Regenerating, mauka to makai

This morning, gazing from a hilltop with a panoramic view that wrapped around me like a loving hug, I truly gaped at the wonder of our island before me. My eyes slowly panned from “Sleeping Giant” and Kalepa Ridge all the way to Haupu Mountain where it rises like a big turtle shell above Lihue and along the distant Hoary Head Range. They drank in the sculpted Kilohana highlands toward our own Mother Mountain of Waialeale, shadowed craters, and on to the waterfall ridges of the Makaleha Range above Kapahi.

The palette of leafy greens, pearly and plummy blues, ripe golds and liquid silver atop the rich, red-brown earth was enough to make me want to get out my brushes and paints when I reached home and emulate Georgia O’Keeffe, or Van Gogh in a flurry of expression, even if I fell far short of either of these geniuses at capturing light and color on canvas. Heck, I ended up making lunch, instead (it was a good one), and telling my husband about my enjoyment of that view. (However, my Grandma Moses approach of expression is waiting. I remember reading art books that say it was the distinct quality of light affecting color that entranced O’Keeffe and lured her to live and paint in Abiquiu, New Mexico. And the same went for Van Gogh in his move to Arles in southern France, where many of his most famous paintings were made.

Here I am, someone who’s drawn to art and likes playing with paints on paper, but never able to capture in 2D what inspired me in my unforgettable view of this morning. No worry. What’s important is that I’ve been enriched by the moment, by the extreme beauty of our island aina (earth, land) — what a place. No wonder people spend thousands of dollars to travel here from Seattle and Sedona, Medicine Hat and Toronto, Helsinki, Brussels, Vienna, London and Lisbon, not to speak of Bangalore and Singapore, Capetown, Queenstown, Hokkaido, Suva and every place beyond and in between.

As I learned years ago, Kauai is a known — not an unknown. People have been here to see and experience Kauai’s beauty and aloha from around the world, or they know someone who’s been here and wants to come themselves.

Our visitors come to immerse themselves in outdoor pursuits while enjoying the island’s natural beauty, to relax on warm, sand beaches and listen to the sea, as well as swim and ride waves. They come to de-stress. They take pleasure in tasting new foods and combinations.

Many enjoy visiting museums and events to learn about our Polynesian settlers and the foreigners who followed during whaling and plantation days. Some come to be married, to celebrate lasting love, and to be healed. There are myriad reasons for buying that airline ticket here.

What’s sad is that many of us on Kauai live the daily life of toil and duty, often working more than one job, struggling to keep up with costs and definitely not “on vacation,” mindless of the beauty and aloha in our surroundings.

It’s easier to focus on the everyday ho-hum or stress-producing messages of our smartphones, to diminish our view where technicolor perhaps turns drab. Slowly, we may close out all the things that feed our spirits and keep us happy and healthy, as well as hopeful.

Dr. Andrew Weil, who has written and spoken widely on maintaining physical and mental health, suggests natural energy boosters. He also prescribes taking an occasional news and communications break, freeing the mind of chatter and worry. Is this taking the ostrich approach to life, withdrawing from what we call reality? I wondered.

Then I heard a definite internal “No.” There are times when each of us might suspect that the personal well from which our energy bubbles up and enriches our lives in relationships, interests, and work, may be running dry. That’s the time to pull in and allow the spring to regenerate, to re-fill the well.

That includes doing nothing — absolutely nothing, beyond being — in a place of choice for short bursts of time, an Rx of immeasurable benefit. Or having 10 to 15 minutes of quality time with a child or parent; exercising; setting aside a time for friends (no need to have it be an elaborate, expensive, or work-generating plan); and maybe doing something for others, volunteering in the community.

Recent festivals on island provided days of much pleasure, beauty and relaxation to all who attended, drawing people together to enjoy pageantry, hula practitioners and storytellers as sources of cultural enrichment and community gathering. Storybook Theatre’s Princess Kaiulani Festival inviting all the kids’ participation was a new one, held in Hanapepe.

Before that came Eo e Emalani i Alakai to honor beloved Queen Emma and her trek via horseback to the high forest. The popular festival is held on the second Saturday of October each year in the wide green expanse of the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow in Kokee.

Returning makai from mauka (seaward from mountainward), there beckoned this past weekend the first Kauai Chocolate and Coffee Festival in Hanapepe, a celebration of “all things chocolate and coffee” — a true enrichment “rush.” And there was the chance to volunteer on Saturday’s National Make A Difference Day in Lydgate Park.

The call went out to help with the regular cleanup of the community beach park and pools, tree planting and beautification. Now, that’s true, feel-good regenerating in places of small-town charm and natural beauty. Check out for more good community gatherings upcoming, and don’t forget to visit your own, special piko (navel, umbilical cord) place, to center, to encourage the waters of spirit and wellness. The greener the place, the better.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, instructs on the topics of history and Hawaiian culture for visitors to Kauai through Hawaii Pacific University’s “Road Scholar” program through Pacific Islands Institute. The writer is completing her second memoir based on family experiences and recent travels in Burma. She continues as principal/owner of TropicBird Press and TropicBird Weddings & Celebrations–Kauai under DAWN Enterprises.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.