Sunday, June 20, 2010

Beate Sigriddaughter: Endangered Sunrise

It is dark when I leave the hotel, though I know we slowly rotate into the light.  I run faster than the earth is turning to get a better view.

I am at a juncture in my life.  I have no children.  I have no lover.  Will I live the rest of my life alone?

Though I have a lot of yearning, I am comfortable being alone, vacationing or otherwise.  I can eat a mango for dinner if I want to, or a boiled egg.  I can bite into a block of cheese if I want to, or make oatmeal with hot coffee.  The coffee oatmeal I cannot recommend.  Once in a lifetime is enough.

Each morning I run into the dark, past the far end of Waikiki Beach, up Diamond Head Road, then into a park with three white plumeria trees, then down to a narrow stone walkway by the water where small black crabs scuttle down the side of the stone into the safety of the ocean wall when I approach.  Do they see my huge shadow?  Do they feel the tremor of my footfall?  I am part sorry to disturb them, part grateful for the show they put on for me with their scrambling.

The air is fresh, mostly salt water scented now, rather than the midday tang of sun on wilting flowers or on fallen fruit.  There is no dust yet in the air.

I run back out to Diamond Head Road, and squeeze through one of two gaps in a tall metal fence at the second park, so as not to lose time by backtracking to the open gate.  Then down Beach Drive where I start scrambling over lava rock.  I stop running now because the rock is slippery and I want to arrive at sunrise safely.

Then, breathless, I stand on the sandy beach, waves lapping to my right.  I face east.  My heart beats wildly.  And she rises.  For me, raised in the German language, the sun will always be feminine.  I am jubilant.  I am enthralled.  I bring both my hands to my chest and watch the rising, gold into water, rounding out into a disk, then lifting away from the sparkle of the waves.  The horizon is pure watercolor swirl and magic.

I see dark silhouettes of surfers way out in the water.  The birds make their excited ruckus on the hillside in their bushes and trees.  Two roosters crow above me.  A few rats dash in and out of hillside crevices.

One man in a black wetsuit, not very tall, hunched over, comes jumping my direction among the rocks.  Sometimes his bare feet are in the water.  He fishes for something with a small black handheld net.  He moves in quick jerky motions.  When he passes me, he holds up the net to the side of his face as though shielding himself or hiding from me.

He is there every morning at sunrise, shielding his face and scuttling among the rocks.  He looks young, maybe in his thirties.  He is small, but looks strong, a gnarly kind of strength.  He makes me uneasy.  There are others on the beach, but he is the only one I remember distinctly from one day to the next.

One time there are two beautiful girls with surfboards and bikinis, one with blond braids, the other with golden Hawaiian skin and soft brown eyes.  Another time a couple with surfing gear jogs down the winding path side by side.  There are men in twos and threes.  I don’t recall any of them from one day to the next, only the one unnerving man with the wetsuit and the net that shields his face.

On the way home I pick up a fallen plumeria blossom or two to keep in my budget hotel room which does not face the ocean and does not have a lanai.

On the fifth day I pass the gnarly man with the wetsuit on the water side.  He doesn’t raise his shield net to his face as before.  Instead he raises a stick in his left hand and points it at me and waves it like a menacing wand.  I feel it like a curse, an attack on my peace.

I came here in innocence to pray my morning prayer of thank you to life, to beauty, to being part of this magnificent show called existence.

Now I feel sad and forlorn and robbed of my pleasure.  His face is intent.  His brows nearly join over his nose.  He looks angry.  Why would he be angry at me?

A little while later, I notice him shaking his stick wand at two men a short ways down the beach.  Apparently I am not the only one to bother this gnarly young man.

I try to shake off the feeling of threat, the punch of the angry interaction.  I imagine those two other men probably never give the shaken wand another thought, and I want to be able to do that, too.  But I cannot.

On the sixth day, the sun rises, too, but behind a veiling bank of thick clouds, and the tide is in.  Scrambling on the lava rock is a little more tricky.  Once a wave washes right over my legs, soaking my shoes, my socks.  It makes me smile--a caress of the sea in a climate where wet socks and wet sneakers aren’t a big deal.

Then I see the man close by in the water, jumping about with his net and his hunched shoulders.  I don’t see anyone else nearby.  Fear grips me by surprise.

I try to laugh at myself.  He looks smaller than I am, or at least not much bigger, and he is more than fifty yards away from me, his feet in the water on lava rock.  He certainly can’t move any faster than I can.  But he is a man and yesterday he has made a threatening gesture.  That is enough for full blown fear.

I scuttle by him as fast as a can.  As soon as I reach sand I start to run.

I run until I see surfers further out on the beach, getting ready to go into the water.

It occurs to me, if I screamed, the roar of the ocean would drown out my voice.

I wait for the sun, but it rains today.  I huddle in a little sandstone shelter, big enough for a life-sized statue of a saint, but empty, and I pray my prayer of thank you and also of sadness because of the fear.  I thank life for its beauty and grieve for the sadness that beauty and pleasure can be stolen from me so easily because I am a woman and I am alone.

I have been raised in fear.  I have bloomed in fear.  And I have grown quite old in fear.

Nothing else untoward happens that morning.  Must I now be grateful for the reprieve?  That my worst fears didn’t play out in reality?  I take a different way back to the hotel.  My usual route over the rocks, which I have come to love, would take me once more past the man with his net in the water.  Instead I run up the official winding path back up to Diamond Head Road, consoling myself that even from way up here the ocean looks magnificent.  I see the two roosters heard from below, surrounded by six busy hens, up where the beach access joins Diamond Head Road.

A man once told me women are weak, and I quietly challenged him, “Why do you say that?”  He hesitated.  Yet he was on to something.  How can I be strong when I have been coached for fear every day of my life?

There is a quarter of a rainbow in the sky and I take a vow.  I will work the rest of my days in this gorgeous life to serve women, to do all that is in my power, little as it may be, so that women shall once more be honored in this world, so that they can once again walk the holy ground of this earth without fear wherever they may wish to go, and no matter who goes or does not go with them.

I count the rainbow in the western sky among my blessings for that day, a consolation gift, a jewel to distract me from the stolen sunrise, and a covenant.

Now I have two more days left to dare to run on the beach like a woman who has the right to make her life her joy.  I am not yet sure how I will spend them.  Will I run on the safe path?  Will I mull over fears I have never chosen?

Then I will go home to my mainland city life, where I will work on keeping the promise I have made.

Beate Sigriddaughter is three times a Pushcart Prize nominee and has published prose and poetry in many magazines and ezines.  Her most recent book, The Unicorn And… was published in 2008.  She is the fiction editor of Moondance and founder of the Glass Woman Prize, on which details can be found at  This piece first appeared in Melusine's Summer 2009 issue.

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