After ten days in Hawaii, the sun that soaked my skin and the sand that's found it's way into all of my stuff are not the only things I'm leaving with. There is a different feel to life and living, and it saturates so many parts of the lifestyle. My blog "God's Country" really focused on the religious and sacred feeling of the land and people, but there were so many other subtleties and special traits that I want to share so I'll try to sum them up here.
To start, Hawaiians, and especially Kauaians have a delightful sense of humor. I noticed it everywhere. It's not over the top or in your face, but rather a subtle amusement at everything; I sort of think that kind of amusement is a key to a happy life, and people do seem pretty happy there... A few of the more obvious and permanent comments on humor were in the banners I noticed while driving, such as, in front of the police station, there's a sign that read "Are you going out tonight? So are we!" Granted, drunk driving seemed to be the only things the cops really cared about, and reasonably so, the roads in most of Hawaii are narrow, windy, and dark. There were certain traffic signs which also brought a laugh; you know those speed checks you see on the side of the road that say "Your speed" and then the flashing yellow numbers show you how fast you're going? Well, on theirs, should you hit a certain number over the speed limit (unfortunately, I couldn't convince my Mom to speed regularly enough to determine what this magic number was), the sign will intermittently flash "Yep, slow down!" I thought this to be hilarious, and though a defiant driver might react to it feeling it is more patronizing than humorous, I couldn't help but to be amused at the real-ness I felt from it; after all, I'd rather the traffic sign told me that then a cop pulling me over to write me a ticket, right?
Also, on the note of their humor, there's a local joke -- If anyone ever asks why the chicken crossed the road, they've never been to Kauai! Seriously, wild chickens and roosters run around like they're part of the population, because they truly are. Everywhere you go, you see them, almost anywhere you are, you'll hear them in the morning, and they really do cross the road. Most of Kauai (Na Pali coast excluded) is encircled by one main road, along with the various branches off of it, but the roosters and chickens like to move around to, so they inevitably must be able to cross the road as well. And they're not just stupid animals blindly running into traffic (at least not always), because there were several occasions in which they would in fact stop at the side of the road, and look both ways before crossing; mama chicken had to ensure the safety of her little chickies somehow! They're fun little animals, and the roosters are as colorfully saturated as the rest of the landscape, but it is just a normal part of life in Kauai.
Since we're talking about animals, I was equally amazed by the Humane Society in Kauai. It looks like an animals vacation or retirement home! They have a huge area of lush green land where the animals are free to play and roam, and anytime we drove past it, you could see several people out there running, training, and playing with the dogs. It was more of a luxurious dog park than any humane society I've ever seen, and according to the locals, they're never too filled with animals. Perhaps because it's an island and people are more aware of their space, or maybe it's the higher level of connection to land and animals, but it didn't seem like the sad, lonely place that I've usually felt when encountering any animal shelter.
And the community here! Like I mentioned in the "God's Country" blog, there seems to be a strong sense of community and acceptance on the islands, which I particularly noticed in Kauai. Another banner on the road that I noticed, I believe in front of a church of some sort read something along the lines of "You may be this [type of religion], or you may be that, but we're all Kauaians!" I was continually awed by this general sense of feeling I noticed everywhere.
One of my favorite simple pleasures of the islands, is the apple-bananas. These sweet, delicious little bananas are something I've only ever had there and have never been able to find anywhere else. At their peak, they're a little firmer than your regular banana, but have a darker, reddish coloring towards the center, and a sweetness like the banana was pollinated by some apple-loving honey bee. I don't know how these came about, but I love them and highly recommend them to anyone who visits Hawaii. And if you ever find a way to bring them back to the mainland, please share! :)
Finally, one of my great inspirations in life and art, is a photographer I discovered when I was in Maui ten years ago. The incredible and talented Peter Lik, an Australian born photographer who opened one of his first galleries in Maui just before I discovered him on my first trip there. I've been around photography my entire life, from my Dad, to working in weddings, to taking photography classes myself, and I can say that, especially in our modern age, I consider him to be a true artist in the field. With everything going digital, and apps available on phones and computers, it seems that anyone can be a photographer these days (I'm not opposed to the use and availability of these technologies, it just makes photography as an art form more rare). The true art of Lik's work though is that none of his pieces are digitally enhanced! He has just developed his skills using traditional techniques of f-stops, shutter speeds, etc, incredible lenses, patience, and an eye for composition. Every time I'm in Maui, I am sure to visit his gallery at least a couple times, for the pictures affect me with every viewing, and the curators running the galleries are always happy to share info and take a specific picture into a viewing room for the awe-inspiring effects of viewing it in differing light. On my second visit on this trip, I walked in and told my Mom that I would one day be a collector of his work. One of the gentlemen there started talking to me and we were quickly connecting on my history of being a fan, the incredible visions of his work, and my long-term desire to be a collector, and lo and behold, I made the connection I needed to be put on the potential collectors list. This list allows me to access images as they first become available and purchase before prices skyrocket; some of his pieces (which as we wandered and discussed, turned out to be all of my favorites... what can I say? I have inherently, fortuitously, expensive taste) were upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Regardless, my pursuit to be a Peter Lik collector, will be a long, unending one, but whether you choose to purchase or not, I feel that everyone can be inspired and moved by his work. You can get an idea by checking out his webpage, but I would urge you to check out one of his galleries if you ever have the chance, because the depth and dimension is something you cannot get the full effect of unless you see it in person.
I don't know when I'll go back to Hawaii, but as I've said before, Hawaii will always be in a piece of my heart. The subtleties or intricacies of life are bound to be unique anywhere you go, so I hope everyone has a chance to notice the little things that makes a place unique, whether you're visiting an island, a city, or just noticing your hometown. Until next time...
Stories from the road-trip that inspired moving to the PNW, and other travel adventures.