Salt Lake This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     Whenever I tell someone I’m from Salt Lake, they assume I mean Salt Lake City, Utah. Since moving to this tiny district smushed between Pearl Harbor and the Ko’olau mountains, I’ve wondered about the peculiar name Salt Lake. A place would not be called that unless there was a lake of salt somewhere, but all I could see were condos, apartments, military housing, shopping centers and small houses with rock gardens. Where would a lake fit in all of this mayhem?

I remember when I was a child, the kumus told stories from old Hawaii about how things came to be. Many were about how Maui brought gifts to mankind, like fire, and the light of the sun. Others were about Pele, and how she created many wonders in her rage.

“Long ago,” said Kumu Kina, “Pele came to the small island of Oahu. Here she planted her fire-stick in the hard rock and formed large mountains and craters. Hot lava burst forth from many of them and made the island grow. The holes that she dug too deep are now Punchbowl Cemetery and Diamond Head crater. Pele dug other craters nearby. Can anyone tell me which ones?”

“Aliamanu Crater!” squeaked one boy.

“Yes,” smiled Kumu Kina. “Those of you military who live in Aliamanu Military Reservation are living in what used to be a volcano!”

There were many excited whispers when another child raised her hand.

“Salt Lake,” she said. I stared at her in surprise. Salt Lake, a crater?

“Wonderful!” said Kumu Kina. “Salt Lake is a special crater. Pele dug it as her new home, since she liked to move around, like some of you military kids. When she dug the crater and no fire came out, she sprinkled salt to make it clean and pure. She kept digging, looking for fire, when instead water came out and flooded the crater.” So, Salt Lake did exist, and it was nearby!

“Salt Lake is a very big lake,” said Kumu Lik. “People once said it was connected to the ocean by lava tubes. The Japanese thought the navy tried to hide submarines inside.”

How could I miss something that big? Once I was old enough to leave the Navy housing by myself, I searched for the lake that hid submarines. I rode my bike past the schools, shopping malls and condos daring to go as far as the elementary school, which stood in the shadow of the mountain. The lake had to be close. I sniffed the air, searching for a salty scent. I risked getting run over to examine the carcass of a heron. It would not be this far from the sea if there was no food. I saw many things, but no salt lake.

“Where is Salt Lake now?” asked Kumu Lucy of the class.

“It’s one of the pools in the golf course,” said a blond girl.

That didn’t make my search easier. Hawaii is practically made up of golf courses. They’re so big that if a lake was inside one, I would not be able to see it. For the first time, I felt lost.

High school meant that I could not waste my time searching for a lake. But I was not the only one thinking about it.

“I remember Salt Lake,” said my biology teacher when we were studying ecosystems. “We would take field trips to visit the marshes. The fish there were plentiful, and people would waterski and swim.” His eyes twinkled at the fond memory.

“Where is the lake?” I asked. The twinkle in his eyes disappeared.

“It’s gone,” he frowned.

“Gone?” I said in surprise. “How can it be gone?”

“They drained it years ago,” he said with a scowl. “They built apartment buildings and neighborhoods where the lake was. All that’s left is a puddle at the country club.”

I returned to riding through Salt Lake on my bike when I felt myself entering a deep basin I had not noticed before due to the asphalt and concrete. Inside I again saw the apartment buildings and shopping malls. This time I did not stay long because of my shame. I had spent part of my life searching for a lake that was not there. A lake that I dreamed had marshes with strange plants to examine, butterflies and fish to catch, and deep water to swim in. It was embarrassing that I had a dream for something that was no longer possible.

Not until I was invited to the country club for an awards ceremony did I finally see Salt Lake, or what was left of it. It loomed larger than any body of water I had seen, save the sea, yet was only a fraction of its former glory. There were still herons and ducks swimming and looking for fish. After all these years, the lake was right in front of me, but instead of feeling triumphant, I could not help but feel a pinch of sadness at the fact that this was the only way I could enjoy it.

Many environmentalists have campaigned hard to preserve natural treasures. As part of a generation deprived of such a treasure, I finally understand what they are truly fighting for.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
today at 4:45 am
i love this so much!
Site Feedback