Bits and Bobs about Hawaii

Interesting things that didn’t fit into my other Hawaiian posts.

There’s so much that intrigued me about Hawaii that I had to take copious notes during my visit. Not that I’m complaining. These notes will enrich my memories. But some of the tidbits of information didn’t fit naturally into my other posts about the Aloha State, so today I’m going to just throw a bunch of thought noodles at you and see which ones actually stick. There won’t be any particular order or story arc. This will sort of look like Hawaii after it has been in a blender. Here’s hoping it’s still pretty. Thank you for your indulgence.

My first impression of the island of Kauai is… chickens. Chickens everywhere. Here a chicken, there a chicken… Based on some lazy research and even lazier math, I estimate that there are about 6 chickens per capita on this island. That’s a lot of poultry. Most of them looked really healthy, and many of the roosters are absolutely gorgeous, so more power to them, I say. I just wish they had a stricter concept of when dawn is. You could hear them crow at 2 in the morning. Even so, I found it pleasant to share the island with them for a time.

A tour guide demonstrated something to me that I had never contemplated. Most of us know that chickens bob their heads when they walk. But I never noticed that hey don’t bob their heads when they run. It was fun watching the guide chase a chicken across a field to prove his point. I’ll always remember that.

Chickens notwithstanding, I believe that the most destructive invasive species in all of Hawaii are the feral pigs. They cause major damage to property and property values, agriculture, and ecosystems. There are so many pigs on the islands that you won’t find an estimate of how many pigs there are anywhere on the internet. (Believe me, I tried.) In fairness, it would be hard to keep track. A pair of pigs and their offspring can produce 15,000 more pigs over the course of 5 years. Imagine that level of expansion when you’re on an island. (I did find an estimate of the number of feral pigs in the entire US, and it’s over 6 million, and growing. At this rate we won’t be around long enough to see the full impact of global warming.)

In Hawaiian, the word for fire is ahi. So Ahi tuna got its name because of its bright red meat. That means that the fish did not get a name until some Hawaiian first sliced it open. (I’m glad I didn’t get my name that way.) But I’m a little surprised that they didn’t come up with something that describes the creature itself, because it’s beautiful to behold. That says a lot about priorities.

I find waves so hypnotic that I actually slept soundly in Hawaii, which is something that eludes me in most other places. And the unrelenting wind means there’s no need for AC while you sleep, and somehow that makes me happy. There’s nothing quite like fresh air and ocean waves.

There are no lions or tigers or bears in Hawaii, and you could go your whole life without encountering a poisonous snake. You’d think that would mean that hiking in this state is relatively carefree, but no. The island still has plenty of surprises for you.

It’s not a good idea to stray from the established path. For instance, that field of soft, welcoming ferns covering the ground to your left may actually be a dense mat that is more than 20 feet deep. You step into that, you may very well plunge to your death. These mats can also conceal lava tubes and jagged lava rock, so your death won’t be a pretty one.

But falling off hiking trails is fairly common in Hawaii. The terrain is steep, and gets slippery and muddy, and yet the things you would land on if you slip can be as sharp as glass. Never hike alone in Hawaii. Unless you’re really experienced, you might want to avoid hiking on all but the simplest trails.

Another danger that you might not expect is the Guinea Grass. It was first brought to Hawaii to feed the cows, which had also been brought in. Guinea Grass makes great feed as long as it’s kept relatively short as it apparently is in Africa. But, unchecked, this grass can get up to 15 feet high, and when it gets that tall, the cows won’t touch it. The taller it gets, the more tiny razor-like spikes it gets on the edges of its blades, and this can cause a cow’s tongue to bleed. So the Guinea Grass has pretty much taken over, with very little to stop it. And if you walk into this stuff, you’ll leave it feeling as though you’ve rolled naked in fiberglass. That, and it’s a fantastic contributor to wildfires. When not burning, it chokes out native plants.

We went to black sand beaches and “normal” beaches during our trip. But Hawaii also has one of only four green sand beaches in the world. Sadly the hike to get there is 4 miles, round trip and is often strenuous. My hikes are getting shorter and easier these days. You can’t do everything.

There are very few little free libraries found in Hawaii. (Believe me, I looked. And the map of registered ones at littlefreelibrary.org bears me out.) I did try to track down a registered one on a busy tourist street in Hanalei, but it wasn’t where it was said to be, and when we asked around, people looked at us as if we had two heads. I have no idea why, but these wonderful community resources just haven’t seemed to take off in this state yet. I hope they do eventually, because I can think of nothing more delightful and relaxing than reading a good book on a Hawaiian beach. But then, the locals are probably working three jobs just to be able to afford to live there, so they may not have time for reading.

