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Weathering Kauai

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Jan 16, 2009

We all know weather forecasting isn’t an exact science. No matter how many buoys we put in the ocean to track wave speed and height. No matter how good we get at flying planes into the eyes of hurricanes.

For the past two days, newspapers, emails, Facebook postings and Twitter tweets have warned us to brace for high winds. A low-pressure system northwest of Kaua’i is expected to collide with a cold front passing over the islands. Gusts are expected to reach 70 miles per hour with sustained winds between 30 and 50 miles per hour. That’s a bit breezier than our typical trade winds.

Still, it’s 21 degrees in New York where 155 people miraculously survived an airplane crash. It’s 11 degrees in Fulton, Kansas, where my best friend lives. And the temperature in Florida where my parents are spending the winter is dipping into the freezing zone.

As I write this, it’s 74 degrees here in Anahola and—here’s the thing—nary a breeze stirs the fronds of the palm outside my window. It’s dead calm. With all the recent rains, that means as the sun teeters above the horizon, about to settle in for the night, the multitudes of breeding mosquitoes will shortly hover like hungry hands at a potluck. (No leaving the sliding glass door open for the dog to come and go tonight.)

You see, typically the trade winds blow these pesky nibblers on their way. It’s one of the benefits of living on the northeast side of the island. But living on Kaua’i’s windward side is like living life as the hood ornament of a car. You’re exposed. Vulnerable. In the thick of things. The world—life—whirls around us.  To survive requires a strong spine. Tough skin. Mettle.

As I look back on the past few months, it seems that no matter where you live—on an island; in New York City; Peoria, Illinois; Washington D.C.—that you, we, have been decorating the prow of some vintage, Elvis Presley-era Cadillac Coupe de Ville barreling down the interstate, with the needle buried, while errant rocks and unsuspecting insects barrage and berate us. At least, that’s what life “in this economy” feels like.

It’s only today, in the calm before the storm, that I realize one of the gifts my recent trip to Midway gave me: A respite. A break from cell phones, text messages, 24-7 headline news. A vacation from pre- and post-holiday circulars, clearance racks, going-out-of-business notices, plummeting retail sales and burgeoning unemployment.

On Midway, even during the wind and rain, life was protected. Life was calm. For me, Midway was just like living in the lee.

That’s it, of course, the reason why the winds aren’t lashing down on me right now. It’s because the usual wind pattern has flipped. The northeast side of the island, my side, which typically faces the wind, is now the leeward side of the island, protected from the west-to-southwest winds by the mountains standing tall in the center of the island.

I returned from Midway almost three weeks ago, and, amazing to me, I still feel its protection. I have reconnected with my husband, dog, family and friends, both in person and electronically. I read the daily newspaper. I work. And, somehow, I have not re-engaged with the under riding emotion—and stress—with which our political, economic and business climate gnawed at me pre-Midway.

I thought I’d always known the benefits of vacation, the wonders of R&R. Yet counting albatross nests on Midway was anything but restful and relaxing. But maybe now—especially in “this economy”—getting away from it all is more important than ever.

All I know is I like living in the lee. Except for maybe the mosquitoes. Of course, I am not out of the woods, er, wind yet.

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