Road Trips

Authored by: 
Beverly Mendoza

Beverly MendozaFor Frank:

How can one of the worst days of my life be followed by one of the best days of my life? You’d think such days would be rationed out better by the Universal Council. Before I dive into it let’s rewind to two weeks ago during my daily meditation at the secret beach.

I sneak away there in the mornings to be alone and figure things out – be it a story, be it real life and I do so as I watch the waves crash against the rocks, watch the tide pools fill up. I’ve seen a Hawaiian woman begin the birthing process there with her midwife. I left promptly for it seemed too sacred for an audience. I’ve seen two teenagers roll around playing kissyface without a care in the world there. I’ve seen a battered old woman with long white hair stroll the sand with her mangy dog. And I remember thinking when she looked at me, that’s Pele.

It was that day that I saw her and her dog when I saw the heart in the sky. It’s my belief that all the knowledge we need in this lifetime already exists all around us, in every moment, especially in nature. In the elements. In the molecules and electrons that float around waiting for us to perceive and make them real, make them meaningful and therefore learn.

I was just bellyaching to a friend how my life since I’ve gotten back from Chicago has been so boring. I was writing, it was quiet. Life was still. And I realized that I should be grateful for that and as I decided on the beach that I was going to be grateful, how I was going to use this time and space well, I opened my eyes and above me was a cloud shaped into a perfect heart. It was hallow and deeply blue inside. And as this slow thick wind blew, it expanded and kept on expanding until it was no longer a heart but two separate long strands of clouds. It down-poured for about five minutes. I put my dress back on. And then a rainbow poured right into the ocean in front of me. An omen, in hindsight. A storm and then a rainbow

Coconut BeachThe storm: I got word shortly after that a great friend in Chicago passed away. He was 34. He was a force to be reckoned with in this life. A dynamic, handsome, talented man. We were roommates during the most bohemian period of my life in Chicago – the art school days. We’ve spent many late nights talking about ideal realities, about our dreams and everything else under the sun. We talked plenty about love. An Frank loved a lot. The news of his death hit me like a freight train

I once saw this documentary on PBS about a tribe of monkeys. When one monkey is sick and dying, the other monkeys from their tribe gather around him and form an unbreakable circle. They turn their backs from him and face the abysmal forest. And they stand there until the monkey recovers or passes away. Sometimes this lasts weeks. They do not eat, nor sleep as they stand guard.

As I have been grieving Frank’s death, my tribe here at Kalani stood around me and stared down the forces in the rainforest for me until I was better. It was overwhelming at times – the love that was shown. From energy work, to an incredible Watsu session, to laughter, to laying with me, to embraces, to the deep silences – it was such profound love. It was humbling and something I will never forget.

RainbowThe rainbow: The next day after I heard the news, I woke up heartbroken. Literally, this ache in my chest was climbing up my throat. *C, an angel, the woman with a white star tattooed on the side of her face, swept in and took me on a road trip to the City of Refuge on the other side of the island. Motion was the key to my survival that day, the destination was simply the cherry on top.

We stopped at the market to pick up food for our picnic. I stayed in the car. And Frank came to me. He sat in the driver’s seat and held my hand and told me this with his wily look, the type of look he gets when he’s meeting a beautiful young lady for the first time (I’ve seen it plenty of times during our late nights romping around Chicago):

This is it, he said. This is the ride. Enjoy it. I’m okay, I was ready. And he laughed and shook his head. I did all the talking and crying and laughing after that. Frank joined us for the rest of the road trip. Sitting in the back seat, driving around the Big Island with two women – I mean c’mon, he couldn’t have been more stoked. Even *C felt his presence. And I talked story about him all day. Glimpses of anything scarlet or red or orange caught my eye all day, for Frank was a red head. I fed red mohawked birds during our picnic and named the one that flirted with people the most, Frank. I saw red lights on the horizon from a cruise ship perhaps and figured Frank was on it having a cocktail or two causing a ruckus. I saw an orange and red sunset descend into the night. He was everywhere, even in the eyes of the dogs and people I encountered that day.

