My father held my hand.
We hadn't gotten far when he pointed to something in the sand. "A skull," he said, and there it was, a baby's. It looked like how I pictured a skull looking, just smaller. I was shocked. Then they were everywhere: down by the water, up past the sandbanks. Forty people, or a hundred - I couldn't tell. They edged toward the ocean, skull here, leg bone there, bleached and scattered, the bones of little girls and old men. Some had tumbled to the shore; some were still banked along the dunes at the top of the beach where they had been laid. They were very white. Tiny holes opened where insects and the wind had eaten through ....
All the way along that Niihau beach, picking up lobsters, stepping past bones, I had that sick-sweet feeling of wanting to open my eyes wider so that I could take everything in, and at the same time wanting to close them and run.
Except from West of Then by Tara Bray Smith 2004 ISBN 0-7432-3679-3 p. 180-181
Published by Simon & Schuster.
'..... forced to bury their dead in mass graves' is just one of the devastating sentences in the news this week, referring to the victims of the tsunami.
It reminded me of this excerpt in the memoir of Tara Bray Smith which is a haunting account of her life on Hawaii.
The time after the islands were discovered in 1778 by Cook is referred to as the 'Great Dying'. The European explorers introduced diseases such as smallpox, measles and influenza to Hawaii. An estimated 400,000 Hawaiian people, (based on a visual count by one of Cook's men), plunged precipitously to 40,000 in a few decades.
Beach paintings by Melanie McDonald www.melaniemcdonald.com
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