I am picked up at the airport in a black pick up truck. Todd smiles behind the wheel. He helps with my bag and hugs me hello. When I climb into the passengers seat, he rests his hand comfortably on my leg. It is familiar, easy. We drift into conversation that flows warm and light like the breeze on Big Island. Want to go for a drive, he asks me, before heading back to Puna? Sure, I say. Of course, I think.
We drive to a park and get out and walk across porous volcanic rock along the ocean. Years ago when the volcano on Big Island erupted, it covered much of the shoreline in this rock. One of the results was a steady decrease in waterside property, the other was that the island grew in size.
The park is secluded and only a few gather in pools made up with high tide ocean overflow. We decide to walk on and find a solitary spot. Upon finding it we strip down and swim, completely caught up in the moment of being together again. I feel supported already; floating in the ocean and being around Todd, all hesitations about returning fade away. I am where I am meant to be. We return back to the car salty from the ocean dip. I change before we head to Pahoa, to the thick jungle brush where my phone inevitably loses service.
Todd has told me about the community he lives at, the early stages of an artist retreat centre and though his descriptions sounded positive and beautiful in the way he described it, i wasn’t able to picture it’s depth until actually arriving myself. We pull up to a green shipping container that has been built on to include a kitchen and sitting area, and we pull out my bags before making our way inside.
A tall grey haired man with sharp eyes and a contagious smile greets me. This is Bob, the project manager of Lily Aina Hippie Art Farm. Immediately I notice a grace about Bob. Meticulous about his words and mindful of each bodily movement, I begin to see him as a sort of guru. I will be staying for a few days, we tell Bob, then moving to Mountain View to start an internship of sorts. Welcome, he tells me, in the type of genuine authentic way that actually feels inviting. Todd motions us to the edge of the property where two other containers sit, one completely empty and the other lined with ukuleles and djembe drums. This is where we play music, he tell me. The container exaggerates the sound the deeper you go. He picks up the ukulele and begins to strum. I watch his eyes close and his voice boom awake. He sings about me coming back to Hawaii, he sings until my smile creeps up towards my ears. He asks me to try singing, using goofy spontaneous lyrics. Hesitantly I oblige. I clumsily try to match my voice to the ukulele. At first it is hard but I slowly figure out how to control its tone and pitch. Soon my voice is travelling through other worlds I haven’t visited before, flowing freely on its own, as if a separate being from myself, beyond all control. I love your voice, he tells me. We sing until the night is silent and still. From where we sit on the edge with the doors open, the night sky is in full view. I notice that I have never seen such lightness in the dark before.