Wednesday, March 17, 2010


A friend from schooldays returned recently with his wife from a couple weeks in Maui, which started off a series of reflections upon my own visit there in 1971.

Compared with today the island was still relatively undeveloped for tourism. Surfers from L.A. converged upon Lahaina annually, and returned with stories of an undeveloped beach area near Makena, a huge tract of land owned by the Matson Navigation Corporation. 

Word got around, and soon there were a couple hundred California hippies camped on Black Sands Beach. We lived naked and slept under the stars, boiled our brown rice and green tea over campfires on the beach, enjoyed the fruit which fell down from the trees, and took turns fetching fresh water from a well on the Makena Road. We scorned alcohol as stupid-making, took psychedelics instead, snorkeled, meditated, exchanged life-stories with complete strangers at the evening campfire.

It proved one of the most educational experiences of my life, worth at least two years of grad school, with no tuition costs. I learned that white people turn brown as a berry when left out in the sun all day. I learned that sexual attraction is not such a big issue when nobody has any clothes on. I learned that people will almost automatically form tribes and live communally by instinct, if left to their own devices. And I learned that inwardly it feels completely right to go to bed an hour after the sun goes down and rise with the sun in the morning, and that you learn to avoid buried kiawe thorns subconsciously when you run around barefoot at the edge of the beach. 

My two months on Maui were probably the best of my life, amplified in my imagination no doubt by the infallible judgment of the righteously ripped. It was a holy space, and I decided to protect it by never going back. I wrote this journal-poem when I returned to San Francisco:


Vagrant heaps of clouds stood piled
at the rim of the volcano. Like a tribe
of natives we lived naked on the island.
I hunted cowrie shells in pulsing tidal
pools and watched whales playing
in the channel. I got sick with dysentery
and lay two days half-dead in a kiawe grove.
Once a large black bomb washed up
onto our beach. A Navy helicopter landed
on our beach one morning, scooped away
the bomb, and flew off with it into the sky.
One afternoon I watched a mongoose
steal a loaf of bread from my camp. 
On the road to Ulupalakua I dropped acid
and tasted my own seed. Evenings we sat
at the ocean's edge, chanting OM
to the setting sun. We slept under
myriad shining stars of the universe.
Once I awoke before dawn and saw
a comet, a pale blaze in the eastern
sky, vast as a galaxy.


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