N 21° 20.398 W 157° 48.056
from Local Treasures
Old men playing dominoes in the park, a strangely languorous woodpecker fretting a dead oak tree, a thousand three-year olds playing croquet. I sat on the ground near Manoa Falls in Honolulu, amid so much bamboo I had to hug my knees tight to fit between the thick stalks, listening to wave after wave of its delicate clatter while the wind washed through this lush place. I have fallen in love with a sound, want to find a way to describe it, to share the idea of it, the feeling it evokes. But none of these comparisons convey the hushed counterpoint, the susurrus of young leaves in a high canopy, like the sigh to which satin aspires. It’s how peace would sound it if made a sound, I decided.
Giving up on all of these analogies, I tried instead to simply spell what I heard, to hold it in phonemes. But nothing quite fit. Later, that night, as I was drifting to sleep, the spelling that wouldn’t come in the bamboo grove seemed suddenly obvious (my unconscious mind is better designed for solving such puzzles than is my earnestly working brain). Testing the guess out loud, I listened to the syllables rustling against themselves, occasionally harmonizing with the whispers of the sea, as I murmured the ancient word for deepest peace: shantih, shantih, shantih.