Free Sneak Peek! Chapter 1 of “Fire in the Ocean”

Sierra glanced up from her inflight magazine and stared at her companion with concern. Chaco’s face, normally a warm, glowing brown, was a sickly gray with green undertones. Sierra scrabbled hastily in her seat pocket for the barf bag and handed it to him.

“If you feel like you’re going to be sick, use this,” she said. “I didn’t know you get motion sickness.” They had just taken off from San Jose International Airport—how could he be sick already?

Chaco waved away the bag with a weary gesture. “I don’t have motion sickness.”

“What’s the matter, then?” she asked. She hoped he would recover soon—and that he wasn’t contagious. But then she remembered; Chaco couldn’t get sick. He was an Avatar. He was thousands of years old, and had literally never been sick a day in his long life. If Chaco was sick, something was seriously awry.

“I dunno,” Chaco replied, closing his eyes. “Do you … do you suppose you could just leave me alone for a while?”

Sierra returned to her magazine, glancing at his tense, gray face every so often. When the stewards came by with trays of lunch, Chaco shook his head without opening his eyes.

When the screaming began, Sierra nearly jumped out of her skin, and she wasn’t the only one. A female flight attendant was shrieking incoherently in the rear of the plane, where the galley and restrooms were located for economy class passengers. Other attendants crowded around her, and her shrieks stopped abruptly. But not before Sierra heard, “Green! Monster! I saw it…!”

“Oh, no,” Sierra moaned. “Oh, no, no, that’s just what we needed…!”

People were still craning in their seats, trying to see what was going on. The curtain had been drawn across the galley space, so there was nothing to be seen. Chaco had been roused from his lethargy by the commotion.

“What was that all that about?”

“It’s Fred,” Sierra whispered grimly. “It has to be Fred. The flight attendant was screaming about a green monster. Sound familiar?”

Chaco closed his eyes again. “Figures.” Sierra waited for more, but he remained silent.

“What are we going to do? Fred will be a disaster on this trip, which is why I told him—firmly!—that he couldn’t come with us.”

“I don’t know.”

“We have to do something.”

Chaco shifted his long body slightly to face her and opened his eyes. “Look, Sierra. I have no more idea than you do. In fact, I think I’m in real trouble here.”

Sierra looked at his pale face and anguished eyes. “Are you sick?”

“It’s worse than that,” he responded miserably. “I’m mortal.”

“Mortal? Mortally ill, you mean?”

“No. Mortal. As in not magic. As in, I’m just like you, now. I’m not an Avatar anymore. I can get sick. I can die.”

All thoughts of Fred forgotten, Sierra said, “How do you know? How is that even possible?”

Chaco shook his head. “Wouldn’t you know if all your blood left your body? I mean, just for an instant before you died? I’ve been severed from the numinous, the sphere in which we Avatars exist. The power source has been unplugged, if that makes more sense.”

Sierra absorbed this in silence. Finally, she said, “But you’re still alive. So cutting you off from the, um, numinous doesn’t kill you?”

Chaco rolled his eyes. “Apparently not. This is all new to me, too, you understand.”

“Okay. Why don’t you try to turn into a coyote? If you can do that, it proves you’re okay.” In addition to being an outwardly young and indisputably handsome young man, Chaco was Coyotl the Trickster, demi-god and culture hero of many Native American traditions. Sierra was so rattled that she didn’t consider what her fellow passengers’ response might be to a coyote lounging in a nearby window seat.

Chaco looked at her, his golden-amber eyes now dulled to hazel. Dark circles beneath his eyes made them appear sunken. “What do you think I’ve been trying to do for the past hour?”

“Oh.” Sierra sat quietly for a long time, thinking. Eventually, she asked, “How did you get separated from the, um, numinous, anyway? How could something like that happen?”

Chaco roused himself from his lethargy. “I don’t know. It’s never happened before. I could make an educated guess, though. I think it’s because I’m no longer connected to my land, the land that created me. I think my land is the source of my power. I’ve never been on an airplane before, so I didn’t know this would happen.”

“We’re thousands of feet in the air. When we get to Hawai‘i, we’ll be on land again—maybe you’ll get it back. Hawai‘i is part of the United States, after all.”

Chaco brightened a little at this, but his enthusiasm flickered and died. “I don’t know as much as I should about things like history and geography, but wasn’t Hawai‘i built by volcanoes in the middle of the ocean?”

