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A Photo is Worth 1000 Songs – North Shore Reasonings

A series exploring photos, words, and songs.
Photos: Arik Solberg
Words: Dave Shiffman
Songs: ♫ on Spotify


Heading inland from the epic breaks and monster waves of the surfing mecca of the north shore of Oahu, your pulse accelerates when you first spot the sprawling monkeypod tree. You turn up Ooklah the Moc on your headphones and negotiate your way through the swampy terrain, hoping that you don’t find a slimy, primordial leech stuck to your calf when you reach solid land again. You recall that leeches have been used medicinally for hundreds of years, but you’re not in need of any bloodletting at the moment. You’d much rather encounter a lychee.

Suddenly, a fast-moving tropical squall introduces itself with a huge clap of thunder. You still have a little ways to go to get a prime view of the monkeypod tree, so you take cover from the mini-monsoon under a cluster of nearby trees. You inspect your lower limbs for unwelcomed freeloaders and while looking down, catch a glimpse of a gorgeous hibiscus flower floating by your feet.


The hibiscus only blooms for roughly a day, but what a treat! It’s large, flat petals offer a robust flash of color as they seem to stretch for the corners of the sky, showboating like a peacock cruising for a date.

The rain abates, and when you set out again, as you make your way around the grove of trees, to your surprise, you spot a waterfall! Water courses down the steep embankment and splashes into a little pond below, before continuing on in the form of a slow moving stream.


Unlike the fleeting hibiscus bloom, (Spend the day hungover on the couch and you may miss it!) the waterfall is much more steady. And while the ecosystem can rely on this vital conduit to continuously transport water from a volcanic crater in higher elevation down to the Pacific Ocean, the flow of the fall fluxes frequently depending on recent rainfall and the time of year.

A few more wet paces and you arrive at the tree. The violence of the brief storm, as if it never even happened, has given way to total serenity. You can see the full image of the monkeypod tree reflected in the still pond beneath.


Whereas the hibiscus and waterfall may change daily, comparably, to the human eye, the monkeypod tree changes imperceptibly. Return to this spot a year later, and you may not notice any difference in the tree. But rest assured, its roots and branches inch forward each day as its trunk gains girth and height. Then you notice the curled leaves and recall that monkeypod leaves fold up nocturnally and during rain, allowing water to more easily pass through to the ground. Amazing!

You realize that all around you, at every moment, the cycle of life is constantly at work, continuously in motion – sprouting, growing, transforming, adapting, withering, dying, decomposing. You marvel at the guile and ingenuity of nature and realize that you, too, are a work of the same artful Creator.


SONGS: ♫ on Spotify

Dave is the author of "The Cosmic Burrito", a tale of two friends who drive across the USA in search of the ultimate burrito. In the past, he has written for various music publications and interviewed a range of artists including Sublime, Everclear, Burning Spear, Big Mountain, Bad Brains, Neal Casal and Lucky Dube. Dave has a deep passion for reggae music, Rasta consciousness and island culture. In reggae circles, he goes by the name "Rootsdude," and he has dubbed his extensive music collection “Rootsdude Sound System.” David plays ice hockey weekly for two recreational teams he founded and manages, Team Rasta and The Wailers.