It was the end of a long class day, and I was arguing with myself over whether or not to straighten the desks of my classroom before faceplanting the podium in front of me.

Then a fellow teacher came in, said some friends were going on an afternoon hike. There was room to cram one more in the taxi.

Adventure on.

Before the afternoon was over, we had hiked to a forbidden island–literally. Saipan natives believe that the spirits of the ancestral dead haunt that place. The drowning of several Korean tourists a few years back adds credence, they say, to the legend.

Forbidden or not, we took the rough path from the hills at the northern point of Saipan down to sea level. The trail required clinging to stabilizing ropes and skidding down steep pebbly slopes on the descent.

Why does that which is forbidden always seem the most attractive? As I could have guessed, something about the place wrapped every rock in mystery and unreal beauty.

Who knew that it’s possible to stand right in the middle of something so beautiful? Strange, to actually feel the sea breeze off an exotic emerald coast. Strange to see the iridescent rainbow of a fish, gemlike, swimming in the water at my feet. Strange to hear the glassy crunch of a million bits of washed-up coral.

Strange, like I was the invader photo-bombing someone’s tragically beautiful portrait shot. But not quite forbidden.


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