How quickly things can change

I had no sooner posted my gentle observations about the overnight snowfall, then Mark got up and turned on the news.

You know the rest of that story.

This is how modern technology connects us all together, just like the natural disasters on this planet tie us all together. The earthquake in Japan has the potential to devastate lives in Hawaii with a tsunami, and here in the midwest, we can do no more than watch, wait and hope for the best possible outcome.

My peaceful thoughts of the morning have turned on a dime.

A view from our hotel room on Rocco Island near Osaka, Japan — 2004

We were in Japan briefly in 2004. The company where Mark worked, Procter and Gamble, wanted him to relocate there for two years. We took our two youngest children who were still living at home at the time to look at schools, houses and the possibility of moving ourselves there. We did not relocate and that eventually led to Mark’s early retirement and my early morning panic attacks.

Mark had traveled several times to Japan through the course of his working at P&G. One time he was stuck on a stopped subway train. He was impressed by the quiet, calm aplomb with which the Japanese natives, who all remained seated and silent, reacted to this major inconvenience. That would never happen in America.

We were in Hawaii last month, on the island of Kauai. Never have I been on a trip where the people were kinder or more friendly. It truly felt like the people live a vacation there. The magical land of Hanalei is on the north side of Kauai, in jeopardy of getting hit hard by the tsunami that they know is on the way.

I’ll watch and wait and hope.

The month of hope

It’s March!

March is my favorite month, even though this early morning it is only 22 degrees F outside, and it’s not just because my birthday is in March, although that doesn’t hurt.

March is the month of hope. It is reaching a land where green begins after a long hike through an ice bridge. Did people really do that to get to this continent? And I thought the discoverers of Hawaii in their little boats were brave. Imagine the first person who walked across, (or maybe it was through if Cincinnati’s natural history museum’s recreation of it is at all correct), the land bridge to the other side and then came back to tell about it. That was brave.

March is the month when there will be a day where the warm breath of spring blows down on us, wraps around us, and we will sigh, “Yes! I know you are coming, spring.”

March is the month when the still brown earth in my garden comes alive again. The small green tips of bundles of daffodils have already breached the surface and are growing upwards even as I type.

In the life cycle of nature, March is the month where life springs from death.

I just love March.

Three flowers photographed with a scanner for a three-dimensional look
Three flowers photographed with a scanner for a three-dimensional look

The land called Hanalei

It’s 3:10 in the morning local time.

A short distance outside my sliding glass doors lights from below illuminate the green palm leaves that sway in the breeze on the clusters of trees lining the shore. Two bright lights from across the bay streak reflections across the water. Although I can’t see the lighthouse from this position, the sweeping beam regularly moves through the trees. A handful of other bright lights across the water are visible. Densely scattered tiny lights of varying brightness twinkle throughout the sky. Otherwise all is black—the sound of the relentless waves breaking against the shore filling the night.

On Tuesday we drove from Lihue on the southeast side of the island Kaua’i north until the road comes to an end past Hanalei. The volcano that created the island and stands always visible, dominating and formidable, in the center of the island prohibits passage across or around the island.

The people of Kaua’i live, and the tourists play, in the small stretch of land between the beating waves of the endless sea and the steep and hostile black walls of the mountains. Along the road through Hanalei elegant homes are built on pillars or stilts, particularly on the beachfront properties.

The other side of the road is scattered with modest little single-story homes, some of them shacks, really. Any high water that passes below the stilted homes will certainly wreck havoc on these smaller ones huddled on the ground—a visual reminder of the haves and have-nots and of their respective vulnerabilities.

Along this road we passed several cavelike rock formations sheltering small bodies of water that looked like something a pirate’s treasure or Excaliber could be submerged in. These caves, along with the sweeping white beaches, the brilliant teal color of the water, the vigorous surf splashing up in white sprays, the dense and lush green foliage lining and shading the road like a botanical tunnel, all create a magical, mystical mood in the land called Hanalei.

A water-filled cave along the side of the road in Hanalei, Kaua'i.

 

Kayak scouts or—who found the Hawaiian islands?

Hawaii is a testament to the adventurous and courageous spirit of humankind.

How did the first people get here?

Humans are somewhat migratory by nature. And on the larger continents it’s not so difficult to imagine that humans walked outward and spread to far locations. That still would have taken courage, but they could have done it a little at a time.

The first scouts to Hawaii had to get in a boat with food and water and head out to the open sea. They couldn’t have known another island was out there. Granted, they probably started in Asia then hopped from one Polynesian island to the next. But how long would those trips have taken in a man-made and manpowered kayak?

Somebody wakes up one morning in a settlement on the shore of Asia and tells his mother, “I’m going to go see what’s out there.” He throws a few coconuts and a container, perhaps a skin of some sort, of fresh water into his boat and shoves off the shore into the breakers. He doesn’t know which direction to take to nearest land. He doesn’t know how long it will take him to get there. He can’t even be sure land is out there. He has to take enough food and water for the return trip.

Someone had to make the first trip off the continent and out to sea.

How many nonproductive expeditions like this were made before the next island in the series was bumped into?

Maybe they had large sailing vessels and a systematic approach. Still.

Kaua’i is believed to be the first Hawaiian island settled, which makes sense if the settlers were coming originally from the Asian continent. Kaua’i is the furthest west of the “Sandwich Islands” named so by Captain James Cook, after the Earl of Sandwich, when he discovered the islands from the western world in 1778. Possibly a bad day for the natives—I don’t know the political history, but when west meets natives it usually doesn’t bode well for the natives. Just saying.

Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands got there about 1200 years before Captain Cook, but then, they were closer. Still, they had to travel over 2000 miles to migrate the islands, following the stars I presume. Of course getting there might have been blind luck. Getting back home again would have been the challenge.

Ever been on a boat in the middle of the sea?

Why were they even looking for new lands? Financial gain? Power? Just for kicks?

And I haven’t even mentioned the legendary little people called the Menehune who got there first.