The wheels hit the red-dirt covered tarmac with a thud my heart matched. It was somewhere between a drop and a landing - physically and emotionally. It was my first time back since I'd visited with my ex-fiancé for a final wedding walk-through. I was here with my parents who insisted on using the wedding credits for a vacation.
"Might as well!" My mom had shrugged.
"Might as well..." I'd muttered unsurely.
"Aloha!" A beautiful Hawaiian woman said as she lei'd me upon arrival.
"Aloha." I smiled softly, feeling the weight of the meaning of that word: hello, goodbye, love.
If any place could hold me and heal me through this, it'd be Maui.
"E komo mai!" The bellman welcomed us to our room, gesturing to the lawn and ocean view, proudly.
"Mahalo." I said as I stepped lightly onto the balcony.
There it was. The aisle I'd planned to walk down. Aloha, I thought. Hello. Goodbye. Love.
I exhaled and let the wind carry my pain. I'd have a few good days to continue facing and transmuting this.
I dreamt of him that night. He met me in the pit of an amphitheater with walls covered in graffiti. His body was covered in tattoos.
"What? Why did you get all those?!" I asked, shocked.
"I got them all for you." He held out his forearms like an offering.
And for the first time since it all happened, I wavered on our decision to part.
I woke up to the view of the altar.
"Ugh." I groaned as I sat up in bed. My tattoo kink runs that deep?
No, I knew immediately. It wasn't the literal ink in his skin, but the metaphor of it all - it was the sacrificial, commitment to me that had me rocked and second guessing. It was the feeling of being chosen wholly and fully that moved me to my core.
I was ready to face all I came for head on. It was 6:40 in the morning and I was making my way down what would've been the aisle of my wedding ceremony. I walked mindfully, one foot in front of the other as the sun began warming the earth. The air was still. The ocean was gentle. I breathed deeply to hold my ground and move through the spiny edges of my heart.
I sat on the dew-drop covered earth at what would've been the altar. Wet grass stuck to the backs of my legs. I closed my eyes and began to meditate.
"Excuse me!" A man's voice interrupted. "I'm so sorry to disturb you, but you have to see these whales!"
I peered open my eyes to see the mist of a spout that had just submerged below the water. We sat in silence for a while waiting patiently for their resurface.
"I'm so sorry, now I feel bad." The man said after a long lull.
"Don't feel bad." I said. "Thank you." I meant it.
"Well here in Hawai'i, we call the whales our ancestors." He smiled. "You can trust that their wisdom is here whether you can see them or not."
"I'll take it." I smiled.
Like the maniac I am, I planned everything to come to a head: I had the first Facetime with my ex-fiancé since we'd split about four months prior. He was boxing up the final remnants of what I had left behind in Puerto Rico.
When we saw each other's faces, we cried. So much familiarity. So much estranged. Somehow, he looked a little older, a little wiser, a little more like a man.
"I don't know who's more psychotic. Me or you." I started. He had just moved back to Puerto Rico by himself, and I was standing with our wedding altar as my backdrop.
"You." He said.
"No way." I shook my head.
He filmed all the contents of my old life so I could confirm what I wanted in this new one.
We exchanged some words, some laughs, some more tears and took a breath before taping up the last folds of cardboard to carry my things across oceans and timelines from him to me.
After the call, I walked through the airy lobby to the spa where a cacao ceremony would be held. Heart-opening nourishment is just what I needed. I entered the space and gratefully sipped my warm, chocolatey medicine before letting my body be guided by the sound bowls and voice of the teacher.
In my mind's eye, I saw a purple and green hummingbird that beckoned me to follow it to a red pool at the base of a waterfall. After soaking my bones, I climbed to the top of the fall to an orange pool. I soaked and climbed through pools of all the colors of the rainbow until I reached one of pure white. There, I had the vision of Mu, my family's old house in the jungle on the other side of the island. I realized these waterfalls (sans the rainbow colors) were the exact falls in the valley beside our house. In this vision, I was taken back to this place I missed so dearly. To the place I'd let go when my parents sold it in 2018. To the place I'd called home. Though I loved it and believed it would always be a part of my life, I truly had let it go. I knew that was the only way forward - even if I didn't know where forward led.
