Taking A Breath

Hawaii, The wonderful start to this adventure of full-time travel.

I visited North Kohala on the island of Hawaii for two weeks in 2016 to restart a friendship that somehow had lagged, a loss I felt keenly. Two weeks together and the lost past was now behind and new fun and love ahead. We hiked, I cleaned her range hood, and we cooked, cooked, cooked and laughed, laughed, laughed. Deborah had said during that visit, come back anytime and stay longer. Hmm.

Hiking down to the beach at the bluffs of Pololu in 2016, with Deborah and a sprained ankle.

The years 2017 and into 2018 were rough, with a diagnosis of breast cancer in early 2017, after which I experienced the five stages of cancer acceptance: What? Who? Why me? Do what? Hell no!, followed by the five steps of grieving, and finally the ensuing surgery and radiation. The experience accelerated our nascent plans to travel full-time: Life can be short and it ought to be beautiful along the way.

So, with full hubris, as I wound down my career and business and we took the steps to downsize again and give up a full-time residence, I called to ask Deborah how serious she was, and if we could stay for six weeks in their guesthouse. A few deep breaths later and consultation with husband John and I got a "bring it on" invitation.

Life on the island of Hawaii captivated me in 2016. With all nine climate zones known on the earth present in its 300-mile circumference, it is not the typical anywhere, much less the typical tourist's Hawaiian beach experience. Rainforest to desert, with a volcano that claims the largest mountain mass on earth between, it has everything. Torrential rain, volcanoes, white sand beaches, baking volcanic plains, swimming in the waves, the goddess Pele, hula dance, gorgeous music and love to spare.

So we relaxed, helped around the house, slept in, picked bananas, read, helped Deborah stage a CD recording event for a favorite musician, traveled around the Island to the Volcano National Park, walked on the crater floor and viewed the lava lake just days before eruptions started in April.

Art helped roof a new building. We demonstrated in Waimea for women's rights. I planted pineapples, gardened, cleaned, cooked...... and followed Deborah around to her many and varied activities most especially lots and lots of hula.

We walked on the crater floor in late April, up to the cautionary sign,

Lava Lake at the Jagger Museum, days before dropping and erupting at Fissure 8 on the south island, at Pahoa

Deborah inspecting before the live-CD concert

I had the joy of arranging 6 to 8-foot flowers fresh cut from a neighbor's yard. Just for perspective, that's a five-gallon bucket as vase.

Art helping roof John's ManCave, racing the tropical shower looming

It all sounds busy. But most of all, I breathed. Just breathed. What a process to go through: giving up a business I’d created that brought with it an identity I thought was me. In Hawaii, with the generosity of friends, I was able to recover me, just me. That business persona slid off into the sand and water.

And I found the love available in a new community. Deborah is a member of a "hula halau" in North Kohala, a school where the traditional Hawaiian dance form is taught. Her halau competes all over the Big Island, so practice they must and they do: three to four times a week, plus exhibitions along the way to pay for the costumes and travel to competitions.

North Kohala Hula Halau competing near Kona in 2016, Deborah front and center.

I tagged along and made friends and helped as I could, and received hugs that surpass anything I have ever experienced. Note: A Hawaiian hug does not include the "back-pat" where one or the other parties to the hug signals "that's enough". There just isn't enough. There is always more. Those hugs are ... breathe deep, relax, and just give and receive love and good wishes. I've learned it now and it's the kind of hug I want always to receive and to give.

Dance practice one evening under the watchful eye of King Kamehameha

Especially hugs from the aunties, a term of respect for one's elders. Ribald, hilarious, unmolested by expectations, they grabbed me up and made me part of the circle. Twice a week they danced and I watched at the Bamboo Restaurant in Hawi, to raise funds for their competition travel and costumes. Evalani, Joelle and Lucy adopted me, accepted me, made me laugh and love life again.

Evalani dancing at Bamboo.

Evalani made head leis for Art and me of flowers from her garden, and gave them to us at Bamboo the day we said goodbye. (In order: Jeanne, Evalani, Kalani, Lucy, Art and Vivien, each of them lovely. )

Leaving Hawaii and them left an emotional loss and a hole I'll need to fill by returning.


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