It was just after 6 p.m. Mahina was about 45 minutes into her journey across Maui's cloud-studded sky. The closer she is to the horizon, the bigger she appears. As she does on all but the clearest nights, Mahina played hide and seek among the ao. She's not good at the game. It takes a particularly dense cloud, ao panopano, to hide her shine.
The sky was still in transition from day to night. The sun wasn't due to set for a half hour or so. The purple-gray sky was the perfect setting for the not-quite-full moon. Mahina wasn't due to display her full voluptuousness until tonight.
Lines of mushy waves basked in the silver glow and prompted a closer look. There was still enough day left, although the more safety-conscious drivers had turned on their headlights. Down in Maliko Gulch, Mahina compensated for the lack of sun. What was left of the sun's dying rays were blocked by steep gulch walls. Night comes first to the depths of island valleys.
Making the turn off the highway was a little dicey. The way to the bay lies at the end of the sweeping highway bridge curve. Even slowing down at the spot can be hazardous. It's definitely not a place to stop. Daily drivers negotiated it at near straightaway speeds.
The entrance to the road was on the other side of two parked trucks. They were relatively new and both sported big "for sale" signs on their windshields. A sign of the times? Brake with an eye on the rearview mirror. 'A'ole pilikia, at least that time. The rain-chewed asphalt was made even more narrow by foliage stretching toward their kin on the other side.
Back under the highway bridge, Lady Friend's car was jostled by sharp-edged potholes. The stream was running fast toward the ocean, but still well within its banks. After tunneling through the greenery, the bay opened wide. One car was parked down by the water. The rodeo arena looked as if it had been a while since it had been used by any of Maui's horseback athletes.
Two wide arms of shallow freshwater swept around a hump of sand that in drier times closes the mouth of the stream. The litter of pohaku ulu that usually separates sand from sea was missing. Winter waves may have shoved them aside. More likely the bay was fuller than usual and the rocks were below the surface.
A father and young son picked their way across boulders. The boy was carrying a foot-long toy motorboat. Maybe they were looking for a place to play. The water was far from calm. Rollers swept in from the north, creating white-foam maelstroms around the rocks guarding the entrance. Clean 2-footers ran into the shallows and pushed back the incoming freshwater.
The surging ocean diminished the size of the boat ramp and short wharf. It's a favorite departure point for the personal watercraft used to tow surfers out for the big waves up the coast. The ramp is a good place to load and launch a kayak or to begin the swim out to where the honu and fish live. It wasn't a time for diving, not with the waves churning the bottom and the time of day making it hard for a shark to see the difference between man and beast.
Lady Friend talked about her grandfather seeing a Hawaiian carrying a shark back into deep water. It had been hooked and dragged in by members of another family. He rescued it because it was his family's amakua. While in the man's arms the 6-foot shark was quiet. Its gills fluttered with life. The man lowered the shark into chest-deep water and bid it aloha. The shark circled the man and headed out of the bay with one powerful sweep of its tail.
It was full dark. Mahina lit the way home, playing tag in the trees. In the past there were nights when the bike's headlight was switched off. Mahina was all that was needed to ride through a magic land of ghostly landscapes. Tonight, the moon will be full. Go for a ride? Arrrgh, there's no headlight switch on modern motorcycles. That's probably just as well.
* Ron Youngblood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.