I came on this trip with no idea what the future would hold. I was still displaced, living at home, calling this time period my "interim," but having no idea what came next. Everywhere I'd tried so far hadn't felt right. I was feeling a bit lost. But in this vision, I was home. Mu, like the teacher its always been, wrapped me in its jungle arms and reminded me. I remembered. I melted into the earth. I hadn't felt so much peace in years.
"How though?" I asked, my practical mind stepping up to the plate, "I can't afford you!"
"Invest in real estate, invest in your business and get me back!" Mu matched my practicality.
A whoosh of serenity washed over me from head to toe.
"Yes." I whispered dreamily. "That feels perfect." No fear lived in my body - only all-trusting clarity.
When I awoke from the journey, I realized that little hummingbird had a message too: purple is the color of intuition and green is the color of the heart. Both things I'd lost in heartbreak. Both things were healed.
The next day, I met up with a dear friend.
"This is going to sound weird," he said, "but you need to meet my friend. I just have a feeling you two need to know each other."
I agreed to meet this friend, though it sounded more like a blind date. I arranged to have him pick me up on the south side of the island where we'd be moving to. The wedding credits had been spent so the real vacation was to begin (at least for me). In the car to other side, I got a text: the boxes had officially been shipped from Puerto Rico. I looked at the date. It was December 30th, the two year anniversary of the day I'd gotten engaged.
I wiped my tears and walked briskly to the valet area of the new hotel to be picked up for the first date I'd been on in years.
It was perfect.
I felt led.
I felt chosen.
I knew this wasn't the one, but I was touched by the goodness that was this young man. He beckoned me out into the world by taking my hand and reminding me of what I love and who I am; Like a radiant guiding angel back home to me.
I thanked him from the bottom of my heart.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? I figured I might as well use the rest of my photography and videography credits too. I organized a shoot for my skincare line, Mukama Botanica of Mu (Mu) and me (Kama) - the co-creators of the line itself. I rolled down the crunchy, gravelly driveway of my old childhood home with the windows down so I could smell the sweet, spicy air. This fragrance was exclusively Mu's. My heart tripled in size with every inhale.
The new owners had graciously left the guesthouse open for me to use for styling and outfit changes throughout the day. With a pile of clothes over my right shoulder and my feet bare on the ground, I almost stepped on a dried up, perfectly in-tact little frog. In all my years in this house, I'd never seen one like this. Toads, yes, but little frogs, never. I cocked my head as I peered down at it.
"An omen?" My heart asked. "I don't know." My mind replied.
Stepping over it, I set up the space. Little gifts like plants and pieces of décor I'd left for the land and house were still where I'd left them. I smiled. Mu smiled.
A while into my hair and makeup, the makeup artist looked at me and asked, "Did you see that little frog out there?"
"Yes!" I replied, feeling intrigued that she'd brought it up.
"It's crazy. It's a coqui!"
"A COQUI!?" I choked. "I thought coquis were only in Puerto Rico!"
"There are a few here, but not too many." She said as she brushed my nose with powder.
"I've never seen or heard one here! I also looked for them in Puerto Rico all the time, but could never find one! Not one in two years!" I was practically shrieking, though no one understood how wild this was to me.
After the shoot, the videographer's assistant stayed to talk to me.
"You know, the reason I think you feel so attached to this place," he said gazing into my soul, "is that you left as much of an impact on it as it did on you."
I'd known this man all of four hours, but somehow, he spoke to a part of me I didn't even know how to articulate to others.
"How did you know that?" I asked, flabbergasted.
"I can feel it." He said soberly. "We all could."
I sat alone on the wall of the cliff that peered over the expansive ocean. The moon was full and radiant, casting a bright spotlight across the water. Two fluffy night clouds framed its tranquil glow.