Sierra nodded.

“And when did Hawai‘i become part of the United States?”

Sierra’s dark brows knit together as she tried to remember. She gave up. “I’m not sure, but it was probably about 60 years ago.”

Chaco groaned, almost inaudibly. “So Hawai‘i isn’t part of my land at all. It’s something different, not connected to my land. The people there are probably not even Native Americans.”

This Sierra did know. “They’re Polynesians. They came from Tahiti, I think. But we won’t even know until we land. Once you get your feet on the ground, maybe you’ll feel better.”

“Maybe,” was all that he said, directing a morose gaze out of the little window at the clouds. It was the last thing he said until they landed in Honolulu.

* * * *

It had started as a fun vacation with her fiancée, Clancy. At least, Sierra thought it would be fun, but as Clancy pointed out, his idea of an island vacation had more to do with drinking fruity tropical drinks on the beach than with counting albatross chicks. Nonetheless, he had gone along with her plans for a one-month stint on Midway Island. It was an eco-tourism gig that allowed some 20 volunteers at a time onto Midway to help biologists monitor the bird life. The island was a national wildlife refuge that provided breeding grounds for millions of sea birds, including several endangered species. The volunteers lived on Midway for a month, counting chicks and cleaning up plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch so that adult birds wouldn’t mistake the colorful bits of plastic for food and feed it to their nestlings—thereby killing them.

But Clancy’s boss had asked (demanded) that he cancel this scheduled vacation. Sierra was upset by this, but she understood. Clancy was head of security at a high tech Silicon Valley firm. The President of the United States scheduled a visit to the plant to highlight her support of American technology—and Clancy’s vacation was sacrificed amid promises of more vacation time in the future.

“I’m going anyway,” she had told Clancy. At his look of surprise, she added, “Remember? My employer is paying for it. I have to go so I can report on the wildlife conservation work on Midway.” Sierra worked for Clear Days Foundation as a communications executive.

“Oh. Well, sure. I just thought …”

“I’d like to ask Chaco to go with me,” Sierra said. “That okay with you?”

There was a long silence. Clancy finally spoke. “Chaco? Isn’t he with Kaylee? Wouldn’t that be kind of awkward?”

“I thought you knew. Kaylee is dating someone named Guy now. She’s moved on. Kaylee always moves on.”

“Oh. Well, what about taking Kaylee with you? Or Rose? Or Mama Labadie?” Clancy listed off Sierra’s three closest female friends.

“All three of them are going to some animal spirit guide workshop in Sedona, so they’re not available. Look, please don’t worry about this. Chaco and I are just friends. We’ve never been anything else. And I’m going to be on a remote island in the middle of nowhere for a month with a bunch of people I don’t know. I’d like to have a friend with me.”

“I’m not worried. Well, maybe I am, a little. Just tell me you’re sorry that it won’t be me.”

“I’m really, really sorry that it won’t be you!”

He would have to be content with that.

* * * *

Discovering that Fred had decided to stow away on the airplane was unwelcome news. There could be no other explanation for the commotion among the flight attendants and that telling shriek of “Green! Monster!”

Fred was a mannegishi. When he was visible, Fred looked like a green melon with pipe-cleaner arms and legs, six flexible digits on each paw, and swiveling orange eyes that resembled traffic reflectors. He had the ability to disappear at will, which had been handy in Sierra’s earlier adventures, but he was a mischievous creature with little or no impulse control and an enormous appetite. In short, Fred was not Sierra’s first choice of companion for a visit to a delicate ecosystem populated by endangered birds.

Now she had to deal with an errant mannegishi as well as a mortal and extremely miserable Chaco. As they walked through the loading tunnel to the gate, Sierra whispered, “How are we going to find Fred?”

Chaco shrugged. “My guess is that Fred will find us. Don’t worry about him—he’s been around the block a few times in the past few thousand years.” He was still drawn and tired-looking, with none of his usual sexy saunter. Sierra guessed that returning to the earth had not restored his supernatural powers or immortality.

They made their way to baggage pickup. When Chaco hefted his suitcase, he nearly dropped it, then frowned.

“I think Fred found us,” he reported.

Sierra looked at him, puzzled.

