“The island’s beaches are very different now from when I was growing up in Anahola,” said the older gentleman we met walking the coastal path in the Lydgate Park area on the sunny morn of New Year’s Day. “The sea is changing the coastlines.”
“That’s the story of islands,” I said, my husband nodding assent. I was thinking of how Kapaa’s late-great artist and poet Reuben Tam had painted a series depicting islands dissolving into the sea, “Archipelago,” and picturing the iconic reef of Bora Bora, all that remained after the eons during which the main high island wore away in assaulting winds and rains and battering tides.
We struck up a short conversation, learned how this retired school teacher turned principal had married an “Indiana girl” (also a teacher turned school principal) and brought her home, eventually, to Kauai.
We remarked on the sizeable family the couple had developed when this friendly gentleman pulled out a well-worn reunion photo from his wallet to share with us. My husband, a teacher here for almost 40 years, brought up some Anahola-area student names, which rang a memory bell before we bid each other “Happy New Year” and continued on our separate walks.
But the idea of endings and beginnings stayed with us as we talked of our high mountain island — the oldest in the chain of inhabited Hawaiian islands. The truth of the matter was viewable in the stain of red earth washed downriver in recent (recurring) heavy rains that colored the sea for several miles, in the mass of logs and other debris floating offshore that tumbled down the Wailua River in the swollen floodwaters.
The fact that an old year had ended and here we were, on the first day of the new one — and, in fact, a whole new decade — seemed to (forgive the editor’s terms) underline, boldface and italicize the endings = beginnings concept.
As we entered the final holiday season of the 20th century, our thoughts already focused on “Auld Lang Syne” as we remembered the many beloved family members and close friends lost, some quite recently. Within the deepest part of ourselves we were celebrating the new branches and leaves of our family trees while processing the idea of our own future endings, our own farewell to lives lived as passionately and well as possible.
My writer self was on the cusp of another ending and beginning: The very last Green Flash (GF) column was soon due. The decision I’d made to end the bi-monthly column on the fifth year anniversary was firm, my hope being to collect all the GF’s that have appeared in The Garden Island into a new book, a five-year slice of Kauai planned to reflect culture, people, events and related thoughts.
These experiences have been gleaned from 35 years of being deeply “islanded.” I adopted this term of Reuben Tam’s because it spoke directly to my own feeling of connection to this incomparable Garden Island, an island about which Tam painted numerous masterpieces and wrote many fine poems.
The GF, which first “aired” on Jan. 6, 2014, on page A4 of “The Forum,” now ends, but with a new beginning. The headline — “Believe in the unexpected” — still applies.
And here we are at twenty-twenty! Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? Somehow saying aloud those written-out numbers rather than reading them adding-machine-style as “2020” makes their sound value stand forth.
Twenty-twenty rockets us into this new decade, fueling hope in ourselves, each other, our chosen leaders, and for our embattled world and damaged earth in this, our 21st century. The realization emerges that within every ending springs a new beginning.
It’s now we may put the past aside while learning from it and strive — and pray — for peace, healing, unity and forward movement for our children and children’s children, for they are the new beginnings that are built into our endings. Dear Readers, let us always remember to ask, and really desire to know, na pehea keiki? (How are the children?)
Within the unfolding of these new young lives lies the unexpected, the “green flash” of possible healing of the human race and its natural home, the capital E Earth, with all its remaining resources and miraculous possibilities for recovery and abundance to fuel continued life. Finding the viewpoint to allow for positive insight, the inner perspective, is now more than ever imperative.
Consider this: A passenger flying from Honolulu to Lihue on the evening plane is seated just so, able to watch the sun begin to set over the horizon as the plane gains altitude for its interisland flight. After some minutes, the passenger realizes the sunset is being delayed, for as the plane rises, the perspective changes.
After some 15 minutes of ongoing sunset, as the plane drops and begins to approach the southeastern cliffs of Nawiliwili Harbor in preparation for landing, the sun finally sets to disappear on a cloudless horizon — and voila! the passenger (who happened to be my daughter this past Thanksgiving) sees in that one amazing and unexpected, winking second the totally unexpected and previously unseen gift of witnessing a green flash!
Dawn Fraser Kawahara, resident author and poet, has focused her support of the arts and culture within the Kauai community since the early 1980s. Kawahara’s focus now shifts to hosting the Kauai Live Poets’ Society, her book business and writing new manuscripts. The passion for travel and learning that she and her husband share will continue to flow into her TGI column, “FarAway Places.” Kawahara’s recently published second memoir, “Burma Banyan, A Daughter’s Odyssey,” and other books are available through Amazon and other outlets. For more information, email her at email@example.com.