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the yellow hibiscus
By Margo Fallis 2007

Tropical breezes whispered through the window causing the curtains to move gently against the glass sliding door. I walked outside and stood on the 23rd floor balcony of the hotel, looking out at the ocean. I couldn’t see much of it, as there were so many high-rise hotels, much the same as the one I was staying in. I turned another direction and looked at the mountains. They were enshrouded in mist and carpeted with lush green vegetation.

I was enjoying the beauty of the islands. My hotel window looked down on the International Market Place, a shopping area filled with carts selling pearl jewelry, t-shirts, flowered shirts, hula dolls, jade statues and everything else the vendors thought they might be able to sell to tourists. They all sold the same merchandise, but each tried to make their wares seem special and different from all the others. There was also a food court and the aroma of cooking chicken, simmering in soy sauce, often floated up to the heights of my room.

Other times the heavenly scent of plumeria invaded my nostrils. There were a few vendors who sat all day making colorful, fragrant leis. A non-stop hammering sound echoed off the hotel walls, made by men below, chiseling at pieces of wood or coconut shells, carving tikis and odd shaped heads as onlookers gazed with wonderment. Burly island women could be found sitting near the men, weaving purses and bags out of palm fronds.

I had signed up for a hiking tour into the tropical rainforest. Someone was going to pick me up in front of the hotel and whisk me away, deep into the heart of the island. I was excited and dressed for the excursion. I went back inside the hotel room, grabbed my backpack and headed for the elevator. It always took a long time for the elevator to get to my floor. It seemed to make a stop on every floor as it made its way up. There was also a glass elevator that went up and down the outside of the hotel. I took whichever one came up first. This time, it was the glass elevator. As it made its way down the outside of the building, I was treated to panoramic view of the area where our hotel was.

I left the elevator and headed through the open lobby to the busy street where a van was waiting for me. There were six other people on the tour. We chatted away, introducing ourselves as we drove into the rainforest. Our driver parked the car and handed out raincoats. When I looked at her quizzically, she reminded me that this was a rainforest. I smiled and slipped the bright yellow raincoat on over my hiking clothes.

We headed down a path. Right away I knew I was in trouble. The rain started coming down. Soon, the path was nothing but mud and it led up hill. The others seemed to have no problem hiking at the same pace as the guide. I, on the other hand, couldn’t keep up. I slipped in the mud several times and had to stop frequently to catch my breath and rub my sore calves. The rain never stopped. Streamlets of water came racing down the mountainside, carrying mud and rocks with them, all headed right for my feet. I tripped so many times that I was soon drenched and covered from head to toe in mud. The others didn’t seem to care and went on with the hike, not noticing that I was missing. I soon found myself a far distance behind the group.

I was angry, as they’d seemed to have abandoned me. I was discouraged because I was muddy and wet and covered with bruises and cuts from the many falls I took. I started to cry. This wasn’t what I’d wanted it to be like. I’d thought it would be beautiful. I thought that I’d see brightly colored parrots standing on branches of large-leafed trees and butterflies of every imaginable color fluttering about me as I walked the path. At the least, I thought I’d see magnificent views at every turn of the trail; but it wasn’t that way. I wanted to turn around and go back.

As I reached the height of my self-pity, I came upon a small round clearing, about twenty feet in diameter. The ground there was muddy and surrounded by thick clusters of trees and hanging vines.

Just then something miraculous happened that changed my life forever; the rain stopped. For just a few moments the dark and heavy clouds parted, allowing a bright ray of sunshine to filter down to the ground near where I stood. The glorious sunlight shone down on a hibiscus bush. I stood in amazement as the yellow hibiscus, all wrinkled up for protection from the harsh elements, suddenly opened up in all its brilliance. Each petal spread forth and caught the sun. It held, in its delicate center, red feelers that glimmered like strands of rubies. Never in my life had I seen anything so beautiful. The hibiscus was taking advantage of the warming rays and it seemed to say to my heart, “Enjoy this moment and don’t forget it. I survive with these surroundings every day; dismal rain and gloomy clouds. Don’t give up hope. Go on, enjoy the little things in life.”

Just as the thoughts ended, the sun disappeared behind the clouds and the rain fell once more. The yellow hibiscus closed up, it’s moment of pleasure over for now. I took a deep breath, pulled the wet, rope-like strands of hair out of my face and carried on down the path. I soon caught up with the rest of the group and finished the hike.

When I arrived back to the hotel, I discarded my muddy shoes and clothes. After a warm shower I decided to go down to the International Market Place and find something to eat. As I headed to the back corner where the food court was, I passed a cart selling silver chains and charms. I saw a silver hibiscus pendant. It was dangling from a shelf. I took it in my hand and held it tightly. This was meant for me, to remind me of the hibiscus I’d seen in the rainforest. I bought the necklace and put it around my neck. From then on, every time I started feeling sorry for myself, or found that I wasn’t appreciating what I had, I would reach up and hold onto my hibiscus, remembering the lesson I’d been taught that day. Life is to be savored, both the good and bad that goes along with it. I knew I had to try to enjoy the good times when they came. I won’t forget. My hibiscus is there every day to help me remember.

the yellow hibiscus - usa