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Mar 15, 2016

The fresh, warm morning air blew gently against my face as I looked out towards the nearest island. The sand between my toes was clean and soft, not irritating at all. As I let it fall through my fingers, it occurred to me that I was looking at the Pacific ocean. Now, that is something that I don't always do. It was still early; there were only a few people here and there, some jogging, some like me, experiencing the beach in the quiet of the morning. The birds up in the palm trees, however, were anything but quiet. They chirped and chatted noisily, arguing with their neighbors. The waves lapped softly on the shore; they were also waking up. I knew that later on the wind and the waves would grow, and soon become quite intimidating. But in this paradise, how could anything be intimidating? As I looked over at a hedge blooming with tropical hibiscus flowers, I couldn't imagine anything on this island being anything but beautiful and relaxed. I was soon to find out that there was a lot more to this island than I realized. I walked over to a beach hut to order a coffee. It had a view of both the beach and the high volcanic mountains that are at the center of the island, the two volcanoes that are responsible for the island itself. They are densely covered in trees, with their tops hidden by cloud all day. Apparently, the Haleakala Observatory sits way above the clouds, in the dry summit of the dormant volcano. There, far above human activity and artificial lights, the stars and planets are observed all year long. "Click, click, click,click," went a camera right next to me which made me jump. A man at the coffee bar was taking photos of the whales that were surfacing out at sea, not too far from the shore. It is the breeding ground for the humpback whales who come here every winter from Alaska. The ocean here is rich with sea creatures, and full of color. And it is the ocean that brought the first people to this island and the other eight that form Hawaii; the Polynesian and Tahitian came bravely on boats crossing huge areas of dangerous ocean. This relaxed atmosphere makes it easy to forget about the struggles of the first people, and the perfect weather makes you forget about the violent, tropical storms, and giant winter waves that crash into the island. Yes, there is a lot of beauty and peace to be enjoyed in Maui, but that is not all. Its volcanic beginning was violent, but like a mother, it nurtures life all around its shores. It stands strong against winds and storms, but it also reaches up through the clouds to gaze at the stars.