By now, the ebb had kicked in pushing me ferociously away from my destination. Any marginal progress I had made towards the shoreline of Oahu, scuttled with even the briefest of breaks to tread water and feed. Determined to finish, though depleted and extremely sore, I struggled to find a rhythm with my stroke. Like an old tractor engine running out of gas, I spluttered along. A seemingly endless cycle of stopping and starting, stopping and starting, that I’m sure was excruciating to witness.
Struggling and stopping again for the umpteenth time, I put my head up. “WHO IS WHISTLING?!” I shouted to Sheila paddling beside me. I looked to Joe swimming once again behind me. “Whistling?” replied Sheila with a very puzzled and concerned look on her face. This final portion of my swim wasn’t exactly a high point of my life. I had cried. A lot. I had glared at Joe. A lot. Unable to lift my sore arms, I reverted at times to a modified doggy paddle. So it wasn’t surprising to think that my crew had wondered about my mental state. If the water had been colder, hypothermia would have certainly manifested with some “crazy talk.” But I wasn’t cold. The water was a balmy 76 degrees.
“Yeah, whistling – I can hear it!!!” I replied with confident excitement.
Terrified that my crew would pull me from the water and thereby disqualifying my swim, I resolved to prove my sanity. Putting my head in the water I listened. Assisted by the buoyancy of the salty water, my legs and torso floated effortlessly on the surface as my arms dangled below.
And sure enough, an ethereal yet perfectly composed melody floated through the deep blue. With the sun shining, the ocean was a beautiful shimmering expanse of the most spectacular shade of blue.
For some reason I thought of my dear Grandfather who passed away in July. I felt his strength within me. And I knew at that point I could continue and persevere.
It wasn’t until the day after my swim that I learned of Aumakua…
“According to Hawaiian beliefs, an Aumakua can manifest itself in varying forms such as a shark, a sea turtle, a lizard, a whale or any other animal, plant or mineral. Members of the family were said to recognize their 'aumakua' no matter what form it chose, whether it be an insect on land or a crab in the ocean. The ancestral god might appear in a dream to furnish guidance or spiritual strength in difficult times. When a fisherman or craftsman was especially successful, credit was often given to his ‘aumakua’ for intervening with the principal gods to impart the mana, or power, that enable an earthly being to develop such skill. Many a canoe paddler has told of being lost or in danger between the islands, only to be guided by his ‘aumakua’ in the form of a dolphin or shark to a safe landing.” -- Betty Fullard-Leo