For as long as I have been coming to Hawaii—which is going on thirty years—I have loved to walk the beach at sunrise. This particular December morning was calm and bright, the sky empty of clouds, the sun still below the long, slow rise of the mountain called Mauna Kea on the Big Island. The long curve of beach was empty, except for a lone jogger at the far end. I moved out to the froth line in the easy-walking wet sand.
It was the Hawaii I love best, the crest of the waves turning a slow rose pink, the changing colors of the ocean and the sky, the vast blueness of it all. Above me, close by, a seabird wheeled and slid on the wind. I breathed deeply of it all and felt it spread through me, luminous: Hawaii. It was at that moment that I heard the music, very soft, very solemn. I stopped short, turned my head this way, then turned it back; the music faded in and faded out.
Christmas music, I thought. It sounded like a boy's choir singing liturgical music, a Kyrie eleison. Sweet little high pitched voices in exquisite harmony. I walked down the beach, letting the music rise and fall. It seemed to be coming from a grove of trees at the far end of the beach. Practice, I thought, that's it—a choir is practicing for a Christmas program. I made my way over, slowed by the effort of walking in deeper dry sand, but when I reached the trees they were empty. No one was there, no one at all. What could you be thinking, I asked myself. Choir practice at six in the morning? And yet, standing there all alone, my head tilted just so, the exquisite music echoed through me.
The lone jogger was approaching now, a young woman with a sleek, hard body. I considered asking her to stop and listen with me, but I didn't. I suppose because of a nagging worry that she wouldn't hear anything at all.
For perhaps half an hour I stayed on the beach, enjoying the high, sweet voices soaring in ecclesiastical song. Then I made my way back to our room at the Mauna Kea Beach hotel, to wake my husband and tell him about it.
He listened carefully, as always, and, being given to logical explanations, finally came up with, "Well, sound waves are peculiar, especially over water." But I could see that he wasn't convinced, and neither was I. We've been coming to Hawaii long enough to know you shouldn't expect answers to everything. Sometimes you have, simply, to accept some things, and that is what I decided to do. On that morning, I happily received the ethereal music as a kind of gift from Hawaii, and maybe even as a sign that I was a welcome visitor to these magic isles.
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