It was a rainy day that found me on the beach, facing the sea with eyes outstretched to the horizon. I was a wanderer of a girl, and Hawaii was the perfect place to foster my restless spirit.
Soon the rain came hard in sheets. Waves came and swirled around my ankles in the rhythm of tides. There was ocean before my feet; there was ocean in the sky. I knew the windward side of the island like I knew the plant medicine books I poured over each day.
I had seen so many things wash up on these beaches, I hadn’t thought anything could surprise or frighten me. That day I would learn never to underestimate the wonders which the earth could present.
I felt that day as if I could lose myself in the midst of water, until my attention was captured by something strange floating toward the shore. It was grayer than seaweed but greener than driftwood. I felt a sudden mix between fright and compelling curiosity. Suddenly it had a head, which it lifted, and eyes, with which it fixed on me a glowing gray stare.
I gasped. It could speak. It knew my name.
Greenish matted hair followed its face out of the water, and the grayish-green I had seen revealed itself as long flowing fabric that clung to the creature’s frame as it pulled itself into a standing position. It appeared to be a woman whose face and hands were a pale gray. What I could see of her arms and neck reminded me of a sea turtle-- leathery and textured.
“Kahea,” she spoke again. “Please, we need you. Will you follow me?”
“Who… who are you?” I was struck by her unearthly appearance. She was like something from a book or a child’s imagination.
“I am what the ocean made me.”
I looked at her quizzically.
“Haste, this is a small window of time. Air and water are close enough that you may follow me below. You swim well?”
Of course I could swim well, but she appeared to be part ocean creature, and I was certainly only human. Still, I nodded. She stepped nearer and took my hands in hers.
“You give me your word you are willing to follow me, though frightened you may be now, and frightened you may further become?”
My thoughts were conversing loudly in confusion and curiosity, but above their racket I heard a sound like a song and a feeling from somewhere around my solar plexus. It gave me assurance that I could trust this creature. At least for now.
“I give you my word.” I answered.
“Thank you,” she said. Then she turned to the sea. “Thank you for accepting this friend I bring into thee.” Then she looked into my eyes and said “Now be assured, and stay close to me.”
We dove into the water and swam deep, then deeper, until we came to an outcropping of volcanic rock. Somehow I felt no intense pressure from the depth, and when I needed to breath I found air bubbles circling me and finding their way into my lungs.
In another moment we swam straight down, the water getting darker and darker. Before I ceased entirely to see, the creature led me through an opening in the black rock, and I could see no more. I felt the woman grab my hand and lead me onward.
Intense anxiety flooded my chest, as the weight of what might happen filled my thoughts. What had I been thinking? I must have gone mad. Or perhaps this was one of those intriguing dreams that turned into a nightmare before waking you with a start. But if it was, I did not wake.
Suddenly there was a glow in the water around me. I had heard of heatless light in the ocean, and realised that was what I must have been witnessing. Neon sea life glowed around us and revealed that my companion and I were in a tunnel of dark rock and old coral. I swam alongside her until fatigued overwhelmed me and I began to be sleepy. The water was cradling, and, oddly enough, I felt warm in the marine glow. My eyelids drooped once, twice, then I remembered nothing until--
“Kahea. Kahea, you are here. We must speak to you now.”
I was wide awake then, and remembering my journey, I was driven by a desire for answers to the questions swirling in my mind.
I was no longer in the water, but on the floor of a cave lit by thousands of luminescent plants that looked like glowing cabbages which somehow grew on solid rock. I looked around and saw my strange companion in the company of another creature who looked like her, only taller, with the figure of a man.
“My name is Kai,” she said.
“And mine is Mana,” the man spoke. “We have a story to tell, and then we hope you will agree to help us.”
“Please, tell me. Tell me why I am am here, and… and what are you?”
They smiled quickly to each other and Kai began to speak.
“We are the spirits of the ocean that dwell near, and are assigned to protect this island. Kahea, how long how you lived here on Oahu?”
“Seventeen years; all my life,” I answered.
“How many hurricane warnings have you heard in that time?”
“More than I could count.”
“And yet, never has one been seriously destructive. At least, not in a long while... “ She drifted into thought for a few seconds before continuing.
“There is a windshear that protects the island and breaks down any storm before it arrives.”
“I have heard of this,” I said. She smiled and continued.
