Walking from Hana to the Seven Sacred Pools on Maui, my two cousins and I encountered a tiny shrine built into the corner of a roadcut. Not just a cross with a person’s name. Mary and Jesus, painted, with a tiny fountain and water running from a stream above.

Mary’s colors were vibrant – gold hair, a halo, bright blue dress, bare feet in pink, eyes cast down on her Baby Jesus. The Baby had a tiny halo, too, of course. I was stunned. Dan and Michael had been here before and knew about Mary and Baby Jesus. Both were non-believers. None of us were raised Catholic, so it had little meaning to us. I was just struck by the incongruity of it here on a very narrow dirt road, almost a trail, hanging out on a cliff far above the deep blue Pacific Ocean below.

I’d had a migraine headache the day and night before and we’d slept on Hana Beach, where I would raise my head occasionally to throw up in the sand. So now I was in the after-glow of the migraine, having departed by daybreak, and everything in life was enhanced by the ecstasy of pain relief. The shrine was astonishing to me. I wasn’t thinking about religion.

But my iconoclastic young cousins were laughing and pointing and saying crude things. I didn’t care one way or the other; I wasn’t religious either and had renounced the whole business when I turned 16 after reading my first feminist literature.

Dan, to his younger brother’s delight and hilarity, climbed up on the shrine and humped Mary. I said something like, Oh my God, Dan, you are going straight to hell. And they both laughed harder. We all left soon after that peak moment.

But I never forgot the vividness of that image of the shrine of Virgin Mary holding her Baby Jesus and the natural fountain at the corner of that narrow road above the Pacific Ocean on our way to camp at Seven Sacred Pools.

Inspired by prompt from Cynthia Morris in Free Write Fling, May 2014