Monthly Archives: May 2012

Four Stages of Sun Acceptance

Living in the Southeast Alaska rainforest doesn’t provide many opportunities to appreciate shadows. You need sun all day for that. We get a taste of it from time to time but our sunshine is too precious to waste on shadow gazing.  People in Hawaii must be experts in the sport.

I wasn’t equipped to appreciate a fine shadow line when we first arrived on the island. First I had to go through the northern tourist’s four stage transition of acceptance.

First you wander around half stunned by the sun-drenched flowers. This happens at the Airport walking from the gate to the baggage claim. Someone planted a garden there which shimmered with late afternoon sun when we deplaned. The second stage involves a lot of pointing with finger and camera. For me this stage also involved much sniffing of flowers. By stage three you realize the danger all this skin presents to your pale skin and start applying copious amounts of sunscreen to protect it. Finally, in the fourth stage you start appreciating the crisp shadow lines thrown down daily by tropic sunshine and tropical shade trees. 

Manoa Valley Oahu

The lush jungle of the Manoa valley lies within a 45 minute drive of the semi-dessert region where we stay on Oahu. Giant red blossoms, shaped like matching cruets, lay on the trailside after being chopped down like weeds. Perhaps they are but it pains to see them so destroyed.

Moving up the trail we meet hikers returning to their cars, each smiling, each wishing us a good day in the accent of non-native English speakers. They look as if they have seen the face of God and lived. We are standing near massive banyan trees and white barked giants covered with climbing vines.

Later the trail enters a bamboo forest and becomes greasy with mud. I begin to resent the sound of talking in English and other languages about everything except the exotic beauty slapping them in the face. In hope to hear only bird song and the hollow clunks and squeaks of wind in a thick bamboo forest I stop to let everyone pass.  The Chinese laughing thrush awards me a tune that blends with the song of rubbing bamboo.

It’s been sunny all day but it begins to rain when we reach the car. In the American south they would look up and ask whether the devil was beating his wife — rain falling through the sunshine. A rainbow forms an arch above the verdant valley, reminding me of  the time my 3 year old daughter and I watched a rainbow form above the temperate rain forest of Alaska. She asked me what made those crayon colors in the sky. I told her about Noah’s flood and how God had sent the rainbow to seal his promise never again to flood all the earth. She didn’t seem convinced so I took a page from the great Thlingt story tellers of Ketchikan and said, :It is true –look there’s the rainbow.”

Oahu Leeward Transitions

Today starts in a transitioning landscape and ends watching surfers challenging storm surge waves at Yokohama Bay (Leeshore Ohau Island Hawaii). In between a wedding party invades a peaceful Oahu beach. Just after sunrise we ride our rental bicycles out of our friends’ brand new neighborhood and follow bike paths that should have taken us near Pearl Harbor. Sidetracked by children in red school uniform tee shirts (This is Hawaii after all) on their way to class, we take the wrong well marked bike path to its end at the edge of a half finished subdivision. Apparently the number of off island buyers for new houses dropped off with the world economy so the developers stopped building, leaving behind this bike path to nowhere. 

Later, after securing some tasty strawberry manju we head to a beach on the Leeward side of Oahu in time to watch a bride in white lace walk down a beach toward the water. (for a baptism?).  None of the bikini clad sunbathers appear to notice. As we leave we see another bride and groom walking to the beach,

Now it is late afternoon and we are watching brave men challenge great curling waves. They have some success until the tide changes, which forces the waves to break nearer the shore. Only the quickest can stay ahead of the tunnel of water formed by each wave. A half a dozen surfers are still loitering in the water when we drive away.

Gardening Inside a Crater

Today, for the first time, I appreciate the wonder of botanical gardens. Someone created this one inside the Koko Crater.   It starts at the edge of a tunnel formed by forty foot high blooming bougainvilleas that grow inside a 100,000 year old basalt basin. Their purple, cream yellow, and magenta flowers litter the ground while those still clinging io the bushes perfume the air. Friends warned us that temperatures inside the crater can reach 90 degrees but today’s trade winds moderate things for us. It carries the scent of flowers up through hibiscus grove (now full of plants setting seeds),and dying out as we reach the Americas cactus forest. There the golden light of late afternoon backlights the fibrous plants. I won’t describe the walk through Africa and Madagascar except to mention the long tailed laughing thrush, whose song lives up to it’s name, an intensive red northern cardinal, and other unseen birds that fill the air with sweet song.

Windward Side Oahu

Aki would love this wide field of grass that runs from a oceanside road to the green wall of volcanic rock rising vertically to the clouds. The gang of white egrets, spread with military precision across the plain, would have kept her near my feet. She is better off in Juneau with friends who are probably spoiling her with treats.

This windward side of Oahu is all lush green. From the beach we watch lines of breakers that start at an off shore reef and end in a crash just below the road. Behind is the grass plain and a Hawaiian family party. After setting up a series of canopies and a large bounce house of inflated plastic for the kids, they have settled in for an afternoon of eating, drinking beer, and telling story. A sign standing feet away from the adults paying horseshoes forbids almost all the activities occupying the family.

Earlier, while driving past the famous surfing beaches of the North Shore, we stopped at a pocket beach of sand to watch Hawaiian green turtles feeding on the moss that grows on offshore rocks. The rocks lay just offshore where the surf breaks so the turtles must tumble about in it as they eat. When sated they crawl onto the sand to digest dinner while the sand warms their undersides.