"Ku‘uipookekai"

Solana Travel Writing, Spring 2021

Kayla Caldeira 

2,000 miles from the nearest land mass, nestled in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, lies the home where I grew up. When I was born, I was given the name Ku‘uipookekai meaning my sweetheart of the sea. The ocean has run through my blood since the day I was born. 

There are many memories I can recall of time spent in the ocean but there is one moment in particular that is forever engraved into my mind. About a hundred feet off the O‘ahu coast is a reef that reaches out toward the horizon and then suddenly drops off. Past the drop is an expanse of white sand adorned with patterns created by the constant ocean currents. It is a place of complete transparency and utter exposure, something I’ve learned to grow wary of in the ocean. I’ve followed sea turtles, stingrays, and dolphins over this vast emptiness, but always from a distance. While Mother Nature has an undeniable beauty, she also has an unpredictable power that is known to be more unforgiving than not when faced with disrespect of living beings that call her home.

There are many things to fear while floating above that underwater expanse of white sand, but on this particular day I decided to dive down to the bottom. Free diving is an art that I have only scratched at the surface, but from what I’ve experienced, it is both a tranquil and uncomfortable experience. The further down you dive into the ocean’s depths, the quieter it gets and the harder the pressure pushes on your body. The deeper it gets, the harder it is to remain calm. I’ve known people to reach depths of over 100 feet, but on this day I settled on the ocean floor at a mere 30. My heart rate was slow and I could hear its faint beat drumming in my ears, pulsing blood through my veins. 

I stayed calm at the ocean floor, my back resting on the sand and I looked up toward the sunlight fractured by the surface. In that moment, it was as if I could breathe. If the ocean had a heartbeat it was almost as if I could feel it. I’ve never experienced anything like it, but in that moment I was one with the ocean that surrounded me. There was no barrier between me and the lull of oceanic currents and stillness that put me in a state of tranquility and gave rest from the chaotic world above. 

But before long, I was pushing off the ocean floor back to the surface. The sand conformed to my feet but as I rose, the ocean currents erased any evidence of my presence. It was a beautiful metaphor. The ocean had allowed me one moment of complete acceptance but she also demonstrated her power to take it all away within a second. It’s a moment I will never forget.

________________________________________________________

Hello, my name is Kayla! I was born and raised in Hawai‘i where I was taught the value of Mālama ka ‘āina or "take care of the land". The natural world has always been a part of who I am and has helped shape who I am today. I'm a recent film graduate and am passionate about telling cultural and environmental stories of the world around us. When I'm not working on a creative project or outdoors, I'm searching for the best chocolate cake. :) 

Instagram: @kaylacaldeira_creative // @kay.cald 

 


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  • Tracy Wong

    So proud of this young writer! The metaphors used and her storytelling style had me reliving my own underwater experiences in the ocean of the islands! Love you Kayla!


  • Sher

    Beautiful piece written by a beautiful person.


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