There is nothing quite like taking a long walk on the beach to put life in perspective.
While it’s far too easy sometimes to wallow in our misfortune, the truth is that many, if not most of us, who live here on Kaua‘i, and throughout all Hawai‘i, are among the luckiest people on the entire planet.
So my albeit uninvited advice for the day is to take a walk on the beach. Smell the ocean, feel the sand and the seawater between your toes and think about how fortunate you truly are. Yes, social distance and wear a mask as may be appropriate, but take some time today or tomorrow and go for a walk.
Those of us fortunate to live here and who are able to actually take that walk on the beach, are indeed privileged. If you have a family member or friend who is elderly or otherwise unable to walk, perhaps offer them a chair on the sand while you walk so they might also feel the ocean breeze and soak in the beauty of nature and the sea.
Credit for my walks without question goes to my wife Claudette. She is an avid walker, and recently taken to dragging me out of bed early so we can be on the beach walking by 7 a.m. We walk a stretch of coastline nearby that’s mostly deserted and devoid of other humans at that time of the morning.
Accompanied by our dog Max, we walk a few miles along the coast, navigating the massive tree trunks buried in the sand, the twisted piles of driftwood, and the occasional rain squalls that come through from the east. We have that hour or two mostly to ourselves, sharing it only with an occasional fisherman or random jogger who, without fail, gives us a smile and a pleasant “good morning.”
Our walk is mostly one of solitude. Claudette searches out and collects small pieces of driftwood, scraps of fishnet and other unique treasures to be incorporated into her craft creations that have taken up what seems like permanent residence across our kitchen table.
Meanwhile, with Max on the requisite leash, he and I are on our own, walking together mostly along the high wash of the waves. Myself deep in thought, Max pulls me every-which-way smelling (and occasionally attempting to chew) anything and everything in his path. Max (Maximus Aurelius) is a bundle of joy, who also when permitted to do so loves to play in the ocean. On some days, once we reach a point along the coast where no other human being or animal can be seen for at least a mile in either direction, Max is allowed to frolic in the waves. For those who worry about such things (and as a former state senator and councilmember, I count myself as one of those people), the leash law does not appear to apply to dogs swimming in the ocean.
During those early-morning walks, the troubles of our world seem to melt away.
Like everyone else, I worry about paying bills on the first of every month, and about staying healthy. I worry about my family, about my extended ‘ohana, and about the future of our community. Frankly, I worry about the planet.
But taking a walk on the beach early in the morning helps clear the worry from my brain. Looking out over the ocean, looking down what is essentially a wild coastline, watching Claudette intent on searching out and finding her treasures and Max, who is locked into a veritable dog-heaven of smells and sensory overload — brings me a sense of peace and contentment.
Regardless of what the future might bring, we who call this place home are truly the luckiest, most-fortunate people alive on the planet today.
To be clear, I am optimistic about our future. Perhaps it’s because my life has historically been filled with very high peaks, and also sometimes deep, almost-bottomless valleys. Yet those valleys did have a bottom, and I know without a shred of doubt that this valley, too, has a floor, and across that floor on the other side lies another peak.
I encourage all to remember where you live and remember and appreciate just how fortunate you are. Go for a walk on the beach, recharge your batteries, and then get back to work protecting that which you love and building a positive future for yourself, your immediate ‘ohana, and for our collective community.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.