March, it seems, is stealing the thunder from April with showers pelting the Garden Island, weather that is not news to residents and visitors. The alternate dry end of the spectrum is what many prefer, and therefore we tend to decry the rains.
Yet, how lucky to be blessed with this abundance of fresh water, especially taking into account that “water is a matter of life and death.” This quoted truism was attributed to the United Nations’ Secretary-General recently speaking of the U.N.’s report warning of a global water crisis.
The Hawaiian value that “water is life” (he wai ola!) with the unstated alternative of death by thirst becomes underlined now because of the deep understanding it reveals that was developed by an original navigator people. And especially now, when considering that the U.N.’s report warns of a global water crisis by mid-century. The projection is that over 3 billion people will be affected by the scarcity of water fit to drink. The 30-some years away will dissolve quickly; that date, when it comes, will seem to have arrived in barely a blink in the scheme of time.
On Kauai — for now — we can rest assured. Our aquifers and reservoirs no doubt are full to overflowing, like the constant pool atop our Mother Mountain Waialeale. Measurements there posted almost 7 inches starting Wednesday and ending Thursday, noon to noon.
Hearing comments about how people can’t remember when “it was like this before,” I have to counter. Within our recent weather history are the approximately 40 days and nights of rains experienced on this isle at the time of the Ka Loko Dam break. Even Wikipedia contains a write-up on that most serious event: “Ka Loko (sometimes spelled Kaloko) is notable because its dam burst on March 14, 2006. The dam burst was preceded by unusually heavy rain.” Seven people died as a result of the old, earth-walled reservoir giving way.
Reviewing that time, I happened to be leading a tour of Monday ship visitors at the Na Aina Kai Gardens — at least, our group was getting drenched in the driving rain during the attempt to see the plantings while being driven in the oversized golf carts. After we gave up the idea of “next stop Hanalei” and headed to Lihue for bowls of steaming pho and an alternate tour of the Kauai Museum, we learned that the Hanalei Valley was completely flooded. No doubt, Hanalei residents and shop owners have not forgotten the mud the receding waters left behind, and the work of cleaning up and drying out.
There comes a point with H2O pouring from the heavens when you want to blurt out, “Enough already!” True, beyond flooding and dam breaching, constant downpours can cause slippage of rocks and boulders and sliding hillsides above our roadways, such as what’s happened on our North Shore between Wainiha and Lumahai.
You could rap the drawbacks of an excess of rain: “Hung laundry won’t dry / Shoes and clothes sprout mold / Ditto, leaves and walls / Centipedes soaked out of hiding move into human territory / Puddles and mud make for more clean-up / Animals drown / Rivers and waterways flush opala (rubbish) down to the sea …”
There’s more. Our oceans stain with silt and our visitors are “bummed.” Lightning suspends ballgames (and golf course activity). Our favorite Lydgate ponds fill with flotsam and jetsam. Plastic confetti from — or destined for — the GPGPs (Great Pacific Garbage Patches) and larger biofouled plastics are washed to our beaches. And in the murky waters, sharks may patrol. This environmental scene being painted in today’s “Green Flash” drowns its writer — an admitted Pollyanna — to the point where she must grasp for the positive, sunny side of the situation or, at least, a break in the elements when everything may be seen as washed clean and new with the metaphor of a rainbow promising good things to come. And of course, a return to the concept that water does, indeed, translate to life.
On the lighter side, rainy-day song phrases that play in my head — besides “The Rain in Spain” — for the most part name April, as in “showers.” A snatch from a verse of a 1950s oldie ricochets in my ear. It’s so obscure, Yours Truly may be the only one who remembers it: “The weather is right, to love you … good night. That’s what a rainy day is for. It isn’t just to make the pretty flowers grow …”
How about a nice rainy-day stroll through Kapaa, or Hanapepe or Waimea towns? Or one of the long beaches wrapping our shores? With poncho or umbrella, this can be enjoyable. (Who among us didn’t enjoy splashing through puddles when young?) There are numerous bistros and markets where you can pop in for a warming cup of tea or coffee and some pastries and snacks before braving the damp again. Our local libraries offer welcoming nooks to curl up and read in. A walk in gardens will work, and photos shot in overcast conditions come out well (just protect your camera device from wetness). The view from Wailua’s Hindu Temple overlook to the pond is amazing, too, mist over Waialeale, or not. To finish my ‘50s ditty (hum, hum) “the wetter the season, the better the reason …”
Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. Shared passions are travel and nature. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For further information, email@example.com. To sign up for her poems “playshop” based on a Hawaiian rain chant riddle (April 7, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Hanapepe), call 822-3271.