MILAKALE, KAUA‘I, THE STATE OF HAWAII | 1972
When the teacher became aware, he was cast out of a warm world of water and salt. He liked to think that he had been born of the biggest womb in the world: the Pacific Ocean. He was delivered, not squalling, but gasping for air on a pile of lava rocks; laid out like a sacrifice. But to whom should he be offered up? The teacher could think of no one.
Nor could he imagine what chain of events led to his ignoble presentation; brined and bleeding from his corporal brushes with coral. Nothing left to do but get on with it, he supposed, with very few clues as to what it might possibly entail.
The teacher … did he always think of himself as a teacher? Did he actually have a name? … struggled to his feet and spoke the two words he remembered from somewhere; “I am.” His voice was parched and unfamiliar to him, but the intent was very recognizable. He knew he had been cast here for an important purpose, but exactly what that was might have to wait. He was famished.
A lone figure appeared out of the dense growth surrounding the beach carrying a large polished plank with a fin attached. Perhaps some kind of shark totem, the teacher thought. That’s a good sign, he recognized; apparently he knew what a shark was.
The man was tanned and had the bleached white hair of someone who spent his days in and around the ocean. When the figure saw the teacher standing naked on the heiau, he dropped his totem and spoke the two words that came to define their relationship going forward.