“My suitcase.” He hefted it again. “It’s a lot heavier than it was when I dropped it off in San Jose. It’s either Fred or someone stuffed a bowling ball in here.”

Sierra was horrified. “Well, let him out! He must be smothered in there.”

“Not likely,” scoffed Chaco. He gave the suitcase a good shake. “Serves him right.”

“What if he’s lost his powers like you have?” she hissed, not wanting to be overheard.

“I don’t think so. He disappeared on the plane fast enough when the flight attendant started screaming. Otherwise, there would have been a lot more commotion.”

Acknowledging that Chaco was probably right, Sierra turned her attention to finding transportation to their hotel. It was located right on Waikiki Beach and wasn’t far from the airport.

On the bus ride to the hotel, Sierra took in the tropical plants, caught glimpses of turquoise ocean, and, cracking the window a trifle, breathed in the scent of many flowers—and the usual smells of any big city. The people walking on the streets all looked like tourists to her. Many were wearing shorts, flip-flops, and Hawai‘ian print shirts. Surely not everyone in the city could be a tourist, she thought. At one point, Chaco’s suitcase began to squirm, but he kicked it sharply and unobtrusively, and the suitcase subsided.

Their hotel was an enormous complex of tall buildings, and they had a room on the 17th floor overlooking the ocean. Sliding glass doors on a balcony opened to let in breezes, and the afternoon air smelled soft and sweet with an underlying sharper tang of salt. They dumped their suitcases on the floor—in Chaco’s case, none too gently. Chaco unzipped the bag and Fred rolled out onto the carpet.

“Ow ow ow ow,” he complained, rubbing his fat bottom and staring at them reproachfully.

“It’s your own fault,” Chaco said coldly. “I’m going to bed.” He commandeered one of the two queen-size beds and pulled the covers over his head.

“What’s his problem?” the little mannegishi asked. “He didn’t spend hours balled up in a suitcase.”

“He’s lost his powers,” Sierra explained. “He’s a mortal now, and it disagrees with him. Anyway, why’d you do it, Fred? I asked you not to come. Now I don’t know what to do.”

She felt as weary as Chaco. The trip had started with Clancy dropping out. Now Chaco had lost his powers and become mortal—and who knew what that would mean? She supposed it would be like a human losing the ability to see, or walk. And she had to deal with Fred, too. As fond as she was of him, Fred was a nuisance at the best of times.

“Lost his powers? How does that happen?” asked Fred, looking worried. He disappeared briefly then reappeared. He looked relieved but puzzled. “I haven’t lost my abilities. Why did Chaco lose his?”

“He thinks it’s because he’s no longer in contact with his birth land. He says he’s cut off from the numinous, whatever that is.”

“I dunno from numinous, but I’m still okay.”

“How nice for you!” came an irritated growl from under the humped covers on Chaco’s bed.

“Look, Fred, I could really use a drink right now. Disappear yourself and we can talk somewhere. There’s got to be a bar in this hotel somewhere.”

As it turned out, the hotel had many, many bars. Sierra picked one with an outdoor seating area on the beach and ordered something unfamiliar with rum in it. The drink arrived, bedecked with chunks of fresh fruit, small umbrellas, and plastic hula girls and accompanied by a bowl of peanuts. She cleared away the ornamentation, ate the fruit and began working slowly on the remaining fluid. It was cold, tart, and sweet. She still felt grubby from the trip, but at least she was near a beach—she could see surfers from where she was sitting—with a fruity tropical drink. And an invisible mannegishi. She could see the imprint of Fred’s bottom on the chair cushion next to hers, and the peanuts were disappearing at a rapid pace. She picked up her phone and pretended to tap in a number, then said, “Hi, Fred. We can talk now.” Anyone observing would see a trim woman with tanned skin and long, dark hair, sitting alone and talking on the phone.

“So what happened to Chaco?” Fred asked.

“As soon as the plane took off, he started to look kind of green around the gills. Then he slumped down and acted like he was sick. He says he’s mortal now. He can die.”

“That’s not good,” Fred observed.

“Tell me about it,” said Sierra. “I’ve been mortal my whole life.”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive.”

“It’s all right. I’m used to it. Chaco isn’t. Do you know if he can ever regain his connection to the numinous? Whatever that is?”

“Dunno.”

“And why didn’t you lose your powers?” Sierra demanded. The mannegishi was quiet for a few minutes.