I climbed down from the wall and bowed my head on the grass, thanking this place profusely.
I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I said out loud until tears lightly streamed down my cheeks.
On my way out, I stepped back over the coqui.
I was overcome with the feeling that the dead coqui symbolized the death of Puerto Rico.
"But why does it have to die? Can't I just let go and integrate it?" I asked the universe.
"Just trust me on this." It said.
But I didn't. I didn't feel like it was necessary. Sure, I still told people I was "living in Puerto Rico until recently" every time they asked where I lived, instead of giving them the real interim answer. Sure, I was still a little hung up on telling people I was "freshly divorced" (it's funny, okay?). But I was moving forward! I truly was too.
When I got back to my hotel room late that night from Mu, I ran myself a hot bath. It felt intuitive. It felt right. I slid my way into the inviting water and within minutes, I dropped my phone with a splash.
"SHIT!" I jumped as I pulled it out.
The screen surged out before my very eyes.
"Is there anything you can do to recover it?" I asked the AT&T guy the next morning with a quivering lip.
"I'm so sorry," he said, with way more devastation in his voice than I'd expect from someone who breaks this kind of news all day, "there's literally nothing we can do. Everything from the past two years since your last backup is gone."
AKA everything since two months before I got engaged and three months before I moved to Puerto Rico was wiped. Deleted. Gone forever.
I stood, ravaged and awe-stricken.
I looked at a few places to rent for the late winter/early spring. Maui was always my home. The only thing that pulled me away was my last relationship - he didn't want to call Maui home, so I left. But now, I was ready to come home.
Nothing landed in the rental-world, but I trusted something would come. Open-mindedly, I started following Mu's instructions to buy real estate. I toured a few properties, as I had in the past, but nothing hit. I was also humbled by these early beginnings on my road back to Mu. My budget led me to the near-equivalent of college dorms.
"Tough," I said after a long day of touring one-roomed condos with popcorn ceilings and unreasonable HOA's. But I trusted.
Moments later, my mom came busting through the door with a business card in her hand, "I met someone and she's selling a little cottage on her property. Call her."
I sat down for dinner with the woman with the cottage on her land. She had just shown me around and it was absolutely perfect. So perfect, that there were no comps in the area because of its unique nature: high wood ceilings, two-bedrooms, a large wraparound lanai and a yard. A yard!! Something I thought I couldn't have on my own for years and years! And to make it even more special, a giant guava tree right outside; My favorite fruit that inspired my entire skincare line. I envisioned ceremonies in the yard, fuzzy chickens running freely, swinging chairs and meditations on the deck, Steel Pulse playing, smoothies blending - the whole dream. I saw delicious, healthy meals cooked and sourced from the garden I'd plant. I saw loved ones taking refuge and breathing the warm island air. I saw it all.
It was listed higher than I could afford, but something told me to stay.
We ate sushi and a delicious ube pot de crème. It turns out we both love ube and spirituality. It turns out she was looking for someone just like me to move in. It turns out, I offered her 20% less than her original listing price and she agreed on the spot, drafting a contract on a napkin we both signed, giddily.
I showed all my friends on the island the pictures of the house with a smile from cheek to cheek. They were the first new images in my camera roll.
"HOW DID YOU FIND THIS!?" They'd all say in some iteration of astonishment.
"People take like, forty years to find the right place for them on Maui!" Another hollered.
"And in this location!?" Another slapped her knee.
"And for this price!?" Another yelled.
"Mama Maui must really want you." They all smirked.
"And I want her too." I beamed.
When I got back to my interim home in my bedroom at my parents' house in California, I noticed the vision board I'd made a few months ago next to the bathtub. Sparkles framed the peripherals of my eyes as I zoomed in on it.
Your home. Your sanctuary. Of the jungle. Hawai'i. Were the words that littered the bulletin. Behind those phrases were images of a home with high wood ceilings, a garden and a yard.
I'm going home.
Published 2/1/2023, exactly five years from the day we sold Mu.