Early Morning, Crooked Spine


It had been a long couple of weeks leading into this Hawaiian vacation, and I was looking forward to catching up on my sleep. Sleep must not have wanted to be caught, however.

I woke up just before 6:00am on my first day in Hawaii in a condo full of sleeping family –which I had no intention of waking prematurely. So what was I to do but grab the car keys and my camera bag for an early morning photo shoot?

My rental van carried me along the seaside into the town of Kailua-Kona. There, the sun peeked out from behind the nearby mountains illuminated some of the spots I had seen in darkness the night before. That early, mild light brought them to life. I walked past old missionary churches with sanctuary doors already open. I stumbled into a farmer’s market that was just starting to hum to life, and got a few cranky looks along the way. I ventured into to an empty oceanfront bar whose patrons left just a few hours before. My camera was with me every step of the way.

The streets were surprisingly quiet that morning since the drivers of the world had evidently not yet gotten their start. Instead, I heard the waves crashing on the shore, and the plodding of running shoes worn by countless Ironman Triathloners-in-training. In that quiet of capturing the sort of images they don ‘t offer at home, I realized something; My frustration at rising early had given way to joy.

I’m an introvert, you see. My batteries recharge when I can spend time alone, in quiet, in thought, in exercise, in prayer, in photography, and in writing. The flight to Hawaii with eight diaper changes had not really been that recharging. And most of the trip to come would see my family travelling, lounging, and exploring with my in-laws. I love every single one of the people involved in the two scenarios I just mentioned, and I’m by no means shy, and yet time alone is what it takes to regain my energy. So I could see that this early morning of exploration and camera exposures was a timely gift from God.

The photograph you see here is one of those early morning photos. The plant life of the lush Hawaiian islands is so foreign to what I see in dry and sunny Northern California. This flora captures my attention. This particular tree in Hale Halawai Park towered high above the shops and restaurants of downtown Kailua-Kona. The colors of the tree were vibrant and punchy … but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the photo, would you?

I shifted this photo to monochrome to detail its branches and trunk, gnarled and aged as though it had witnessed the arrival of man, and may very well outlast him as well. The tree looked almost stubborn to me. Its crooked spine seemed to fight stubbornly to keep throwing out branches high above the upstart, newcomer tourists walking beneath. Okay, those are my words and not the tree’s. But if this tree could talk, I’d expect it would talk this way.

And that’s the beauty of this early morning walk. I was free to dawdle, to imagine and project and breathe. Despite the supposed grumpiness of the tree with the crooked spine, my batteries were charging quickly.

Hang this photo on your wall

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What do you see when you look at this photography: Scoliosis, or something different? Tell us in the comments below.


  • Katharine 07-02-2015

    I love it! It makes me think of autumn.

    • P.J. Oswald 07-02-2015

      No lie, that does look like autumn doesn’t it! Shh, don’t tell anyone the photo was taken in summer…

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