“Chaco and I aren’t exactly the same sort of thing, you know,” he said finally.

“How do you mean?”

“Chaco is—was—an Avatar. Much more powerful than a mannegishi. I’m just a, ah, kind of an … well, I don’t know exactly. I have certain powers, but what I can do is born inside me. Like bees can make honey? I can do what I do. That’s all I know.” Sierra could tell by the sounds next to her that the mannegishi was sucking his digits—a nervous habit.

“Stop that!” The sucking sounds ceased and the peanuts began to disappear again. Sierra flagged a passing waiter and asked for more peanuts and another round of whatever she was drinking.

She couldn’t do anything about the situation today. Right now, she was sitting in the Hawai‘ian sun on a Hawai‘ian beach, drinking a Hawai‘ian drink, and watching the Hawai‘ian waves. Almost against her will, she began to relax. The waiter brought her a fresh drink and another bowl of peanuts. She thanked him, took a long swallow, and closed her eyes. She began to think about Clancy and Chaco and Fred. Not relaxing. She opened them again, only to find the rest of her drink gone as well as all the fruit.

“Fred!!!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Reveal: Fire in the Ocean

As I have mentioned before, my second novel, “Fire in the Ocean,” is coming out from Diversion Books in February 2018. Diversion’s art department came up with a spiffy new cover for “The Obsidian Mirror,” which will be re-issued along with the debut of “Fire in the Ocean”:

New cover for “The Obsidian Mirror”

“Fire in the Ocean” is the sequel to “The Obsidian Mirror,” and features the same cast of characters. New twist, though–the book is set in Hawai’i on the islands of Moloka’i and Hawai’i (the Big Island).

Why, you might ask, Hawai’i? When I wrote “The Obsidian Mirror,” I drew upon strictly New World mythologies, folk tales and traditions–Native American, MesoAmerican and Voudún, avoiding the supernatural traditions that essentially migrated to the Americas from Europe. I started it as a kind of experiment after reading one of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” novels. I just wanted to see if a fantasy could be crafted that entirely eschewed the standard fantasy tropes of caped adventurers, swords and sorcery–elves, vampires and trolls need not apply.  To my surprise, the experiment turned into a book.

Although I wanted to continue the adventures of Sierra and her friends, I didn’t want to repeat the setting, plot, or other key elements of “The Obsidian Mirror.” So I picked Hawai’i as the venue for the sequel because: 1) I love Hawai’i ; 2) Hawai’i is also “New World,” and therefore fit into the strictures I had placed on myself; 3) it was an excuse to go back to the islands to do research. (And an amazing and wonderful trip it was, as those of you who have followed my blog for a while know!)

Why Moloka’i? Well, it turns out that Moloka’i in ancient times was known as the island of sorcerers. The island has its own take on the mythology and its own unique legends. Moloka’i proved to be a rich source of information and experiences, most of which were incorporated into “Fire in the Ocean.” As for why I chose the Big Island for part of the story–you’ll have to read the book.

Diversion Books just sent me the cover design for “Fire in the Ocean.” What do you think?

Cover Design for “Fire in the Ocean”

The First Day of My Journey to My Next Novel

The view. OMG, The view!

The view. OMG, The view!

As promised, I have gone to Hawaii to research my next novel. I usually journal when I travel because it helps me to retain the memories of my trip, but this time, I have decided to share my journal with you. This is a bit scary for me–maybe some of you will think I’m just farting around over here because to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I am looking for. Yes, I have a list of things I want to do or find out about, but I also am hoping that I will find something that I didn’t know I was looking for.

If that sounds kind of mystical or arty-farty, sorry. But that’s what I’m doing. I hope you enjoy my journal anyway.

Day 1: San Jose to Kona

After several days of trying to prepare for our trip, the day finally came. I felt underprepared in a way, despite all my lists and fretting. And it did turn out that I forgot a few things, but I figured I could find them in Hawaii–they’d just be more expensive.

We took Hawaiian Air from San Jose. We had the usual cattle-class seats, except that my legroom was cut in half by some reinforcement under the seat in front of me, so I was more uncomfortable than usual. I am 5’10”, so leg room is always an issue for me. Tom took the window seat because he enjoys it. So do I, but I think he enjoys it more, so I make a point of letting him have it. In this case, there would be nothing to see for 5,000 miles except water anyway…

Breakfast was promised, but it turned out to be 6 small and geometrically precise slices of underripe melon, cheese and crackers, and a chocolate-covered macadamia nut candy. Later we got a rum punch with very little rum, hence no punch, served with a bag of Maui onion-flavored chips. I admit that these chips are a particular weakness of mine, but they didn’t make up for the fact that we were both feeling the need for an actual meal by this time, not having eaten since dinner the night before.

