Hawaii was once a barren, rocky volcano, lost in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Have you ever wondered how it became home to a luxurious tropical forest? Here’s how it all started…
A long, long time ago lived a beautiful, healthy, green coconut named Ozzy. He lived with his brother Buzz and his sister Lizzie on a long beach of white sand. Not literally on the sand, of course. He spent his days swaying gently in sea breeze, hanging off the trunk of a giant palm tree. Broad leaves provided welcome shade against the hot tropical sun. The tree refreshed him with nourishing milk whenever he was thirsty. It was a strong tree, and had bravely weathered many cyclones. Great winds would bend it almost to the ground, but it would never snap.
Being high in the tree, Ozzy had a beautiful view of the endless beach, crabs dashing on the sand, the reef in the distance and the powerful waves breaking against it. Once in a while, he spotted dolphins jumping out of the water. His favorite time was early morning, seeing the sky light up slowly, and clouds turning into a million different shades of pink. Every sunrise was a unique masterpiece. He never saw the sunset, for he was facing east. But the sunrise was enough to make every day special. Ozzy felt happy, safe and comfortable.
One day, as usually happens during the cyclone season, dark clouds gathered on the horizon. Ozzy was excited to see the storm arrive. Being tossed around in the wind was a fun thrill, and lightning lit up the sky like fireworks. As the wind picked up, Ozzy felt a bit less comfortable. It was stronger than usual. The neighboring palm tree lost a large branch, torn off by the wind. When it hit the ground, Ozzy shuddered. All of a sudden he felt quite high up… “What if I fall?” he asked himself. He had never seen a coconut get back up a palm tree before. As the sea became rougher, waves began licking the palm tree’s feet. It was a big storm indeed, and he huddled close to Lizzie and Buzz. Before he had time for another thought, he heard Lizzie yell “Heeelp!” He watched in despair as she rolled down the beach and towards the waves. Ozzy immediately felt guilty for not having tried harder to shield her against the wind. She was a bit younger than him, and he had always felt responsible for her. He watched as a large wave rolled in, picking up Lizzy like a rag doll. Soon, he couldn’t see her anymore. She was swept to sea, buried under white froth.
Ozzy kept as close as he could to his older brother. The palm held firm, bending away from the wind. But he didn’t see the large branch flying through the air from another tree. It hit him square on the head, and his stem snapped. Just like Lizzie, he rolled towards the water, and a big wave swept him off the sand. The shore was getting further and further away, until he couldn’t see it at all. As night fell, he felt his body bobbing up and down the waves. There was nothing he could do. So he just floated in his solid and cozy shell, and fell fast asleep.
Waking up the following morning, the sky had cleared. The sea was smooth as a mirror and he felt the sun’s warmth on his skin. There was nothing to be seen in any direction, just endless sea. Luckily, coconuts float well. He just lay there, with thoughts of his family rolling through his mind. “I hope Lizzie’s safe, and that Buzz managed to hang on tight. I guess I’ll never know.” He still felt terribly guilty about Lizzie. Giant coconut tears swelled up in his eyes, when he realized he would never see them again. Ozzy was smart enough to know that the wind blows in different directions, and would never blow him back home.
Days went by. He was comfortable in the sea, well protected by his husk. Storms were a welcome change to the monotony of calm days. The waves would grow higher, and at the top of a wave he could see further than usual. He hoped to see land one day, as he knew he wouldn’t survive forever at sea. Storms were also fun for sliding up and down waves. When the sea was calm, the days seemed long. He missed the palm tree’s nourishing milk. But what he missed the most was the company of Lizzie and Buzz. Being alone in the middle of an ocean was, well, lonely. Once in a while, he spotted elegant sea birds, skimming just above the waves, and diving like arrows to catch fish. They ignored him completely. His only encounter was with a pod of dolphins. One of them picked him up on his beak like a ball, and flipped him high in the air. Ozzy’s favorite time of day was the sunrise, reminding him of home. But, being in the middle of the ocean, he also discovered sunsets. It was a different atmosphere to a sunrise. More peaceful maybe. It was as if curtains were opening to a spectacular theater, with shooting stars dashing across the stage. Under the palm tree’s broad leaves, he had never seen the full night sky. In the ocean, the entire cosmos was his to contemplate.
Countless more days and nights went by. Ozzy couldn’t remember how many. One day, as he was scanning the horizon for signs of land, he saw a small green stem poking up from the water. He’d seen a lot of driftwood in the ocean, but all of it had been dead. This one was bright green. “Could land be near?” he asked himself. The green stem got closer, and it was attached to large brown oval shape – about his size. It looked like a coconut. But he had never seen a coconut with green leaves poking out of its head. Still, he called out as loud as he could. “Ozzy???” came the reply. “Lizzie!!!” he cried back. He rubbed his eyes in the salt water to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. It was Lizzie indeed, with two beautiful leaves on her head. Lizzie was looking at him awkwardly, “what are those leaves on your head, Ozzy?” That’s when they realized they’d both grown small palm leaves of their own. “Well, it looks like we’re both teens now”, teased Ozzy. “We’ll soon turn into palm trees, so we better reach land quickly.” They weaved their young leaves tightly together, to avoid floating apart. The next days were spent talking about a thousand things – the big storm, their adventures on the open seas. Most of the time, they just floated without a word, enjoying the company. When the sea became rough, Ozzy held Lizzie tighter than ever. He couldn’t bear losing her again. Lizzie held tight too.
Then one day, far on the horizon, they noticed a black speck. As the wind pushed them closer, the speck took the shape of a large, dark mountain. Smoke was coming out of it, like a chimney. They saw a river of bright orange lava making its way into the ocean. The island got closer, and the waves pushed them into a sheltered cove. It wasn’t the white beaches of home. The sand was blacker than the darkest night. But it felt good to be out of the water, finally. Ozzy and Lizzie grew their small roots deep into the sand. The island was lonely, and they didn’t see another signs of life. But it was theirs, and they now had a chance to grow into beautiful trees. Best of all, they now faced west. This meant they’d see sunsets for the rest of their lives – in good company.
Thousands of other coconuts landed on the island in the following years, along with other types of seeds. The tropical forest gained ground, soon covering most of the island. Ozzy and Lizzie were the oldest, proudest and happiest of the trees on the island.