The Night the Moon Woke Me Up

I’m in Kona, Hawaii. On The Big Island (Big? Yesterday I drove 45 minutes and reached the other side of The Big Island and it all seemed rather small to me).

I’ve got room 1127 for the week, and my screen door is wide open — broken, rather. But open onto a lush little tropical forest just up from the beach. I’m sitting on the patio, wearing a thin, waffle-y textured robe, and my swimsuit, swim cap and goggles are wet and dripping, slung over the tan lawn chair to my right.

Because I went for a sunrise swim this morning. Actually, it was a pre-sunrise swim — which I’ve never done before. It was 4AM or some god early time when the moon woke me up. I couldn’t get a good view of her. So I went outside.

I untucked all my covers and dragged the white duvet and starched sheets across the tile floor, over the broken sliding door tracks, across my dewy patio, to the lawn chair. I heaved the pile of white onto the mesh recliner and flopped into those marshmallowy sheets the way anyone in my situation would. Dramatically, romantically and totally naked. I was very happy there. Under the moon. Next to a forest. Near the ocean. My slightly sunburned skin, warm, wrapped in those wonderfully stiff white sheets. The sounds from the palms, flexing in the wind, kept me wide awake. Happily, wide awake.

I began to wonder what the moonlight looked like on the water? I wondered what it must feel like to watch the ocean wake up? I wonder…

And a few minutes later, I’m diving off a rock into warm water. I taste salt on my lips. My shoulders tingle. My body slips through the dark water. I am surprised by how much I can see under the water. There’s a whole world, a wide awake world!, under here. There’s big gnarly rocks. And flickering fishies. And then a really big one. REALLY BIG. I squeal and almost stop swimming. DOOOONNNNT STOOOOOPPPPPP NNNOOOOW! Swim, elle!

Far from shore, new to this whole night swimming thing, and a bit overwhelmed by the world below me, I find the moon. Deep breath. Relax. She pulls me. Turns me. Shows me the way past the tower of black rocks, around the waves rolling towards the jetty, through this big nothingness where no one knows that I’m here and I’m all alone.


I push against the waves, cut the water’s surface with my fingers. Pull the water under my neck, down my chest and stomach, lifting my whole body up and forward. Although what is forward — here? Laps don’t make sense when you’re swimming in an ocean.

Each time my head goes under water, I’m distracted by a subtle teal color. It is there, I think, just barely. My forearms are coming into color, too, a warm yellowy ochre. A few more strokes and cardamom is swimming past tangerine. A few more and a stripe of crimson darts down my arm. An arc of white slips through the color, my arm cresting above my head, little flickers of aquamarine shimmering at the end. My face turns deep down into the water, dark ocean bottom blues and rich emeralds, another breath, the bright pastels of morning, a flurry of pinks and hot yellows, twisting and twitching. I turn my head. More deep darks and I’m reaching as far as my fingertips will let me and I’m pulling, hard, feeling the color slip down my body, as I reach for air, inhaling a sky of warm colors as I push and pull the warm water until I get to shore.

My feet find the sand and suddenly I’m back in the world of two feet. My chest heaves. I stand up. I rip off my foggy goggles and the last bit of the night falls to the ground with the water dripping from my body. I’m exhausted. The sun crests over a mountain in the distance. The moon slipped away quietly, I realize, as though catching her breath below the horizon.

It’s 7:27AM. In Kona. The big island. And I’m here on my patio, the palms and ferns outside now brightly lit by the sun.

A golf cart just drove by filled with rolled yellow towels and the kids in the room next door are excited that their pancakes have arrived.

There’s a pile of dirty sheets to my left and a hot cup of coffee to my right. My sketchbook is open to a new page, I wonder what to write about.

I taste salt on my lips.

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