Here are some pictures of a couple of the little libraries we did see. There is a nice big one in front of the Kapa’a Public Library. (Isn’t a little free library in front of a library kind of like gilding the lily?)

I tried something new on this trip. I call it “planned spontaneity.” It worked really well. Yes, we made reservations for the things we really wanted to do if they were required. But we also left some time in there to follow the suggestions we got along the way, check out the things we stumbled upon, and also to just chill out. Many of those times, to be honest, were the best ones for me. I used to plan every trip within an inch of its life, and then I married Dear Husband and saw how much he liked to do that stuff, so I took a back seat for a while. But that’s not really fair. I know I hated it when I had to do all the trip planning and reservations alone. So now I’m trying to make it so we both take part, but that we also leave some things up to fate and happenstance. It’s a delicate dance, but it’s worth it.

It’s “shave” ice, not “shaved”. And it is wonderful. Many places will put shaved ice over a scoop of ice cream for you. We tried that first, and I thought I’d be sick from the sugar. I don’t eat much sugar anymore, so this was quite the shock to the system. But shave ice is nice on a hot day.

If you want to make your kids giggle and your waitress roll her eyes for about the thousandth time this year, order a “pipi pupu”. That’s a beef appetizer in Hawaiian. But please give your waitress a generous tip for forcing her to hear the joke yet again.

In Kauai, two nice little side stops are Kilauea Lighthouse and Christ Memorial Episcopal Church. Both are beautiful in different ways. I highly recommend them.

Flying from one island to another is extremely convenient. We flew from Kauai to the Honolulu Airport, changed planes, and then flew over beautiful Molokai to land in Kona, Hawaii. But on our approach to Honolulu we took a sharp left turn to head landward, and we were hit with the worst turbulence I’ve ever felt my life. It seemed like we dropped 60 feet in less than a second. It’s the first time I’ve ever thought was going to die in an airplane. I even remember thinking, “This is it.” Getting to our destination was worth it, I suppose, but I think I might have a cocktail next time.

The Honolulu Airport is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s wide open to the elements. It feels like a Disney attraction, but with planes. And it is predicted that the Kona Airport will be covered in lava sometime in the next 100 years. They actually had to carve the runways out of lava beds there. Hawaii caused me to view real estate as something that is highly transient for the first time in my life. If Kauai is chickens, then the Big Island is lava. Lots and lots of lava.   

We also stopped at a farmer’s market in Hilo, and saw produce that looked like it came from another planet. We bought an avocado the size of my head. But it wasn’t a Hass, so it actually tasted like nothing. That was a bit disappointing. We also bought white pineapple, which is something I’d never heard of. It was extremely expensive, because they don’t produce many, and that’s probably why I’d never heard of it. There  aren’t really enough to send to the mainland. Think pineapple without the acid. Sweet as spun sugar. Everyone should try it! We also tried an organic mountain apple, which was kind of thick skinned and slightly mushy and therefore meh. And nothing in this farmer’s market had an actual price on it. I’m sure they see the tourists coming a mile away.

We ate at a restaurant called Harbor House in Kona. It had no walls. That gave us a great view of the marina. And it was fun to have the birds flying all around us. Until they pooped. Everywhere. But poop notwithstanding, the food is pretty good (and poop-less), and hey, it’s an experience!

The older I get, the more I look at experiences in terms of the memories they create. Hawaii added so many wonderful memories to my collection. The older you get, the more you accumulate. I’m sitting on a dragonpile (I should copyright that word) of precious memories, brought to me by travel. And I’m not alone in this.

By rights, the well-traveled elderly should be considered the most fascinating people in the world. You just have to ask the right questions and take the time to experience the answers. If you listen closely, you might hear the waves crashing in their words, and maybe the sound of Don Ho singing Tiny Bubbles will drift gently toward you as if on an island breeze.

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The Curse of Too Much Cake

What a curse, to lack gratitude.

I love cake, but if I ate it every single day, I’m sure I’d get sick of it, or at the very least, I wouldn’t appreciate it. So I have a slice of cake maybe once or twice a year, and it’s Nirvana.

That’s how my mother used to feel about oranges. She grew up in New England, toward the beginning of the last century, when produce wasn’t available out of season, and it certainly wasn’t shipped from other parts of the country or world. So on the rare occasion when she got to sample an actual orange, she viewed it as a luxury to be savored. I, too, love oranges, but I don’t think I will ever be able to have the appreciation for them that my mother had. I envy that.