I read the inflight magazine, hoping to discover something interesting to see or do. The most interesting article was about Hawaiian native palms. I don’t know about you, but I had always assumed that the palm trees I saw in Hawaii–especially the coconut palms–were mostly native, but it turns out not to be so. There are several subspecies of loulu palm (Pritchardia) that are native, and all are endangered through people, rats, goats and pigs. The large seeds take a year to mature, making them vulnerable to rats, who eat the unripe seeds. When they are ripe, people like them–if they can find them, which is unlikely. The islands were once forested with loulu palms, but they now exist in the wild only in a few places that cannot be reached by people, rats, pigs or goats, which leaves very few places indeed. Coconut palms were brought here by the Polynesians who peopled Hawaii, not by the usual method of floating safely across the sea in their hard shells. Another article I read said that it was difficult for people to get them here in a plantable condition. We tend to forget in this day of air travel how very isolated the Hawaiian Islands really are. It’s astonishing that people ever found them in the days before satellites and airplanes.

Which reminds me of my surprise and disappointment as a child, when I discovered that there were really no undiscovered lands left in the world. I was very fond of books like “The Pearl Lagoon” (Charles Nordhoff) and “The Lost World” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), where the protagonists discovered new places, or at least explored little-known places. I desperately wanted to have adventures like that, and the notion that there were no more unknowns was devastating. Of course, I later discovered that there are still plenty of unknowns, and unlimited adventures of the mind and spirit. Not to mention space, where I am definitely not going to go. Ever. But I can imagine it, which is probably much better for someone my age.

We landed in Honolulu (where I removed my fleece jacket) and walked about a mile (I am exaggerating only slightly) to the gate to catch our connection to Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. This is a very short hop and soon we were landing in the midst of a field of broken black lava. The runway was smooth enough, but although the eruption that laid down the lava here happened a very long time ago, it is still a bleak and almost alien landscape, black, rough rocks with a few brave grasses struggling to eke out a near-waterless existence on the stone.

We collected our bags at tiny Kona airport and caught the shuttle to the rental place. The whole airport operation is so minuscule that it’s easy and quick to do things that might take an hour or more in an urban airport. I had rented the cheapest possible car, which turned out to be a white Chevy Crapmobile. I might have rejected it if I had known it was going to be a Chevy. My parents generously gave me a Chevy Caprice when I graduated from college. Tom and I quickly re-dubbed it the “Chevy Crapice.” I think it was possessed by evil spirits, because it had a crafty habit of waiting to break down until the absolute worst possible moment. Think I’m exaggerating? Try in the middle of a tollbooth on I-90 going into Chicago. In the middle of Lincoln Park in Chicago, the stalking ground of the infamous Lincoln Park Pirates, a towing firm that would tow you even if parked legally and would relent only if offered a healthy bribe. Bits and pieces of it would fall off or stop working even when it was still technically running, which was ruinous to two young students/recent graduates with no money. I still remember my joy when we finally bought a new car (the first Honda car in the US; it had a motorcycle engine), and watched a tow truck haul the Crapice out of our lives forever.

Our rental Crapmobile presented a challenge from the beginning. First, we couldn’t fit my suitcase into its dainty little luggage compartment. I suggested lowering the back seats. There was a mechanism for doing so, but there was no way to lower them completely without removing the back seat bench. And it appeared to be a two-door with no way to put a person in the back seat, much less my enormous suitcase. (In my defense, I selected this case so that I could put our snorkel equipment in it as well as my clothes, etc.) Finally we discovered door handles cleverly concealed in the trim (they looked like vents and were in a strange location at the top rear corners of the doors), got all our luggage in and headed south.

Tom and I both thought there has been a lot of development since we were last here. The first time, I recall that there were “graffiti” messages spelled out against the black lava with chunks of white coral. We didn’t see any of these yesterday. The road seemed wider and there were more houses and other buildings north of the town of Kona.

