I was ready to blog about my car caper on The Big Island when a howling siren woke all sleeping and comatose persons for fifty miles – and scared the living lava out of the rest of us. It was ten o’clock at night. I knew what those sirens meant, but I chose to think that perhaps they were just executing a routine test of the equipment. Perhaps we would be required to perform a kind of “disaster drill” to show that we were in a state of readiness for impending calamity. Or maybe some prankster just pushed the tsunami button. But then my friend, Sandi, turned on the TV and the unthinkable announcement skittered across my brain and tried to find a place to lodge: this was a tsunami warning! We were now to find our phone books and look in the front pages for what to do. I already knew what to do: go outside and ask people what to do!  

The instruction was to “Pack up a few things (wine was suggested by my neighbor below) and drive to higher ground above Kuakini Highway. We threw snacks, towels, pillows, our computers, cameras and water into the car and joined the lighted bumper-to-bumper parade headed up Luna Pule Road. The Wal-Mart parking lot had been suggested, but I aimed higher still: the Safeway parking lot. We crept past blue signs that read, “Evacuation Route” and eventually reached the top of the hill where a yellow sign proclaimed, “Leaving Tsunami Evacuation Area.” I’d noticed them across the years, but not once had I believed they would apply to me.

Finding our cozy slot next to a cart return in the gargantuan lot, we created our own makeshift shelter – a silver sunscreen on the front windshield and colorful beach towels on the other windows blocked out parking lot glare. On our left was a bride-to-be on her cell phone, informing her Mainland girlfriend that she might be getting married in the Safeway parking lot. On our right was a car housing three generations of women. Grandma got the back seat bed. Sandi and I reclined our seats, brought out the snacks and tuned the radio to the official tsunami station for information. I’d thought the wait would be just a few hours, but in fact, it would be five hours before the first wave arrived. Then the wait for the rest of the waves. Then three hours after the last wave until we would get the “All Clear.” And that’s if everything went well. But with the size of the earthquake in Japan, the predictions weren’t nearly as cheery as the convivial mood of the parking lot.

In-between the snacking, the psudo-sleeping, and the updates on impending disaster, one has time to ponder. What if the worst happened and the airport, not to mention the Safeway restrooms, were no longer functional? What if there was no condo to return to? What if there was no “All Clear?” Yet I didn’t settle into worry. The questions floated by like images in a dream, but didn’t linger. Even the experts on the radio said they couldn’t predict what would happen so why not find my own resting place in the midst of uncertainty. It was this: I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I was here in Kona, Hawaii with my dear friend of twenty three years. Every aspect of this long-awaited trip had fallen blessedly into place and even a tsunami warning was no reason to question its veracity--which didn’t necessarily mean that everything would go according to my wishes. Just that we were here on this specific night by design and therefore, I could trust whatever it delivered as part of my path.

We ended our night’s vigil with a daybreak breakfast at Denny’s, but were still in evac mode due to considerable damage in downtown Kona. So we took a drive on the highway above the city, did some gift shopping, shared a salad at Taco Del Mar, and set up computer camp at Starbucks until getting the “All Clear” at three in the afternoon. Equal parts exhausted and grateful, I climbed the steps to my sister’s condo, realizing two things: my basis of peace, while it hadn’t been put to the ultimate test, did see me gracefully through the night. And like every other time that I’ve managed to trust rather than worry, be present rather than rush headlong into fear, I’d found new footing on my own higher ground.

The Journey Is Always Better Together!