He Wahī Paʻakai: A Package of Salt

adding flavor and texture to your world through story



For Grandma Case and for the beach that we always meet at in my dreams.

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I couldn’t sleep.

So I did what someone close told me to do: I pictured a calm place and I put myself there.

I heard the water first. It was dark, but I had sound. If persistence had a song, it would be of the waves lapping the edge of an ocean lined with rocks. No matter how relentless stone may be, pretending to be unmoved or unaffected, waves will continue to travel toward it forgetting how many times they’ve been sent away. They will slowly wear stone down until it gives in and finally learns to move with the tides, not against them. If I could memorize that song, I’d sing it each time I felt disheartened, each time I needed hope.

My breaths slowed. Sleep was near, but it hadn’t yet arrived.

So I did what someone close told me to do: I pictured a calm place and I put myself there.

I saw the water first. It was still dark, but I had memories. If I could collect all my memories of this place, I’d scatter them across the night sky like stars. No matter how small each would appear, I’d know them to be incandescent: full of heat, energy, life. Each one would be reflected onto the surface of the ocean, sparks of light rising and falling, moving with the water. They’d come back to greet me each time I returned to walk the every-changing shoreline as I witnessed the beach of my childhood transform against its will. I’d pick a memory from the surface of the sea whenever I’d feel myself forgetting this place, and I’d be taken back there, ready to sing its song.

My limbs relaxed. Sleep lay next to be. I could feel it. But it kept a small distance.

So I did what someone close told me to do: I pictured a calm place and I put myself there.

I felt my grandmother’s hand first. She grabbed mine and led me across the beach to her favorite spot. If my grandmother were a part of this place, she’d be the mākāhā, the entrance to the fishpond. She’d be that section of water lined with stone walls, that channel that everything flowed through before entering my world. She’d be the place that featured in so many of the stories that I collected as a child, stories that I’d heard so many times that I’d often forget I never witnessed them myself. She’d exist at the mixing point of past, present, and future, where memories lapped against each other, playing an old but familiar song.

My heart smiled. And as sleep climbed on to me, its arms folding across my back, its chest lying against my own, I found that calm place.

It was where it always had been: with that small and beautiful Hawaiian woman I have never met, but have always known: the one whose love for a particular stretch of shoreline I inherited, the one who listened to the same song of the waves, the one whose memories mix with my own on the surface of the ocean, the one whose channel of stone and sea continues to shape my dreams.

I met her there, as I had so many times before. And I fell asleep, embraced.