We headed for Captain Cook along the Mamalahoa Highway. Captain Cook is sort of a long spot along the highway, perched more than 1,000 feet above the ocean. We turned off the highway as instructed and began a winding, narrow approach along the cliffs makai-side (kai meaning the ocean. Hawaiians talk about directions as makai, toward the sea, or mauka, meaning toward the mountains). The steep sides of this descent feature small plantations and a breathtaking view of Keleakakua Bay far below.

We eventually came to our destination, Camp Aloha. The driveway was a severe uphill climb that seriously challenged our Chevy Crapmobile, but we made it. At the top of the drive we found a large outbuilding with lots of mysterious machinery in it. There were trees everywhere. Not a person in sight. We got out and began peering around. Eventually one of our hosts, Joan, came out of the house, which was well concealed behind trees and bushes, and greeted us. Joan and her husband, Casey, have five acres here where they grow macadamias, bananas, papayas and avocados. I asked Joan where they sell their produce, and it all goes to a local grocery store.

Joan showed us around. I had thought we would be in a separate cottage, but we are actually in a wing of their house. The house itself is a one-story bungalow about 30 years, ramshackle and exhibiting a great deal of deferred maintenance. But the view. Oh, the view. The house overlooks Keleakakua Bay, a thousand feet below, and miles out to sea. There are palms and flowering trees all around, and a soft breeze blows all the time. Mynah birds swarm in the trees, as do golden finches, Chinese white-eyes and many others.

We have a bedroom, bathroom and sitting room with a small patio outside. Our kitchen is on the covered lanai overlooking the pool and the mesmerizing view. I now know why it is called “Camp Aloha”; the cooking is over a camp stove or barbecue. There is also a fridge, which our hosts stocked with a variety of foods, a microwave, toaster oven, plastic sink and most of the essential amenities.

After unpacking, we headed into town for some necessities like good wine. We went to dinner at the Manago Hotel, which is an ancient building on the highway. It’s clearly a local hangout. The tables are chrome and Formica, circa 1950s. There are two menus, one for drinks and one for food, posted on the walls. The drinks on offer are a few low-quality California reds, more selection in beers, plus soda, coffee, tea. I ordered a Longboard Lager, which was good, even though I don’t usually drink beer. The food menu had some interesting local fish, plus pork chops and steak. Having read that the pork chops were a specialty of the house, that’s what I ordered, while Tom had the steak–an unusual choice for him. They brought sticky rice, potato-macaroni salad (which was surprisingly good), sprouts and steamed vegetables, which we devoured (our last real meal had been 24 hours previously). Then the meat arrived–enormous portions that neither of us could finish. The meat was fine, but I wouldn’t go with it again. I prefer fish and this is, after all, an island!

We headed home with our wine, opened it and watched part of “Despicable Me,” having missed about 30 minutes of it. Normally, I hate watching a movie after it has started, but last night I didn’t care. Then to bed,and quickly to sleep. The temperature was cool, like a summer evening at home on the Monterey Bay.

Some time in the middle of the night, Tom woke me up by saying, “The stars are amazing!” In my sleep-drugged state, my brain had two responses: “I want to see that!” And simultaneously, “I don’t want to get out of bed.” So I stayed in bed until my bladder had its way with me. After visiting the bathroom, I stepped outside onto the buzz-cut grass and stared. And stared. And stared. And stared.

It was a moonless night, and the stars blazed with so much light I could see the objects around me. The stars were bright right down to the horizon. The North Star flamed overhead, the brightest object in the sky. And the stars glittered and pulsed as though alive. I was tempted to lie down on one of the chaise lounges and stare for an hour or two, but it was cool and I wanted to avoid mosquitoes, so I eventually went back inside, overawed by such unearthly beauty.

It made me realize how much we have sacrificed for our conveniences–the electricity that lights our nighttime. We have lost the beauty and mystery of the stars, the truly spiritual experience of seeing them blaze in the dark like bright promises of a life to come.

I’m just glad I can go places where I can still see the stars as my ancestors saw them. As the ancient Hawaiians-to-be saw these beacons as they steered their tiny and inadequate rafts across the uncharted Pacific. But I will never have the intimacy with the night sky that our ancestors had. To them, each of these gems was an old friend with a story to tell and directions to give. That experience is not mine to have. But I can still rejoice in their beauty, even if I can never understand them.