An obscure comfort
“It comforted her, in the confused unhappy welter of her emotions, to see the mountains always tranquil, remote, in their lonely splendour; untouchable, serenely inviolate. It was an obscure comfort to her to know that man’s hectic world wasn’t the only one — that there were others, where agitation and passion and bewilderment had no place.” ― Anna Kavan
The history of Hawaii is filled with conflict and sorrow that contrasts sharply with the stunning beauty of its islands. Perhaps it is appropriate that one of the most peaceful and enchanting places on Oahu is a large cemetery called the Valley of the Temples. Of all the scenic places we visited repeatedly while we lived there, this landscape remains my favorite.
Our time in Hawaii was rich with unforgettable experiences, among which were more than a few that brought deep anxiety or lonely sadness. Regardless of whether my mood was lighthearted or heavy when I visited the Valley of the Temples, I never left without feeling better. By island standards, it was a relatively long drive from our home on Pearl Harbor to beautiful Kaneohe; this was before the H-3 was finished, so we had to take the LikeLike Highway or the Pali Highway to get there. But I enjoyed the drive, in part because I knew of the calm beauty that awaited us.
Once while we were there, a caretaker showed Drew how to ring the large bell, and let him feed the birds who would swoop down and take food directly from a person’s hand. Once I saw two of the many peacocks get into a fight and, in the blink of an eye, unfurl their magnificent feathers. Sometimes the black swans would swim by. Always, when we crossed the bridge, the huge Koi fish would clamor to the surface and pile on each other’s backs hoping to catch any food that might be tossed. Their greedy desperation was both fascinating and repulsive.
Even when the animal residents were not particularly peaceful, the setting always seemed filled with an otherworldly tranquility. By the time we left Oahu, that had begun to change somewhat, as the island’s best-kept secret became more widely known, and the number of visitors increased. The last time we went there, they had begun to charge admission to visitors who did not have a loved one buried there. I felt fortunate to have enjoyed it so often before costs and crowds changed the experience.
When I saw the quote from Kavan, I thought about how often my sadness or fear had been eased by the majesty of this scene, and by many other wonders in this astonishing world. Each fills me with deep reassurance of a benevolent Creator’s love, and an unshakable knowledge that a serenely inviolate realm is there for us when we stand still long enough to open our eyes, our ears and our hearts.