We had an opportunity to exchange homes with a family who had a home in the rain forest on the Big Island of Hawaii. Once we reached our destination, I began to understand why native Hawaiians think of Waipio as a spiritual valley. The constant sound of the calm river surrounded by the huge, majestic mountains disarmed me in such a way that I was spontaneously willing on our third day to grab an inner tube to float down the river to the beach.
We could see the tops of the rocks as the water gently passed over them, but had no idea how strong the undercurrent was and how many big boulders and fallen trees would block our way.
My son-in-law grabbed one of the big, rubber inner tubes and lowered himself down while keeping one hand and foot anchored safely on the embankment. He could feel the tug of the water, and as soon as he let go, it looked as if he had been shot out of a cannon with such incredible force that he was being carried down the river before we knew what was happening. My daughter didn’t hesitate and experienced the same force. Not wanting to be left behind, I jumped on my inner tube, not fully understanding the peril that awaited us.
For almost two hours we held on as best we could. Who even knew it would take that long to get to the ocean when our son drove just a few miles and awaited our arrival? I felt like a prisoner to the raging speed of the river as it snaked back and forth through the Valley.
We lost two pairs of sunglasses, an underwater camera, a shirt and a hat. Hanging branches left cuts on our arms and legs. My inner tube capsized, and even though the water wasn’t more than three feet deep, I was caught beneath it finding it hard to escape the pull of the current for a few seconds. I resurfaced and yelled for help to regain my balance. I was able to hang onto my inner tube, but needed help to get back in it. Their daisy chain rescue got me righted and we were on our way again.
Every time I approached a boulder I extended my leg or arm to brace myself. That motion only turned me around so that I was riding down the river backwards. I paddled hard with both arms to reorient myself. The water took us to the left bend at the fork and we found a massive, fallen tree spanning the width of the river. All we could do was grab the tree as the water pushed us into it, shimmy our way across the tree to the bank, get out of the water, walk around the branches and leaves, and reenter the river. I back paddled for so long that the inside of my upper arms were rubbed raw.
Finally, three quarters of the way there, someone yelled back at me to just flow with the current. Don’t try and fight it. Just go with it. It was then that I realized I was meant to be on that river. The day before I meditated and asked for help. Trying to control my situation at work brought me nothing but pain and disappointment. Show me how to give up trying to control everything!
As soon as I let go and stopped struggling, the river carried me safely to the beach.