A goddess lives on Oahu.
I know because she presented herself to me on Waikiki Beach at 5:30 AM one morning in April.
I was exiting the water, after a short swim, overjoyed to be able to immerse myself in the waters of the Pacific so early in the day, before the sun rose above the seaside hotels. At that hour, I didn’t have to compete for space with those who like the beach, but don’t necessarily need it, the way that some of us have to be in the water. Hell, some of them just lay by it, without ever going in! It was also early enough that no one expected me to be in front of my computer, before going to see my client.
The calmness of the waters within the breakwaters was a sharp contrast with the white-capped waves beyond them. A group of surfers was already a few hundred yards out, seemingly talking in a circle, none of them riding the waves yet. As I floated peacefully facing out towards the emptiness beyond them, I felt a slight twinge of jealousy that they were able to find a different way to enjoy the water, to go far beyond where swimming would ever take me. I rolled over to swim back to my awaiting coffee and cigarettes when I first saw that someone had left a surfboard next to my stuff. By the time I reached the beach she had appeared next to the surfboard and was stretching.
Seeing her from the back first, I assumed that she was younger, given the condition of her legs and backside, just perfectly framed by the bikini bottom. It was only when she turned around that I realized she was older than my original guess, but more stunning. I would guess that she was in her late thirties, deeply tanned, nicely toned, with wavy brown hair that matched the tankini that gently wrapped around her body, revealing enough to tantalize, covering enough to be appropriate for her position as a deity. I think it partially helped me understand why Nepalese cultures only allows pre-pubescent girls to be goddesses.
Not that i knew that she was a goddess at first. Like many before me, I was beguiled by the corporeal manifestation she had chosen for herself. We exchanged smiles as I walked to pick up my towel. I turned to face the ocean again, willing my neck and eyes to not turn towards her, to not stare at what was the most beautiful sight I had seen in Hawaii.
Luckily, something happens to me when I travel. I talk to strangers. I do it at home as well, but I never initiate the conversation there. I didn’t know that on this particular morning, it would lead me somewhere I never expected to find myself.
“Do you do this every day?” I asked, having waited until my peripheral vision told me that she was no longer bending at the waist, wanting to appear less creepy than I actually am.
“Yes,” she said, and for the first time I understood why all the stories of gods and angels presenting themselves to mortals include hearing indescribably beautiful music.
“It seems like a magical way to start the day,” I continued, by now realizing that the entity next to me was not a mere mortal. She was so much more than one of the most physically beautiful women I had ever seen. She was a goddess!
Her response confirmed it, and with a knowing smile, she turned the full force of her calm gaze at me and said, “Yes. Yes it is.” At that moment, her smile was a mixture of those of a child at play and of a pilgrim in prayer. She was now beyond gorgeous, having been elevated to a realm of innocent beauty reserved for nature, to the way a child sees beauty.
She held my gaze long enough to make me understand that she saw me, as a fellow lover of the ocean, as someone who needed to feel water surrounding their skin, but with a less advanced soul, content as he was to wade, swim and tread water, instead of gliding along the top of the waves as she, and her fellow deities, do.
“I have to try that one day,” I said, wanting to continue feeling the lightness that standing next to her filled him with.
“You really should. It is as you described it ‘magical’,” she said while rubbing sand over the top of her board.
Knowing that I was now keeping her from her morning routine, I picked up my coffee and towel, looked over at her, and said, “Enjoy,” knowing fully that she would.
I started walking back towards my hotel, glancing over my shoulder to catch her slip the board into the water and slide on top of it. Out of her field of vision, I was now free to return to my lesser self, so I lit a cigarette, knowing that she would not approve of such a habit.
The rest of the day at work, part of me was still back on the sand. I would look over the heads of my clients to the water view behind them, daydreaming about ocean waves and surfboards and beautiful goddesses.
I managed to not make a fool of myself, somehow, but immediately upon returning to my hotel, I donned a dry swimsuit and headed back down to the beach. It was as I expected. Hundreds of people lined the beach, which had been made smaller by a rising tide. Some were in street clothes, mostly pale Japanese women, who giggled like children when the water lapped at their bare feet.
I was in the wrong place. The beach I love is quiet, and if there are any people there, they are fellow children of Poseidon. I found just such a place on my last day in Hawaii, but at the moment I was amidst infidels, encroaching on my temple.
I walked down Waikiki to a slightly less crowded place and swam until dinner. It helped a little.
For the next three mornings, I made sure my routine put me near the goddess, and her fellow gods. I realized that she shared this higher power with others, and that they were not like the surfers I have met in the past, mostly aggressive people, who approach it as a way to conquer the waves, not be one with them. But still to be near her, was to feel a connection to that world, beyond a mere attraction to a beautiful woman.
Because of her prettiness, I was given a glimpse into another world, that of surfing as religion, as a way of connecting with nature. All because of her power to convey with a few words and a smile just how much magical the daily journey was, even more than I had dared to imagine. Because in that one smile, and one sentence, she reminded me why the ocean matters, and why Hawaiians should be proud of their sport of kings. It was a mix of religion and conservation and lust and peace.
On my final morning there, I thought about giving her the website for this story, and thanking her for being the inspiration. But I didn’t. Chickened out? Maybe. I think that I simply didn’t want to bother her, but I did want to thank her. I don’t know if I will ever become a surfer, but I know that if I am ever interested in achieving a higher level of being, at least one appropriate for those that like me love the ocean, she has shown me the path. So if you find yourself in Waikiki Beach, around 5:30 in the morning and see a spectacularly beautiful woman about to enter the water to surf, let her know that one fellow lover of the ocean is grateful for her spiritual guidance, and that maybe, in a shed in suburban Maryland, or wherever I am living, there is a seldom-used, but much beloved surfboard that comes out when someone she inspired wants to soar.
You’ll know her by the brown hair and kid-like smile if you ask her, as she is about to start surfing, if she does it every day.
Who knew that goddesses had routines?