Let me take you with me to the place my mind returns to, several times each day—the restored Buddhist Temple and current AirBnB tucked above the beach in Laupahoehoe, on the Big Island of Hawaii. It stands maybe a five minute walk away from the rocky shore where my husband’s ancestors arrived from China. I could not have asked for a better place to spend the last few days with our son before he embarked on his new adventure: a two year gig in China.
The rental car places on the Big Island didn’t offer hand controls on their vehicles. This meant I never had to keep my eye on the road. I got to stare out the window and seek glimpses of the ocean as our shiny red Jeep would peel off the Belt Road and descend onto Laupahoehoe Point Road.
The Jeep would rattle. Our son, sitting shotgun, would firmly remind his father, “Fifteen miles an hour,” as we approached another blind curve.
We would pass hand painted signs. Slow Down. Don’t Spray. When I would catch sight of the bridge, my heart would expand with anticipation.
It won’t be long, now.
I can see the minty green Jodo Temple up ahead, tucked just beyond another hairpin turn as the road descends ever closer to the shore.
We arrive at last.
Outside the Jeep, we can hear many bird calls unfamiliar to our ears. We can hear the faint steady pounding of the ocean. A white wicker stool on the porch contains a sign reminding us to leave our shoes outside. Mahalo. Thank you.
We see a cat or two or five skulk past. We rarely see the caretakers. They are as silent as shadows.
As magical as it is outside, I am elated to go inside. Something—no, everything—about this house soothes me. The furniture consists of an eclectic mix of state of the art lighting and kitchy beach-casual tag sale treasures. I, who have little tolerance for tchotchkes, am deeply enchanted by each object.
When we first arrived, whooping with delight over the character and charm of the place, I hadn’t even made it through every room in the house before I caught myself thinking, “How can we get back here?” My desire to seal it all in my memory was immediate, and fervent.
My practice of going through each room in my mind began before I even left the place. I made it a habit to flop on my bed and stare up at the wire and crystal light fixture hanging in the corner, then close my eyes and attempt to recreate the lamp in a mental picture. I’d be disappointed, every time I opened my eyes, by my inability to create and maintain a mental impression which matched the reality of what I had just seen before me. I lamented the paucity of detail I could expect from future memories far from here.
It is probably too late in my life for me to become a materialist. But if I could be converted, it would be through the carefully curated fabrics of each soft blanket, each sun-faded curtain I encountered there.
This BnB has no air-conditioning, which would usually pose a problem for me, as my MS is heat sensitive. I didn’t stop to check for this feature, for any feature, before booking the place. I scanned through the images of gleaming wood floors and a private, sun lit yoga studio above the tempting headline—Peaceful, former Buddhist Temple—and I was hooked. I had to book. Immediately. Who wouldn’t want their own freakin’ yoga studio just upstairs from their living quarters? Everyone, right? It was only after I’d entered our credit card number that I noticed the place had no kitchen, just a well stocked snack station with a refrigerator. When my husband asked, “Does it have a bathroom?” I’d snapped, “Of course it does,” desperately scanning the text I’d neglected to read in my haste. “It has one and a half bathrooms, as a matter of fact. An outdoor shower. And a clawfoot tub.”
This lovely place would reveal many more amenities over time. Such as, our own private waterfalls. More on that later. First, I will have to take you on a tour of the yoga studio. You will need to meet the yoga cat.