essays by shé


On the north shore, there’s a particular reef full of many species of fish, large and small. Sometimes I also see turtles. To access it, I rappel down the cliff, holding onto ropes with both hands and stepping backward. The beach is at the bottom.

I also travel backward in time, looking hard at the past. I was anxious a lot, worried about family, school, work, friends, money. I rarely enjoyed my life.

Luckily, I keep coming back to dance. Today my partners are fish: black and white mini-Hindenburgs, orange and indigo needle-noses, flat round burgundies, striped cream and chocolates, Mondrian color blocks, mottled reds, and shy dappled night skies. Shafts of sunlight stream down on us all.

My mother read aloud to us when we were young: Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, Dylan Thomas, C.S. Lewis. I recently found The Chronicles of Narnia in a Little Free Library in Kapa’a. The sexism surprised me. Perhaps she left those parts out.

Yesterday I paddled into a male-only line-up at Secrets. My ingrained sexism kept me shy until one of them tried to snake the wave in front of me. “Oy!” I said, stroking quickly over the top in front of him. He did me a favor, though, because I started charging it. Caught a ride and stood up. Present, baby!

I am learning to see, to really see: the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. We are all these, and more.

Bullfighter by Shé, 6″ x 9″, acrylic on canvas paper, 2022; after Susan Orlean’s “The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup.”





4 responses to “Backward”

  1. Kevin Avatar

    hey–just wanted to say really nice piece of writing–felt like I was in that salt water world for a few minutes and it was beautiful. Nice tie in re personal agency too—

    1. Shé Avatar

      Thanks very much!

  2. Joan Law Avatar
    Joan Law

    Nice, leaving the past is hard but necessary. Glad you are seeing things in the present and future. Enjoy your life as it is. XO

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    1. Shé Avatar

      XO back atcha.

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