We arrived at Two Step and we snorkeled. *C swam with a sting ray that looked like an eagle. She told me to swim towards the horizon, until the ocean simply drops and maybe I’d see him. I took off, with my split fins, just cruising towards the horizon. I never saw the sting ray, but swimming towards the abyss was such a profound experience for me. All day, I felt as light as a napkin in the wind. When we stopped to get gas and fill up my tires with air, I had to hold on to my car, because as I stepped out, I felt like I would just be blown away. I don’t know why. But as I swam over the coral reefs, I felt like I was flying over hills and mountains. Totally invincible and weightless. And I realized something about perspective. Why is it, I wondered, that sometimes I feel like I’m simply drifting on a raft and floating on land and when I’m in the water I feel like I’m flying. It was as if the world flipped over. And it’s all about perspective. This breakdown that I was bracing myself for, what I thought I had no control over, well it’s all perspective I realized. When it is all paired down – the grief, the heartache, the loss – it all comes down to love. And love is a beautiful experience, a liberating feeling inside to go that deep with your emotions. Frank loved a lot. And I loved him so much. And we lived life so intensely, so deeply, so artfully and I will always be so grateful that I had him in my life and for those moments we shared.

It was a multifaceted road trip. For that same day, my friends in Chicago were driving four hours to Terra Haute, Indiana for the visitation. Being so far away from Chicago and my friends made me feel so unanchored, but during this drive, as *C careened down these snake-like roads cutting through the rainforest, I was transported to the flatlands of Mid-America. And I shit you not, I was in that car with my friends at one point. Staring at the half-moon, looking at all of their bright faces, feeling their pain, hearing their laughter --- it was so profound, I don’t even know how to write about it.

This road trip is also a first I took with *C, a friend I hold so close to my heart. Creating intense moments with this great friend, while at the same time reminiscing and grieving about the moments I had with Frank --- it just had so many layers to it. *C and I stopped a lot on our road trip. To buy fruit, to get coffee, to meet awesome dogs, to picnic, to watch the sunset, to stretch our legs and ask for directions, to talk a lil’ bit of story with some locals – it was a road trip after all. Each stop was filled with endless possibilities of experience, of epiphanies, of natural wonder. Motion was the key to my survival that day, to instill in me that life keeps moving. That dogs keep barking, fruit keeps growing, that the sun always sets, and the moon always shines, and love even when it hurts, always expands our hearts and the cloudy shapes in the sky always dissolve as the wind continues to blow.

At the end of this very long day, we stopped at my family’s house in Hilo for a bon voyage party. We ate such awesome food, it’s ridiculous – chicken papaya, mechado, pansit (Filipino staples) and even beer bread with lilikoi butter smothered on top. My cousin just arrived back from Chile and met his son for the first time. They were gathered around the table in the kitchen looking at photographs of our little Pablo in Chile. Kids were running around everywhere. I must have looked so haggard, so stretched out (I certainly felt like I had just been skinned alive), but I never felt so peaceful in my whole life, I don’t think.

The next day was Frank’s funeral. I worked a double in the kitchen at Kalani. My friends Claire and Nate took me on another road trip the next day. We walked through Lava Tree Park after spending an afternoon at the secret beach. We danced down the winding paths and they just kept me laughing all day. We set on the fault line, the “shelf” of the world and this man named Burp jumped out of a van filled with some Puna-style Merry Pranksters with balloon animals on their heads (I shit you not). And Burp was clad in a trenchcoat a la Hunter S. Thompson. He looked like he just landed from a journey from Mars. He had this beautiful red necklace on with a giant wooden tribal hook dangling on his chest. It’s been passed down from his Hawaiian ancestors. He spoke to us about the Universe, about God, about the Children of Mu --- about all sorts of things --- his outlaw nature reminded me of Frank too. He very much sounded like Frank, a man of many words who can talk endlessly about any topic the dart hits.

And why the hell not? It’s all perspective . We create our own realities, we color our own stories. Frank is everywhere now to me. I have proclaimed him my guru for love. And he shall lead me and laugh at me and be one of those monkeys in my circle and I for him.