Viewing our island home through new eyes

Coming home from a family visit in Colorado recently, it pleased me no end to hear the wonders of the Garden Isle touted by a man sitting just ahead of us on the direct flight out of Los Angeles. I couldn’t help hearing tips he was sharing about the best places to see, experience, and his love of Kapaa and Hanapepe “little old towns,” even though I soon learned that he always headed for a favorite retreat of his in a North Shore condo.

Tapping my husband on the shoulder, I signaled for him to listen in to what the strong bass voice was imparting about Kauai to an apparently first-time visitor: “I just love the place. I come whenever I can, for a break — heck, it’s only about six hours from LA, and different as night and day. Such a gorgeous place; so much natural beauty — mountains, beaches, sea, and the water’s really warm, too. Used to go to other islands, but now, just Kauai; it’s a lot more laid-back.”

As we couldn’t help listening on, my husband ended up smiling, too. Who needs a visitor’s bureau when we have first-hand recommendations such as we were hearing? About the aloha, how nice people are? (And not a word about traffic jam-ming. He had just left LA freeways, after all!)

Soon, we went back to our reading while that very nice feeling of coming home enwrapped me. Before long, we were sighting Black Mountain, the long arm of the Nawiliwili Harbor breakwall, then the fence and eastern shore bordering the Ahukini area as the Delta jet made a neat landing, rolling up to the terminal’s jetways during twilight. I thought about how when I first flew here on a Mid-Pacific propeller jet out of Honolulu, there were no direct flights. You deplaned right onto the tarmac, rain or shine, heading for a set of plank tables covered by palm-thatch, where the luggage was brought to be claimed. Arrival then was not so modern, or standard a welcome, but you immediately breathed the fragrant Kauai air; you also experienced whatever “blessings” the weather of the moment was dealing; your skin and hair soaked up the humidity and your hair-do (if you had one) was blown “to China” by the tradewinds. Being so different from the regular procedures at Mainland airports, I was duly charmed.

Apparently, on this arrival, it had just rained. Kuhio Highway heading to Kapaa was slick, mist forming on the windshield. My heart always beats faster as we turn into our Homesteads neighborhood turn-in, and there were the driveway puddles that form after driving rain, and home.

Next morning, it was wonderful to hear the barred doves and “cheekens” start off an early chorus. Everything outdoors was washed clean after more rain. The Buddha’s Lamp (mussaenda) bush blushed an ingenue pink like never before; the allamanda was “allamanda-ing” huge, butter-yellow blooms on its leafy vines; the plumbago had run rampant with the star jasmine, a symphony of pale blue blossoms intertwined with starry white; and the small Kaffir lime tree seemed to have shot up a foot, like a teen boy over summer. I stared, and inhaled it all before I headed out barefoot onto the cushiony grass (overgrown, as it was, and lots of weeding to do) to reestablish connection with this aina, land.

Sure, there were suitcases to unpack, washing to sort, travel papers to divest ourselves of, and not much for breakfast on hand until we hit the market. But there was coffee. Fortified by mugs of our favorite brew, we headed down to Kapaa Town “the back way” (Kamalu Road to Olohena, behind the Sleeping Giant) to collect our held mail and shop for groceries.

Everywhere I looked, the color and texture of fields, cloud-shrouded mountains in the distance, bright little houses surrounded by tropical hedges and trees, egrets dotting the pastures, pleased my senses. Plumeria trees that had been leafless before, were now abloom, a mass of white or pink and yellow. We had been away, enjoying reuniting with family members and prairie, big sky and mountain sights of the Rockies, as well as some man-made wonders; now our eyes were opened anew here at home.

The post office clerk was pleasant and helpful; right away at the market, we met a friend and enjoyed a chat, saw some other familiar faces. Wow! We knew people here, felt the ohana, extended family connection. We’d soon catch up, given the close proximity of our towns, the local news and the “coconut wireless.”

That LA guy was right: This island is amazing. He may not have pronounced the Hawaiian words right, but he picked up the soul of the place. Kauai continues to give us a foundation for our physical lives, and inspiration for life and hope, and the opportunity to work toward an exemplary bright future here on our “little, round island in the middle of the sea.” I hope, dear readers, you’re drinking in summer every spare moment you can as it continues to shimmer, thrill and expand like those amazing fireworks lighting the sky over Lihue this Fourth of July.

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Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, has focused her supportive interests within the Kauai community since the early 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live in Wailua Homesteads. Their passion for travel flows into the writer’s monthly TGI column, “FarAway Places.” Kawahara’s books are available through Amazon and other outlets. More info: www.kauaiweddingsandbooks.com.

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