Being able to see something’s value, its worth, to know what it’s like to be grateful for the mere existence of a thing, is in itself a precious gift.

I have always felt rather sorry for children of privilege. They will never know how exciting travel is. They will never appreciate a comfortable bed or a truly well-made meal. The pure joy of knowing what it’s like to work hard and sacrifice to finally reach a goal will forever elude them. They expect everything to be handed to them, so that’s the only anticipation they will ever know.

Children of privilege often don’t take advantage of unique experiences, because they believe that everything they could ever want or need will always be there. They would never run outside to see the Northern Lights. They probably can’t even be bothered to look up from their cell phones long enough to experience an eclipse.

I will always have a sense of excitement and wonder and pure joy when I get to do or see something new. I’ll never forget how tiny my piece of the cake was when I was growing up, so I will always appreciate every crumb that comes my way. What a curse, to lack gratitude. If that were my fate, merely existing would seem all but pointless.

Life is delicious. It should be feasted upon.

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Zero Shopping Days for Christmas

We keep Christmas in our own special way.

I have no intention of buying a single gift this holiday season. No, I’m not Scrooge. No, I’m not a bitter, lonely person. I’ve just outgrown the love of stuff, and am no longer a member of the cult of crass consumerism.

My husband and I are more into experiences than objects. My dogs don’t distinguish one day from the next. I have no children, and my parents have passed away. My niece and nephew are independent adults. My sister and I are long past the whole present buying thing. Thank heavens I wasn’t born into a family that takes the gift exchange to an extreme, buying for aunts, uncles, and cousins. And my fellow bridgetenders can’t be bothered with secret Santa. (Yay!) I don’t even mail out Christmas cards.

Yes, we’ll get a tree and decorate the house with lights. We will have a nice meal. We’ll listen to carolers and go to festivals and check out Christmas decorations in town. We’ll probably watch It’s a Wonderful Life while sitting in front of a nice fire. We might make a batch of cookies.

We keep Christmas in our own way. It doesn’t come wrapped in pretty paper. It’s not covered in ribbons and bows. But it will be merry in spite of, and perhaps even because of, that.

Christmas

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Revel in the Abundance

What delights are set before you!

I have a friend who will not go to restaurants that specialize in food from other cultures. He’s perfectly content with his hamburgers and his French fries and his macaroni and cheese. He likes his vegetables plain and unseasoned, with no fancy sauces, and his salads should only contain lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber. He can’t imagine how a vegetarian entrée could be as satisfying as steak and potatoes, and he certainly won’t try something that he couldn’t figure out how to prepare himself.

I weep for him.

Eating like that would be akin to living in a library and only reading The Great Gatsby. Great book, and all, but oh, what you are missing! What adventures, what knowledge, what delights are set before you! How can you ignore them?

I also have friends who have never bothered to get a passport. What would be the point? They have no curiosity whatsoever about the wider world. And it’s not a financial issue. They can afford to travel. They just choose not to. It’s maddening.

These friends appear content. And I do envy the fact that they seem to be convinced that they’ve found everything they could ever need or want out of life. That confidence is not mine.

But I think I’d find their lives extremely boring. I enjoy having new experiences. No, I don’t love every single thing I try. (One word: Wasabi.) But I never regret trying.

I like to go places where I’ve never been. I love learning about different points of view. I adore new sights, sounds, tastes.

Life is a fully stocked buffet laid out before you. What a gift! Revel in the abundance! Don’t just stop and smell the roses. Check out the corpse flowers, too, if you get a chance, just to see what their stinky smell is like.

Be adventurous. Eat life! Because this delicious buffet is only opened to you for a finite amount of time. And there’s nothing worse than wasting food.

Thai Elephant Day

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The Kind of Little Old Lady that I Want to Be

I don’t want my advanced age to be my cage.

A few weeks ago, I wrote The Geometry of Love, about a living demonstration of how all of us cross paths in random ways, and as we do, our influence widens. The demonstration has certainly had an impact on me in terms of how I view the world. But there was one detail I left out at the time, because it was a profound experience, and I needed time to digest it.

