Friday, January 17, 2020

20/20 Revision: Re-learning to See


A word of many meanings. It can be the act of seeing the physical world.

Or the ability to see into the future.  I usually can't predict what I'm having for lunch, let alone what's going to happen next year, or even next week.

Another definition, according to Webster's, is to imagine. My ability to imagine has been working at a slow speed lately. Sometimes it stops working altogether.

Then there is this, the last definition--"something seen; a lovely sight."

This is Maui, where my husband and I spent five days before Christmas, celebrating out 30th anniversary. Five days of "lovely sights." If you've never been, this place can be a shock to your senses. A carnival of color. Stark contrasts--lava fields and Jurassic Park lushness. Rainbows appearing from nowhere...then disappearing.
Perfect (for me) weather--75 degrees every day with soft breezes. Go to the top of a dead volcano, and it's 38 degrees and I don't even want to guess the wind chill.

We snorkeled. Getting up close and personal with the Yellow Tang and Rainbow Butterfly Fish is my idea of nirvana.

Under the sea--da-da-da-da-da!
 We lucked into arriving the first day of whale watching season. Our guide warned us that we might not see anything this so early, but we did!  Whales arcing over the ocean, slapping their mighty tails, the marine mammal mating call. Whale watching was Craig's idea; I was just along for the ride. But I'm so glad I did.
Whale watching with total strangers.

Maui is a great place to stargaze. The island tries to keep light pollution to a minimum. So much so, that driving unfamiliar roads at night is not a good idea, they are so sparsely lit. We signed on for a "star watch tour" at the top of Haleakala, the highest point on the island. We climbed into a van with six other tourists and our sprightly seventy-something ex-hippie guide and wound our way to the top of Haleakala, a dead volcano.

Talk about visions! The late afternoon lit up canyons and craters, a cross between the Grand Canyon in on direction, and the surface of the moon in the other. Gazing down to the ocean and small towns was the kind of view you get from a plane. A 10,000 ft elevation will do that. It's another world up there.
Me on the moon (Haleakala)

 Craig and I chuckled at the instructions to wear sweats and heavy socks and that we would be given wind suits.  We stopped laughing when we got out of the van at the summit, and were blasted with 30 mph winds. We jumped into those wind suits, gratefully accepted our guide's offer of hot chocolate and Christmas cookies, and snuggled into camp chairs to watch the sun slowly sink into the Pacific. We also snickered as other tourists pulled into the parking lot to take sunset pictures, only to discover that shorts and flip-flops really weren't a good idea. I wonder how their pictures turned out...people shivering, shoulders hunched to their ears, hair whipping their faces, screaming "Take the picture, I'm freezing!"
That's the Pacific at the top of the shot

Darkness fell. Even without the guide's huge portable telescope, the sky lit up with stars and planets. Who knew you could see Saturn without a telescope? And there were all the constellations I've read about, but could never pick out for myself. Despite the wind and the cold (and my wind pants that kept falling down) I could've stayed up there forever. But the clouds rolled in, above and below us. Time to go, while our driver could still negotiate the endless switchbacks. A fantasy ride through the clouds. The van's radio faded in and out of a classic rock station. Suddenly, The Beatles "Something" came through loud and clear, our senior ex-hippie driver singing harmony. We rolled down, down through the clouds in our warm magic bus, like a waking dream. Back to the meeting point where is was still 75 degrees, with gentle breezes and no clouds.

So you, you say, you had a nice vacation. So what does this have to do with writing.

Its the "vision thing" as a former president once said. All of these thing existed, but we had to choose to see them. We were with other tourists on all our excursions. While we were snorkeling, others chose to sit in the shade and bitch that there were no soft drinks, just water. On the whale watching cruise, people complained that it was overcast, and they couldn't take pictures of the sunset. And of course, there were those ill-prepared people at Haleakala, focused only getting a picture before they froze, not even looking at the sunset behind them.

There is always something to observe if we so choose.  No, I can't hop over to Maui when I want to refresh my vision. But I can choose to take a closer look, right where I am, even in suburban Atlanta. There are people to observe, flowers to discover, the variety of ways that rain can fall.

And on those days when nothing seems interesting, nothing sparks my eye, I can remember that the sun and moon and Venus are always in the sky, even when I can't see them.
And so aloha to our 50th state.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Carmela Martino said...

Great post, MA! Thanks for the reminder to choose to observe!
Congratulations on your anniversary. So glad you celebrated in such a marvelous way.

David McMullin said...

Lovely. Even in a familiar place we can choose to look more deeply. But it is nice to find a beautiful beach or volcano every once in a while.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Mary Ann ~

Your writing, as always, knocks me out. Here's what struck me:

•"My ability to imagine...[S]sometimes...stops working altogether."
•"we had to choose to see them"
•"And on those days when nothing seems interesting, nothing sparks my eye, I can remember that the sun and the moon and Venus are always in the sky, even when I can't see them."

What a beautiful wrap-up sentence. Thanks, always.