-lani. It is summer here, the temperatures slightly higher than winter, the humidity weighing softly against my skin. The hotel greeted us with juice and cold cloths and soon we were riding in a cart, bouncing along the winding path through grassy gardens toward the sea. I climbed the stairs of our cottage, entered, crossed to the back veranda fenced with wire and green posts, a nod to the ranch hands’ cottages in the past. Once this hotel had been part of Hana Ranch. Today it is called Hotel Travaasa, owned and given new life by an investment group from Denver.
From the veranda I looked out over the swathe of freshly mowed grass to palms and foliage bordering the shore, and beyond to the crashing sea. The sound of the sea rushing and pounding reflected my heartbeat, as though the sea and I shared the same pulse. The rise and fall of the waves, their gentle rearing to reveal their opalescent underbellies, their bubbling white froth donned like like a lacy lei, their final fall onto the shore, their orchestral movement of sight and sound, mirrored my own ebb and flow, my own movement of body and soul, my own life blood.
It is as though my sixty-six years rolled with the waters, as though I sailed on an ark of time. But even before my sixty-six years, I sailed in my mother’s womb for nine months as my father pastored his first church in Fresno. The heat was suffocating that summer, my mother says, and I believe her. Fresno sits in California’s great agricultural basin, summers are warm, and in 1947 there was no air-conditioning.
My mother was twenty-seven, young and beautiful. Photos show a Queen Elizabeth twin, brunette curls, regular features, broad smile, slim build. She was at the time an enthusiastic Christian, with a Masters in Christian Education from Biblical Seminary in New York. When I was born, and the doctor announced I was a girl, she cried out “Another girl for the mission field!” Some thought she was delirious, since I was the first-born.
My sixty-six years have been, like most folks’ time on this earth, marked with tragedy and triumph, grief and joy, hard times and good times. Through it all, except for a few wayward college years, I have belonged to God and God has belonged to me.
Those college years were, as I look back, difficult ones, dry ones, years of drifting and despair. But finally I returned to the one who makes sense of our lives, our loves, our wrong turns. I am today grateful for that return to belief at the age of twenty, for the grace to believe, thankful to C. S. Lewis for his Mere Christianity, giving me the tools of a reasonable faith.
And so it is also with supreme gratitude to God that my recent novel about the nature of reasonable faith, what is true and what isn’t, what happened that first Easter morning when Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ, is now published, my characters free to breathe deeply their first breaths, traveling up from each page.
There is a “leap” of faith, I believe, usually made in all belief, but this leap is more of a baby step. It is merely, simply, an openness to God’s grace working inside. Once I took that baby step, once I opened my mind, heart, and soul, redemption was allowed and I could see. And of course, sanctification continues with each minute, hour, day, week, month, year, with each sacrament and prayer…. until we step into the other world that is the real world, our earthly world a merely pale reflection.
We see, as St. Paul says, through a glass darkly. But we see a clearer vision of God in the Jesus of history.
On my birthday, I am thankful for all of this.
(PS: Posted from the hotel library, the only place to get an Internet signal…)