I didn’t participate in the experiment myself. I observed from the sidelines. But when they were asking for volunteers, I noticed an elderly couple sitting in front of me. Her arm shot up right away. She looked like she was in her late 80’s. She might have been 4’6” tall, and as fragile as a baby bird. Her husband grabbed her arm and tried to talk her out of it, because it involved spinning, and it was extremely obvious that this woman had balance issues. But no, she was anxious to get in there and participate. And so she did. He looked on with concern, but he didn’t stop her.

As she spun and wove amongst the other participants, she had a look of pure delight on her face. It made me smile. She was living her life, and having new experiences. But halfway through the demo, she came back to her seat and held her husband’s hand. She knew her limits.

I sat behind her and thought, “Wow. I want to be that woman in 30 years. I want to get in there and still try new things, even if it’s perhaps more of a challenge than I may be capable of meeting. I want to interact. I want to experience life. I want to go, and do, and see, and feel, and touch. I don’t want my advanced age to be my cage.”

But I also want someone to look out for me. I want him not to hold me back, but I want him to care, and I want him to be a safe place to return to when I realize I’ve gone as far as I can go. I want someone who will still hold my hand in my 80’s.

I’m proud to say that I’m pretty positive that I’ve found that man, dear reader, and I’m marrying him today. It just goes to show that it’s never too late to find your person. Wish me luck!

https _c1.staticflickr.com_4_3405_3275748024_9256bee984

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Assumptions

“My coworker is a slob. She says she cleans up after herself, but she doesn’t. I can tell. She has no respect for me, or for the job. She has a bad attitude. She can’t be trusted.”

Wow. I’d hate to work with someone like that! It must be so frustrating. That can’t be doing good things for your morale.

Here’s the problem with that assessment, though. It includes no fewer than 6 assumptions. The speaker is viewing those assumptions as fact. Let’s pull back the veil and look at the actual situation.

Your coworker isn’t more or less sloppy than the average person. You, in fact, are obsessive compulsive and hypervigilant. She does clean up after herself. It’s just that by the time you come along, several other people have been in the work area, and your coworker has no control over that. The state of the office is not a reflection of her respect or lack thereof. She actually loves the job and takes it very seriously. Her attitude is quite good, but she admittedly is on the defensive in your presence because her experience with you is that you are judgmental. She’s extremely trustworthy. (You might want to ask yourself if you find it possible to completely trust anyone.)

That kind of sheds a different light on the subject, doesn’t it? We all see the world through different lenses. We are the sum total of our past experiences. We all have our weaknesses and strengths.

Viewing assumptions as truths is life’s shorthand. It sure makes things go faster… but often in the wrong direction. As a coping mechanism, it does not serve us well. But it takes practice, being self-critical.

When is the last time you asked yourself what proof you had for a particular conclusion? How do you know people are thinking what you think they’re thinking? Have you asked? Mind reading is a heady power, but it’s the worst assumption of all.

Another assumption would be that I’m an expert at identifying my assumptions simply because I’m writing a post on the topic. On the contrary, I struggle with this concept on a daily basis. I’d like to think that I’m getting better at separating fact from fiction, but I suspect this will be a lifelong exercise in self-improvement, and one that’s entirely too important to pass over.

Assume

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Live Your Dash

I was completely befuddled when I heard that expression for the first time the other day. But once it was explained to me, it immediately became part of my personal philosophical handbook. We should all live our dashes.

Imagine your tombstone. It will include the date you were born, a dash, and the date you died. That dash is your life. Your whole entire life, boiled down to one tiny symbol on a tombstone. That’s pretty sobering.

You are the only one who will know what that dash has meant, from beginning to end. Only you will have borne witness to every millimeter of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The joyous. The profound. The horrible. The intense. The amazing.

That dash will be made up of all your risks and opportunities and triumphs and failures. It will sum up all your achievements. It will mark your generosity and your selfishness, your inspiration and your despair. It will also include a lot of wasted time.

Try not to waste too much time. Make something outstanding of your dash. Live! Love! Travel! Experience as much as you possibly can.

Devour life. It’s the best gift you will ever be given. And the value of that gift will be what you make of it.

Live your dash.

Dash

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Forgotten Bruises

I bruise easily. So easily, in fact, that I think my sister worried for a time that I was a battered woman, when I truly wasn’t. I’m just a pale-skinned klutz, is all.

Quite often I can’t even say what caused a bruise. Many times, when I bump into a door knob (or whatever happens to be the offending solid), I say to myself, “I should write this down, because I’m going to be black and blue, and I’ll forget why.” But I never do. (Write it down, I mean. I pretty much always forget why.)