“It is my husband, myself, and our kindred who work in the elements-- we keep the islands safe. It is our greatest joy to provide prosperity and harmony in your home above the water. The Great Creator Mother and Father are our masters. We act through their provision of wisdom to influence the earth. In them is the power we, and our many friends use to smooth the elements for you and yours.”
Something in me absorbed and analyzed everything she said. I knew she spoke the truth.
“One of the great creeds provided by The Creators is that in order to influence human kind, we must have human representation in our Elemental Council. Otherwise their power is withdrawn, and we will cease to be able to influence the elements. The spirits of air, tree, earth, fire, and ocean participate in the council. For so long we have worked to protect you with little contention and great harmony. Our dear Council representative of humans, however, is fading. She may not grace this earth much longer. We have been seeking restlessly to find one who will replace her. We now approach our purpose in bringing you here. We have watched you; our friends have noticed you. You have inclinations to hear and respect the spirits of the elements. We know you, and we know of your believing soul.”
Then Mana spoke.
“Kahea, we now ask you: will you been a voice for the humans in the land of Hawaii, representing your people as you serve on the Elemental Council, which council was organized by the Great Creator Mother and Father?”
“I…” I needed to think about it. I needed more information. “Please, what responsibility will I hold in taking this position?”
“You will have the duty of attending Council meetings every new moon. We may ask you to explore the island and bring us word of how humans are interacting with the elements,” Mana said. “You will be given gifts from each elemental spirit on the council so you may interact more freely with nature. Ours will allow you to pass through the ocean as you did today, in order to attend Council meetings, some of which are held here.”
“You must also promise” Kai chimed in, “to serve with compassion and love, thinking never of yourself more than of the harmony we must together create.”
I listened to them for some time. They told me stories of past humans who served on the Elemental Council. They shared tales of their role as ocean spirits. My soul was filled as I perceived the great love which drove them to fulfill the greatest measure of their capacity to protect me and humankind. I couldn’t tell how long I sat with them, but when eventually they trailed off into silence I knew what answer I would give to them. I had heard of times in the lives of other people when they found a purpose in life they had no greater desire than to fulfill. I never imagined that such a time would come to me and so young an age. But I couldn’t deny the sense of purpose, and wouldn’t have made any other decision than when I told them I would accept their call to the Elemental Council.
“What do I need to do?” I asked them.
Kai’s eyes filled with tears. Mana slipped an arm around her, and he too grew sad.
“We would like for you to learn what you need to know to join us immediately” he said, “but the woman whom you will succeed is the one who much teach you. Only she knows the words. However, she is beginning to lose her memory. We have searched a long time for one like you, but we fear we have not been quick enough.” He closed his eyes for a moment and breathed out in sorrow.
“Friends,” I spoke, “I have been studying the healing herbs of our island for many years. Will you tell me where I can find this woman? I believe I could help her.”
They smiled up at me.
“You believe.” Kai said; a statement.
I nodded in eagerness.
“Well then, you shall be given to try.”
They led me out of the underwater cave, and left me at the surface with instructions of where to go, and how to reach them again.
I found the old woman. Her name was Uilani. She lived next to the mountain at the edge of my town. I introduced myself to her, but she was unresponsive. Her grandsons, Pika and Kaipo, who cared for her, became my friends. I began to bring herbs and fix remedies for her to take. She was old, and sometimes I felt a sense of despair. But I would listen, and sometimes almost heard the spirits guide me in what to do. Soon I and her boys began to see an improvement in her. Her memory and motor skills improved. She soon could remember my name! It helped that I came so often.
One day near the end of summer I brought her to the beach for a soul-searching stroll along the shore. In a moment a giant rain cloud swept in off the ocean, as they so often do, and we were caught.
Soon, through the pouring, we saw pale gray-green forms emerging from the waves. I could not contain my joy in seeing Kai and Mana, but it did not exceed the joy of the old woman whom I had come to know and love. She greeted her old friends with open arms.
Not long after, I listened closely as Uilani whispered to me the words of magic I desired to know. She taught me many things in order for me to take her place on the council with the other elemental spirits of Hawaii. I soon was introduced to all of the council. Though I first clasped their hands in a secret cave under the ocean, I felt as if I had known them for a long time, for I had sensed their hand in the elements throughout all my wanderings as a girl on the island.