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IMG_1429 (800x589)My computer clock tells me that it’s 2.09 am on 31 December and yet my wristwatch says 15.o9  on 29 December. Such is the joy of being in two places at the one time. I really wanted to go for a swim today – after mass – so we went down to Pebble Beach, also known as IliIli  (lots of small pebbles) in Captain Cook, Honaunau. We had the place practically to ourselves but any thoughts of taking a dip were put to rest as the waves surged and roared their way to shore.

IMG_1437 (800x589)The view was spectacular and as the currents ripped and tore the pebbles, the world came into perspective. Such was the strength of the ocean that no one stood a chance. That lone man – a hefty 6 foot +, weighing at least 250lbs – went flat on his ass  and sat, stunned, as the water washed over him. Those who turn their back on the ocean do so at their peril.

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Walls of water showed little mercy for anything caught in their way. We perched far enough way to enjoy the spectacle, out of reach of the spray, but still, by times, a couple of waves came close enough to make us scramble. It was mesmerising. Who needs special effects or TV when you have this in your front yard. The locals are a tad upset that this beach features in the guide books – it’s not a swimming beach – not in winter, and every year people get caught out. Not necessarily swimmers, but those on shore who turn their back on the water and fail to see what’s heading their way. And the only sign posted is one that says nudity is prohibited.

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The beach is littered with black pebbles, all of which are gone by February, swept out into the ocean along with the sand from the other beaches on the island. Where do they go? And how do they find their way back? And where did this lone white pebble come from?Given a few more hours, I’m sure that the answer to the meaning of life would have come to me …. but we were expecting visitors and the cocktails were acalling.

IMG_1479 (800x599)I can’t think of a better way to end the year that to sit underneath a palm tree on the edge of the ocean and watch Mother Nature do her thing. And yet again, for the fifty millionth time,  I promise myself that the next place I live will be within hearing distance of the sea.  It has wonderful way of putting things into perspective and making me realise that there’s little point in worrying about stuff I can’t change. Far better to appreciate what I have and give thanks for that.

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When I started this Grateful series at the start of this year, I had no idea of how it would work or what shape it would take. It’s been quite the experiment. In that first post, Grateful 52, I wrote: I can’t help but wonder what our world would be like if more people took the time to give thanks – to themselves and to others. Thanks for the little things that make life worth living. Thanks for the people in our lives who keep us sane. And thanks for karma – who, will, at the end of the day, make sure that all wrongs are righted.When I wrote that first Grateful piece, little did I know that I’d be writing the last one for 2012 from Kona, Hawaii.

IMG_1351 (800x600)Today, we visited the Painted Church in Honaunau. I’ve been there a few times and it hasn’t lost its charm. It was built 1899 by Father John Velghe who decorated the inside of the church with his paintings. Fr Velghe was a Belgian priest of the order of  the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Society – the Picpus Fathers. Located on the slope of Mauna Loa, a 13,680 feet volcano mountain, it overlooks the Pacific ocean and those buried in the cemetery have a gorgeous view.

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The small wooden church is both simple and intricate and, perhaps, fancifully, I believe that it’s all the holier for it. To find a church that is open without a resident caretaker comes as such a surprise. To see a stand outside selling crafts with an honor box beside it, was enough to restore my faith in human nature.

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IMG_1372 (599x800)The paintings are a little faded and when the sun hits, it’s hard to see what they depict but the overall effect is still quite wondrous. There are six pillars inside the church, each with something inscribed. While we were there today, this guy was telling his wife that the inscriptions told the stories of the wall paintings. But he was wrong. I checked. Each contains one of the six mottos of St Benedict, after whom the church is named.

O ke kea hemolele ko’u malamalama – The Holy Cross be my light
Hele oe pela i Satana – Begone, Satan
He poino kou mea i ninini mai ai – You have poured forth trouble
Aole o Satana ko’u alakai – Satan is not my guide
Ua oki oe me kou mea pau wale – Stop with your perishable things
Nau no e inu kou poino – Drink your own misfortune.

In the groIMG_1354 (590x800)unds, there’s a monument to Fr Damien, who so famously worked with the lepers of Kalaupapa.  [I didn’t know that leprosy is known as Hansen’s disease.] His story, too, is a remarkable one of simplicity and courage. In a world where religion has been the cause of so much hardship, I’m reminded by what Kofi Annan once said: the problem is not the Koran, nor the Torah, nor yet the Gospel. The problem is never the faith – it is the faithful, and how they behave towards each other. In this small community of Honaunau on the island of Kona, the faithful are doing an admirable job of staying true to their faith. And it shows.

As this year draws to a close, I’m grateful that my faith takes me places that I might otherwise miss; I’m grateful for the friends who travel with me as I make my way through life; and most of all, I’m grateful that I believe.