It kind of makes me wonder about the other forgotten bruises in my life– namely, the emotional ones. I know I’ve earned the right to be cautious in relationships, for example, but do I really remember all the causes for this caution? How will I ever know for sure?

Maybe that’s a blessing. I doubt many of us want to dwell on all the slings and arrows we’ve experienced in our lives. And I am grateful that I’m still willing to take a chance when a wonderful person crosses my path.

But on the other hand, it might be helpful to know why I’m overreacting in a certain situation, or why I’m making a choice that even I can see isn’t particularly rational. The bottom line is that we are all a product of our past experiences. The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to understand your gut reactions.

But I’m beginning to think that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to sometimes take that x factor into account: the forgotten bruises. They made an impact, too. And while it would be great to always know what makes you tick, the honest truth is that you won’t. Not always. That’s what makes us human. So be gentle with yourself, dear reader. Just do the best that you can.

bruise

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Letter to a Future Love (In Hopes That He Exists)

I’ve been looking for you for years. I often wondered if you were right under my nose and I just wasn’t seeing you, or if I wasn’t looking in the right place.  More than once I thought I saw you, and you just couldn’t or wouldn’t see me. I always wondered if you were reading my blog, which was the only way I knew how to show myself to the world.

Did we pass each other on the street without recognizing each other? I’d look into the faces of strangers, hoping they’d see me, really see me, and consider me worth the effort. I’m sure I looked like every other face in the crowd, but inside my head I was screaming, “Where are you?”

It’s been a long, lonely, painful slog. I know you’ve been looking for me, too. If you’re reading this, I’m just glad you’re finally here. All during the search, precious time was passing; this was time I could have been spending with you. It felt like such a missed opportunity.

Every time I saw something new, I wanted to share it with you. Every time I got good news, I wanted to tell you. Every time I hit a rough patch, I wished you were there to comfort me. And there were a lot of amazing experiences I passed up, simply because I didn’t want to go it alone. I hope we still have time to do those things. I hope you’ll want to.

All I’ve ever wanted, really, was someone to travel with, and take naps with, and be playful with and have intelligent conversations with. I’ve wanted someone brave enough to win over and love my psycho dog as much as I do (that alone will weed out the vast majority). I’ve wanted someone who looks forward to seeing me as much as I look forward to seeing him.

I wasn’t looking for glamor or perfection, just mutual acceptance. I want us both to be able to be ourselves. I want someone who gets me. I want us to be able to count on each other. I had that once, and it was abruptly taken away. (I just hate mortality, sometimes.) I miss it.

I want to create a safe and peaceful harbor, together. So if you’re reading this, thank you for showing up. I’m sorry for almost having given up on you. I should have had more faith. But having said that, what took you so long?

Love

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Why College is Still Worth It

I have three degrees, and not one of them has helped me get a job. I’ve never worked in any of my fields of study. Never. If that’s your only yardstick for measuring a college education, then yeah, for me it was a monumental waste of time and money.

But I still maintain that college was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I would be a completely different person were it not for higher education. The impact it has had on me has been priceless.

First of all, dorm life is the perfect transitional period between living with your parents and entering the real world. You can try new things, have new experiences, and make truly epic mistakes while still being in a relatively supervised environment. It’s a very important rite of passage. Freedom with a bit of a safety net.

And I guarantee you that you will never find it that easy to make lifelong friends again. Something about pulling an all-nighter or sharing a room with someone bonds you. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

And I truly believe that it’s nearly impossible to go to a university and come out without your horizons having been broadened. You are exposed to other cultures, different schools of thought, and controversial points of view. You learn to question authority and make informed decisions. You discover the importance of thinking outside the box.

Continuing a formal education past high school also helps you discover who you are. You spend time with different types of people. You have different successes and failures. Saying to yourself, “I’ll never do that again” is every bit as valuable as finding your niche or your calling.

Having that amazing 4 year span before the chains of life start weighing you down in the form of mortgage and debt and relationships and obligations and soul-crushing responsibilities is also invaluable. I miss that feeling of only being lightly tethered. I’d love to have it back.

And, yes, of course I learned things that are quantifiable. I speak Spanish. I know the difference between there, their, and they’re. I suspect that if necessary, I could still remember how to rappel down the side of a cliff. And the critical thinking skills that I perfected there have served me well every single day of my life.

So yes, move heaven and earth to go to college. Just be more realistic in your fields of study than I was. You will have to pay the bills eventually.

If you skip this precious milestone in life, you’ll be selling yourself short. And you’ll never know just how much more amazing you could have been. Go for it.

college

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