Category Archives: Hawai’i – 2012

Leaving Paradise

March 7, 2012 7:10 PM Kahului

Time flies like an arrow (and fruit flies like a banana). Mau’i is a beautiful place even though it was overcast and windy. I realized that I have seen much of the island and this was a time to enjoy the company of good friends. We went out in the boat and saw whales; we walked dogs; we sat at the computer and looked at photos from our past.

It’s not a bad thing to have a bucket list, but often times it’s the little things–the personal connections that we don’t think of or take for granted–that are the important things.

Aloha!

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A Sense of Peace

March 5, 2012 7:30 AM HST

Chuck and Zannah’s place in Haiku. The ohana is in the foreground and the house in the back.

This trip has been different for me. Usually when I travel, I spend no more than 2 nights in the same place and those are usually in a hostel, B&B, hotel or camping. I’m always leery of staying with friends because I don’t want to be an imposition. This trip I have stayed the whole time with an old friend and her husband. I’ve stayed with them before, but never this long. In fact I’m not sure I’ve ever stayed with anyone this long!

They are well set up for long term visitors. Their ohana, guest house, is separated from the house and I can come and go easily without disturbing them and so can they. Their compound reflects who they are: Chuck’s fishing boat sits on a trailer by his shop where he does woodwork and custom welding; there are a myriad of gates, kennels, scratching posts, etc., for the 4 dogs and countless cats that come through Zannah’s informal rescue mission; the house is set up for friends with the kitchen integral to living/dining area and the ohana allows for friends from afar to come and stay.

Unlike most trips, I have not been obsessed with seeing this or going there, determined to optimize my time here by hurrying to the beach to relax. The first day I visited a couple of places, one I hadn’t visited before, but then I started staying here at the ohana more. It’s a beautiful place to be and I feel very relaxed here (and that IS why I took the trip!). I’ve read several books, napped in the afternoon and talked story with Zannah. There was a time in my life when I would have been beside myself with anxiety because I wasn’t doing anything (and, truth be told, that anxiety does creep in sometimes), but for the most part, just being here is fine.

So today maybe I’ll drive to Hana and Kaupo just to prove I can be while I do. Or maybe not.

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Whales

March 4, 2012 7:30 AM HST

What is about whales? Is it just their size? Their grace?

Yesterday we went out on Ma’alaea Bay in my host, Chuck’s, fishing boat. He’s a commercial fisherman and his eyes picked out every blow. Seen from afar, they are tantalizing little spots on the water, but up close, one cannot help but feel a profound sense of awe.

A mother and calf appeared 100 yards from the boat and we watched them roll through the gentle waves, blowing and occasionally showing their flukes as they dove. We were hoping to see one of them breach, but that wasn’t to be. Just seeing these majestic creatures, much bigger than the boat, was enough. Later we saw a pair of adults. They moved almost in unison, undulating slowly through the sea. In the far distance an adult breached twice.

As a tourist, I often find myself looking for the spectacular, the incident to talk about, “Yeah, I saw a huge Humpback breach right in front of the boat!” But the true joy in this outing for me was just drifting in the gentle swells, looking back at the two volcanic cones that form the island of Mau’i, feeling very small in the vastness of whales and the sea.

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Changes in Latitude

March 3, 2012 5:30 PM HST

One of the things I found when I first went to the southern hemisphere is that things I didn’t think I noticed actually had been imprinted. If you had asked me if I knew the stars in the northern sky I would have said I knew a few constellations if I looked for them, but otherwise, no. The first night I had a chance to be under the stars, I immediately found that I was looking into the sky for something familiar. There was no Big Dipper, no Polaris, but a new signature constellation, the Southern Cross. I took a while to get used to it, but then I started to notice some familiar constellations faint in the northern sky.

When I got here, the doves in the morning were familiar. As I hiked up the Waihee Ridge Trail, a whole new set of bird songs were audible. As the trail climbed out of the meadows and into the woods, those songs changed. As I climbed further out the woods and into the clouds, the songs disappeared altogether.

Henry Lickers, a Mohawk scientist at Akwesasne (and the head of the Environment Division of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne) has developed a theory of natural knowledge. Essentially the idea is that we learn things about our natural environment that help us survive. Those things aren’t necessarily learned consciously, but sometimes they go directly from our senses to our judgment centers without passing through language that converts them into the symbols that our rational mind processes.

When I visit a place, I start that process of accumulating natural knowledge. It doesn’t progress very far—I don’t have survival needs that depend on it—but some of it stays with me. Some of the bird songs in Hawai’i stick with me. I have learned that the rocks aren’t as sticky and I have to be more careful walking on them (although it sometimes takes a fall on my keister to remind me). There are a myriad of things I know rationally about the area—Centipedes give a painful bite, lava comes in different types—but it’s all very cerebral. I am a babe in these woods.

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Hidden in Plain View

Olowalu, March 1, 2012 3:00 PM HST

One of the things about Hawai’i that always catches me off guard is the fine grain of diversity here. You can be driving through a cloud forest and 3 minutes later you are in a brown desert. Or a red desert or a golf course farm. The same is true of the culture. One minute you are in a community of condos, the next in run down shacks. Not that the folks in the run down shacks are any less happy or interesting than golfers in plaid pants, mind you.

The stretch of road between the Ma’alaea Harbor and Lahaina captures a lot of this. There are tended beach parks along the way and there are stretches of beach in between that are untended and trees grow over some of the beach. The latter are often occupied by people who are squatting there for the long term. Periodically the authorities come around and kick them all out, but they return. Both types of beaches are used by tourists and natives alike and while the difference is generally pretty apparent, they coexist amiably for the most part.

There is a dot of a town on this road, Olowalu (“many hills”), that captures this fine grain diversity. There is the Olowalu General Store and the Olowalu Juice Stand. And that’s it for business. Taking a turn toward the ocean in Olowalu leads you within yards to a gated private home, but a dirt track to the left leads around the private property to the sea. There is a parking lot and a short walk to the edge. Turning right leads to a mown lawn, part of which is private and part public, and a jetty.

Olowalu Beach

Some other interesting features of the place were the skeleton of a building of some kind, possibly an ammunition bunker, and the huge stump of a tree that must have been cut down 50 years ago.

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