White-Tailed Tropicbird

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 I love Oregon, but I know I’m meant to live in Hawaii, or another tropical place. I’ve known this since the moment I first swam in the ocean in Waikiki as a fourteen year-old; when I first floated on my back and felt the colors of the sky drain into me. I’m going to live here someday, I thought, because I immediately felt this love, this push, this surge of energy running through me. It felt right, to be there–to be on the beach, with the warm, heavy breeze, and the achingly blue water. I wanted to stay there forever. I wanted a house with a front porch, and a hammock, and wind-chimes made of shells. I wanted to spend every moment I could at the beach, let my hair to dry with salt in it. I wanted to sit on the sand as the heat left it, to watch the sunset and walk home through the pink-red dusk and smell the flowers alongside the road as they closed up for the night. I wanted, every day, to see the foggy hills behind me and the ocean, the ocean, the ocean; water you could actually swim in, water you could join. It felt like I had been born there, like I had been molded out of it, and I was merely returning to where I had always belonged, rejoicing in my homecoming.
On our latest family trip to Kauai, we visited Wailua Falls on the last day. It was beautiful–tall and roaring–but I couldn’t shake the sadness of leaving. Along the cliffs, as high as the falls, a long-tailed bird flew in circles. Its wings flapped once or twice, and then it glided, like I’ve seen owls do. The bird floated, soared, cascaded; it flew, it seemed, for no reason. Not to catch fish. Not to move anywhere. I watched as it flew in circles; just flew. It reminded me of the Frigate Birds I’d seen while studying abroad in Costa Rica–the ones that appeared high above in the gray skies of early afternoon, always in the same place; always the same distant hovering.
As I watched this new bird, some of my sadness left. That bird was flying for fun. Around and around, in the spray of the waterfall. Just for fun. Just to fly.

 

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