I met my bald Buddhist love on New Year’s Day; at the time, I was with my husband. Getting up early, we hiked Diamond Head, along with other countless other tourists, including elegant Asian ladies wearing gold high heeled sandals. The view was magnificent.
We were to spend the day at Kualoa Park, a local favorite. In the background, the sublime Pali rises 985 emerald feet; 500 yards offshore, Mokoli’i Island, sacred to the ancient Hawaiians as a place of refuge. We settled on the grass in the shade of a tree. My husband went for a walk; I sat breathing the grass-sweet and briny ocean air. Behind me , seven Asian men with shaven heads, all dressed in loose fitting, elegant cappuccino-colored outfits. A few were performing complicated asanas, some swimming. One was pacing and speaking animatedly into a cell phone.
I sat on my blanket, arms wrapped tightly around knees, watching the ocean’s color shift from teal to turquoise to sapphire. I was brooding over my job, my marriage, and life in general, when I began to think about my mother. Suddenly, I was overcome with grief at her recent, unexpected death; I missed her so much. Just then, one of the men approached. He was young, eyes the color of amber flecked with gold. “Good morning,” he said. I wiped my eyes and said quietly, “Happy New Year.” They were Buddhist monks from South Korea, finishing a 6-month sabbatical, returning to Seoul tomorrow. He then startled me. “We see you sitting there, and you are so beautiful. You are so beautiful.” I was grief-stricken, tearful, speechless and embarrassed at this young man telling me how beautiful I was! I whispered thank you, and he walked away..
A few moments later, he returned and presented me with a gift of a cold fruit drink. He said they “would be thinking” of me the next day on their flight home. “You are so beautiful,” he said, and as something of an afterthought, added “and your husband, he is so lucky.” I murmured my thanks, this time with slightly more grace. With a warm smile, the monk bowed slightly and rejoined his group.
My husband eventually returned. “You won’t believe what happened.” I told him the story. “Nah,” he replied, with a bemused expression. He didn’t believe me. Although it would’ve been easy to feel hurt by his dismissal, I wasn’t. It was as if the monk had sensed the enormous sadness crushing me, and simply by his kind words, lifted the weight and released me. I stopped trying to understand the why of it, and instead, embraced the happiness that filled me.
Later that afternoon, the monks began to depart. As we watched, they turned and waived goodbye. To me. I smiled at my husband. He took my hand, looked at me for a moment, and said, very softly, very sweetly, “You are so beautiful, and I am so lucky.”
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