Monday, May 28, 2012

Again and Again - Soaking in the Beauty with People We Love

A Photo Essay
Kauai, Hawaii 

We went there first in 1980. And we left our kids at home for the first time ever. They were 8, 10 and 12 and my parents came and stayed in our home, schlepping them hither and yon for two and a half weeks while we flew across the Pacific to check out the 50th state.

That time we went with another couple, island-hopping to get the lay of the land. But we knew from the very first touchdown on that northernmost and oldest of the islands that we would be back in that place, kids in tow, just as soon as we could possibly make it happen.

And two years later, we did it. All 5 of us sharing a 1-bedroom condo, air mattresses on the floor, mosquitoes buzzing, frogs chirruping by the thousands. 

And we loved it.

Every single inch of it. 

It's hard to say enough about all that we love in that place.

 From the 150 year old wood frame or volcanic stone churches... the thrilling drop-off above the Napali coastline,
as viewed from the overlook... the waterfalls and colorful striations of the Little Grand Canyon on the road up to the overlook... the windswept Tunnels Beach with it's conical-hat Bali Hai in the distance... the richness of local taro fields lining the sides of the Hanalei River... the sweeping panorama of the beach at Kalihiwai Bay, whether a sunny day...

 ...or a cloudy one - complete with rainbow.
  Of course, I would have to tell you about that solitary lighthouse across from the bird refuge...
 ...and certainly, the lure of the jungle-rich roadway driving north...until there is no more road to drive.
 One consistent siren call is most assuredly the sounds of local bird-life. The distinct cooing of Hawaiian doves,
the worried call of the bright red or grey and red cardinals,
 and - of course - the early morning cri de couer of hundreds and hundreds of these guys, wandering wherever they please,
thank you very much.
I would have to include the singular beauty of entire groves of palm trees, swaying in the breeze.
And of course, one of my deepest loves:
the wide variety of beautiful flowers, colorful and fragrant.
 Anthurium, pink and red.
 Every shape, size and color of orchid.
It's not called the Garden Isle for nothin'.
Wonderful wildflowers, too. 
 Red ginger, and sometimes pink.
My personal favorite - and the first thing I buy at the local Farmer's Market - is the white, heavily scented tuberose.
And these wild bird-flowers are fun, too.
Golden shower trees abound - and of course - the state flower can be found everywhere, in every shade of pink, purple, orange, yellow, white and red. 
The glorious-for-one-day hibiscus.
 But as breathtakingly beautiful as it is,
as warm and welcoming as we find it every time we come,
as lovely and relaxing and refreshing as our time there always is - 
it is the people we share it with
 that make this place memorable.
Setting aside time, money and commitment for vacationing 
is a very high value for us as a family.
In fact, after commitment to growing in discipleship,
loving one another well,
learning our whole lives long -
I would have to say that re-creating is among our top four family values.

My husband and I began our married life by traveling halfway around the world together - to serve, to explore,
to grow together as our own family unit.
And every year since then, we have saved for, 
planned for and enjoyed time away from the regular routine.
We seek beauty,
learning about new places,
meeting new people,
and enjoying one another 
in a setting that is removed from the demands of daily living.

So we've been back to Kauai 
(or to Maui, our 2nd favorite) 
about 15 times in the last 30 years.
And some of our richest family memories are 
part and parcel of that small northernmost island,
the one with all the greenery and all the family lore.

Each of our parents invited their children and grandchildren to Kauai in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversaries.
We're making plans to do the same in 3 years time, when our own comes around.
We took each of our children's spouses with us on family trips to this place - two of them before they were officially members of the family.

And four years ago, we planned an extra-special trip, 
one that became even more so in retrospect.
Our middle daughter and her family of 5 rented a house in Princeville for a month.
Dick and I rented a house on the edge of Kalihiwai Bay for the same time period.
We were 10 minutes apart by car and each of us entertained parts of our extended families over the course of those four weeks.

My mom and my youngest brother came for one week and stayed with us. Within two years, he was dead and she was blind, frail and losing her memory.
The treasure of this time together 
is something I carry with me just about every day. 
 My husband's mom and his incredible sister, whose marriage of 38 years had just ended, came and stayed for a different week. 
Today, four years later, 
Mom is on hospice care; 
Dick's sister is preparing for a very different life 
once her mother is gone, most likely moving across the country to be nearer her daughter for half of each year.

Life just keeps on changing, you know?
And the gift of time away together?
It cannot be measured.

Since our initial visit 32 years ago, the islands have changed, too. Some of that change is welcome (like a wonderful Costco near the airport); some of it not so much (like increasing development and numbers of people) - but the essentials of the place remain the same.
It is beautiful.
It is marked by a much slower rhythm of living.
It is far enough away to feel removed 
from the lure of life on the mainland,
but not so far away as to feel isolated.

I cannot possibly put into words how deeply grateful 
I am to have spent time in this grace-filled space. 
I think it's about as close to Eden 
as I'm ever going to get this side of heaven - 
and I KNOW God lives there year 'round.

Joining in the Community Writing Project for The High Calling, put together by Charity Singleton and edited by Deidra Riggs, two of the finest women on the planet.
You can read other vacation stories at Charity's place: