The higher Tawhiri went, the more of the ocean he could see. It was worth the work, and he wouldn’t go too far. If he couldn’t swim in the ocean, at least he could try to see as much of her as was possible. If he were a man, he would be on her back, paddling to other Islands, and dragging in fish. He would have to find a way to be content again with what little he could get.
For now, the forest canopy hung overhead. Thick vines and dark leafs blotted out the ocean, and deafened the distant thunder of the waves. Far to his left, on the south side of the island, the land dropped off dramatically. That was where the greatest danger was, but it was also where the waves were loudest. He should be able to avoid a fall, on a clear day like today.
The forest thinned now, giving way to taro, sawgrass, and ti plants. Tawhiri threaded his way through, stepping on the roots to push the cutting plants to the side. Soon, black rock stuck out of the mountainside, forcing Tawhiri to begin climbing.
He paused to tie his lap-lap tighter, and to tuck his hair into a new knot. Sweat ran down his neck and along his shoulders. If he continued climbing, he would be hard-pressed to get back down to safety before night fall. It got cold at night up high. But he hadn’t hiked all this way just to turn around.
Kicking aside a few trailing vines, Tawhiri scrambled up the base of the mountain and studied the jagged landscape. There was a way up. He had done this before, as a child. But always with others. If he broke a leg up here alone, he was dead.
A taringao jumped from it’s cliffside perch, not far away. It whistled a warning, as the setting sun lit up its brown plumage. A small bird dropped from its claws as it climbed on a strong breeze, and hovered over the forest.
Tawhiri faltered for a moment, as he turned to watch it. He was higher than he had thought. Deep green treetops unfolded below him, rolling in the wind, until they spilled over into the endless ocean. Gold dripped from the sky, bathing everything in warm tones.
The women would be returning from the gardens now, or dragging the days catch off the reef before the high tide pushed them back.
A few outrigger canoes were just visible, returning from fishing.
Tawhiri clambered the last few feet to a grass-tipped shelf, and sat down. He wasn’t even half-way up the mountain yet, and still a distance from the volcano, but already Mona Loa was laid bare around him.
Fires sprang to life back at the village, nearly drown out by the sunset. Home.
The fires of Ba’ahi, the closest inhabited Island to them, were just visible among the silver stars. Ata’ai Kalu loomed much closer. Tawhiri could get there in a night. Paddle out and be there by morning.
No. He came to search for contentment. To put the sea back in its place.
Kai’ali was already well on her way to being a married woman. That opportunity was past. So he wouldn’t be doing it for her.
The wind picked up, and the sun began to melt into the horizon. Time to get to the safety of solid ground. He couldn’t climb down the mountain in the dark.
Tawhiri turned to begin down. As he turned the sun caught a guarded pool far below, reflecting shafts of light back at him. It stared back up at him like a fish-eye, wide and perfectly round. The mountains curved around it, sheltering it from sight, though it seemed quite large.
Squinting, Tawhiri leaned forward to get a better look. It wasn’t freshwater. There were many freshwater lakes, but this was dug right up against the ocean-side cliffs, and bore distinct marks of the rising and falling tide.
Maybe Tawhiri couldn’t savor the ocean, but he could go there. Taste the salt water one more time. Say goodbye.
The sun sank under the horizon, leaving only a few grasping fingers behind as Tawhiri slipped back down the mountain. He hid beneath the edges of the forest as darkness fully embraced the Island. There would be no more travel for the night.
Tawhiri lit a small fire at the bottom of the cliffs, where the hungry flames couldn’t reach the trees, and lashed his lap lap between two threes and hacked a few fronds from a nearby tree. It was a sufficient bed for his needs. The forest provided for his hunger with a soursop tree, heavy with unpicked fruit.
He finished his dinner and lay on the bed of leaves, barely able to shut off the visions of deep water and crashing waves that buffeted his mind.
Hey guys, I hope you have been enjoying Tawhiri. I’m probably going to take a bit of a break from the story next week in order to catch up. I’ve been falling behind on my writing and I’m only a couple hundred words ahead of posting right now. I will still post something, but we won’t be digging back into Tawhiri for a little while. I hope you are enjoying the story enough to wait for me, and thanks in advance for your patience.