There happens to be a species of seal called the Hawaiian Monk, or llio-holo-i-ka-uaua, (“dog that runs in rough water” as the Hawaiians say) that has been endangered here on the islands since 1976. One of the only species native to Hawaii, 'Monk' seals are known for their likewise characteristic: a life of utter Solitude.
Down at Sandy Beach, one of the more popular surfing spots on this side of the island, I was happily basking in Emily Dickinson’s flit and flow of poetry while glancing at the riders out in the distance of a regular surf, when a large, dark creature came frolicking out of the water from the section of the beach right in front of me. The tourists, who always have a way of being camera-ready went absolutely fanatic! I, simply wondering if Emily Dickinson had indeed transported me into her beloved world of nature more literally than expected, watched the scene unfold as this Hawaiian Monk Seal (named Buster as I later came to find out), continued his dance up the surf to where a female Monk Seal (named Erma) had been molting for the last few days. The environmental conservationist, we will call Bert (there will come a day when names as well as stories will stick with me!), told me that we were witnessing the Hawaiian Monk Seal’s hormones in action: he was trying to woo Erma with his surfing skills- to which his mission’s success would be blatantly denied. Bert, the NOAH (possibly Project Noah- my search came up a little empty) supervisor for the entire island, told me that there are currently 32 Monk Seals that he watches over, placing his “spys” as he referred, on different spots of the islands where the seals are daily spotted to keep tabs on the flitting romances, deaths, and births of the entire population- and of course keep tourists from mauling them with cameras, floating devices, and negligent seal knowledge. As I was talking to Bert, ANOTHER seal, a true ‘Dog in the Water’, that Bert happily explained was named Kermit (hehehehe, oh pun me), was showing off and surfing the wave to try and harass Buster and win over Erma’s heart: harassment accomplished, Erma’s love not a chance (what a woman to aspire to- 2 up and 2 down!). Bert told me that as solitary as Monk Seals seem to be, there are still hormones (just like us he mentioned) that simply overtake the power of the mind. Surfing for Hormones- should start a club.
I had to giggle as I packed up Dickinson and slipped on my Tevas. How had I come across such a curious array of connected stories: Erma, Buster, Kermit, and Bert…perhaps only in Hawaii does solitary confinement mean hormonal Freedom for a “monk”.