essays by shé

Bowing Man

Even in paradise there is road work. Lately, during weekdays, only one lane of the highway is open between Kilauea and Stepford. I rarely get stuck early in the morning, but sometimes catch it later, after snorkeling. Traffic stops completely. Then I shut off the 4Runner’s engine and write. Many others leave their engines on, a pet peeve of mine.

One day, after our long line had started rolling again, down the hill toward Kalihiwai River, which leads to Maureen’s, a winter surf break, I notice the flagger. His sign is now turned to SLOW, and folks eagerly pass him. But unlike any other flagger I’ve ever seen, he is bowing.

Yes, bowing, to each and every vehicle as it passes. He sports a Mona Lisa smile, and, what’s this? his right hand makes a shaka sign: thumb and pinky extended, middle three fingers folded in. When he bows, he brings the thumb of the shaka to his forehead, so the pinky points at us. Each and every time. Each and every car. Including mine.

My slight do-I-really-have-to-be-in-traffic funk evaporates. He changed the tone of my day.

He is not always there. He is not always bowing. I threw a shaka at him the other day and got a subtle one back, sans bow, but with the ML smile. One day I waved wildly and he bowed and shaka’d me, but no one else. I am special!

Buddha is a flagger. Jesus puts the cones down. Kwan Yin is in the cherry picker. Mohammed trims the trees. La Virgen feeds the chipper. Pele is the foreman.

Slow down, they say. Look at the orange-red African tulips so high in the branches! And why rush over the river? Imagine paddling toward the mountains! Imagine floating down to Sea!

Revel. That’s your word of the day. I painted it on cardboard and hung it on my fence. Sometimes the wind blows it over. So I flip it rightside, and remember: God is everywhere, God is everything, God is everyone. Namaste.

Revel, ink and acrylic on canvas, 2021





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