by Ardine Martinelli
The skies are a clear blue as we snorkel off the Kona coast. What a leisurely day of pure pleasure, being on the ocean, spotting spinning dolphins, hammerhead sharks, and a great humpback whale. Mother nature offers us so many gifts to feed our souls. It’s hard to remember she can also be a treacherous, dangerous, howling force.
After a wonderful day, we return to our condo on the South tip of the Big Island, Hawaii. Saturated with sun and astounding beauty, we went to be early to rest and restore for another day. I am awakened from a deep sleep with pounding on the door and someone calling, “Get up, this is a Tsunami alert, you must evacuate in two hours”. Stumbling to the door he tells me, “Plan on being gone a couple of days, take medication, water, plane tickets, etc.”.
I wake my friend, telling her we have to pack and be out within two hours. Like me, she’s a little fuzzy, but we get ourselves in gear and begin packing up the car. There is no time for fear; we just start packing so we can get to higher ground. Luckily we thought to take pillows, blankets, and some food.
We were told to go north to a small town with a community center. Arriving in town we filled up with gas and were directed to the community center. My image of emergency shelters was what I’d seen on TV. Cots lined up, a table with coffee, rolls, etc. and someone coordinating the center. Not here.
Several cars were already gathered in the parking lot, and all were congregated on the steps of the center. This is where we learned of the massive earthquake that hit Japan. We had no TV or radio at the center to keep us updated, so Lorie and I went to the car to sleep. We slept fitfully until about six. With no news, we took a long walk through the small town, scoping out any restaurant for breakfast.
The prominent feeling I had then and still have is one of deep gratitude. We had a car to get us to safety, and to sleep in. Inconvenient, sure, but we were safe at all times. It was a tiny window to see what happens in an emergency. People cooperated and helped one another. We were a small community so we didn’t face the long lines for gas and bathrooms that those in Kona experienced. All we did was pack up, move to higher ground, and sleep in our car. We were back in our condos by noon the next day, enjoying the rest of our vacation, but with a different consciousness. This experience brought the reality of how fast life can change. This was a wake up call. I don’t want to forget how fragile life can be and how swiftly it can change.
Ardine lives in Tacoma, WA where she is a Spiritual Director and retreat leader. Her interests include: gardening, hiking, reading, traveling, and good conversation with friends. She has been a member of Story Circle Network for four years and loves the incentive and inspiration it continues to give her to write.