It was dark until 6:41 a.m. at 22 degrees northern latitude--Kauai--when the sun finally shook off the night and rounded our side of the earth. Rain fell. Trade winds stood at attention. One dog didn’t want to get her feet wet, and so I had to drag her, back legs stiff as 2x4s, outside for the morning walk.
Then, the emails started. “Anyone have a weather forecast?” “It’s lookin’ pretty stormy down this way.” “It’s definitely Kona weather, no wind here.” “Should we cancel or just go?” “Let’s forget bikes and just go. Looks like it’s clearing.”
recommends something she calls “Artists Dates” as a way to jumpstart creativity. I find movement helps—hiking, biking, and paddling. More, I’ve found the act of getting away from the familiar to be most effective for me. Travel works. So do adventures that push the edges. Over the years, however, my definition of adventure has evolved.
Micki, Susan and I had planned our Kauai Adventure Day some time ago. Even after living in Hawaii 50+ years, collectively, there were still roads unturned, rocks uncovered and people unmeet on our little island, 33 miles long and 25 wide with a population of 63,689. We didn’t consciously choose 11-1-11, but it seems auspicious now. Surely, somewhere, in some tradition, the date forebodes good luck. That would explain the five weddings going on at Kawailoa
(Shipwrecks) Beach on Kauai’s South Shore at sunset. Good luck or the date just makes remembering the anniversary easier.
I checked my WeatherBug app to see about re-scheduling for a sunny day, but the forecast reminded me of a scratched record, stuck on the lyric, mostly cloudy with occasional showers. I thought about canceling altogether, using rain as an excuse for getting together with friends and staying home to get some real work done.
In the end, we tossed all plans aside. Ditched the bikes, the south shore hike, the scooters on the West side, and the tour of Makauwahi Cave Reserve
There would be no agenda. We’d wing it. Do something novel like live in the moment. I know
there are sages and traditions that promote that way of living.
We met at Passion Bakery & Café
. Sitting around a table, sipping mango tea, enveloped by the scent of taro bread baking, the day’s conversation got started. What do you serve a man who has given up sugar and gluten and ahi? How hard is it to eliminate caffeine from your diet? Have you ever heard of hapu’upu’u, or Hawaiian sea bass, supposed known as the “lobster of fish?”
From the bakery, we migrated to the Kauai Museum
. I have long recommended a trip to the museum on cloudy and rainy days to visitors but had yet to take my own advice. We joined the 10:30 tour led by a knowledgeable docent, Jane, that included an overview of the first migrations of Polynesians to Hawaii, a look at hula implements, an exhibit of how the Hawaiian staple poi was made, the impact of Captain Cook’s arrival, a peak at camp life on a sugar plantation and the impact of World War II on Kauai.
Grumbling bellies generated talk of important things, like food, and we found ourselves pointing the car down the tunnel of trees for Poipu, where we discovered a radiant sun raining down on us. Talk gravitated to the environment and living a “zero impact life.” Is it possible? I mean someone has to make those photo-voltaic panels out of some kind of materials and ship them all the way to Kauai, after all.
At Living Foods Market
in Poipu’s The Shops at Kukuiula
, we sat at a long community table with a couple other women—one whom we knew by face because her son went to the same school as Micki’s grandson and the other we learned after a short conversation was the sister of an ophthalmologist-cum-artist friend of mine. We shared fish tacos—mahimahi—a mushroom crepe and garden salad.
We took a post-prandial walk around the shopping center, discovering two new restaurants—Savage Shrimp and Tortilla Republic, vowing to return soon to sample each. We popped in to say hello to Keone, a friend’s son who owns Red Koi Collection, a gallery made up of mostly of the works of Hawaii artists, and Susan reported some unknowable force that pulled her into another shop called Bungalow 9.
The only planned activity of the day that managed to came to fruition, albeit belatedly, was a walk along the coastline of Mahaulepu, the last undeveloped oceanfront land on Kauai’s south shore. The 4.5-mile stretch of Mahaulepu is unlike any other place on Kauai.
The white, chalky color of the cliffs is distinctly different from the black, grey and reddish-colored volcanic rock seen elsewhere around the island. Facing directly into the island’s prevailing trade winds, the land here received deposits of near-shore marine plant and skeletal material, forming sand dunes. Over tens or hundreds of thousands of years, the beach sediments of the dunes have lithified into limestone by a process called calcite cementation. The on-going wind and water erosion of limestone at the water’s edge made a fun game we called “Name that medieval castle.”
The coast—there is no real trail—traverses evidence of ancient and modern man-made life: 1) The lava rock remains of a heiau
, or sacred site; and 2) A golf course of unnaturally green carpet.
We walked to a beach where Hawaiian monk seals have been known to pup and where, off-shore, humpback whales breach in season and thrill-seeking kite-boarders surf. We dodged rain under a stand of ironwood trees, introduced from Australia. The day unfolded before us in one long conversation. We asked more questions. Are humans innately good? What has to happen in this world before I will get involved? Should we sell the house, the car, give away our meager life’s savings to make a difference in someone else’s life. And what’s with this strange feeling I have of my body suddenly propelling itself over a cliff into the ocean below?
We sat above Makauwahi Cave Reserve, gazing through its wide, open ceiling and pondered the stories of the Hawaiian seer, Keahikuni, who possibly once divined the future in smoke. Maybe he would have had the answers to our questions. This unusual limestone cave system has revealed 10,000 years of life and determined what native plants have been out-planted in a heroic endeavor to re-create the native habitat here.
By the time we made our way back to the van parked at Kawailoa (Shipwrecks) Beach, the sun had descended and five couples had pledged their lives together. Now, it was all about the photography.
On the cliff above the northern end of the beach, a woman in a red swimsuit edged her way to a launch spot. From the water below, swimmers encouraged her with cheers. There was a time I would have been up there. In fact, cliff-jumping does make an abbreviated appearance in my history. But no more. My adventures have taken a turn as I’ve entered my middle years. Instead of physically-challenging or adrenaline-rushing or life-defying, I find stimulating conversations to be adventurous enough.