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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

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Ever since becoming deeply moved and then essentially obsessed with reggae music as a teenager, Dave has always strove to learn as much as possible about the history and culture of reggae music, Jamaica and Rastafari, the ideology and lifestyle intertwined with reggae. 

Over the years, he has interviewed many personalities throughout the reggae world including Ziggy Marley, Burning Spear, Lucky Dube, Bradley Nowell and many artists in the progressive roots scene.

Dave has also written and published a novel, “The Cosmic Burrito,” a tale of two friends who drive across the USA in search of the ultimate burrito. He plays ice hockey weekly for a recreational team he founded and manages, Team Rasta.

Reggae music has filled his life with a richness for which he will forever be grateful, and he gives thanks to musicians far and wide, past and present, whether they perform roots, dub, dancehall, skinhead, rocksteady or ska, whether their tools are analog or digital, as well as the producers, promoters, soundsystems, selectors and the reggae massive at large who comprise the international reggae community.

You can follow Dave on Instagram at @rootsdude and Twitter at @ElCosmicBurrito.

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