The first chilly night of the year. It does get chilly here. Really. The front door and all the windows are open and I suppose this fact would suggest, to most people, most places on earth: “not nippy in the least”. But we’ll take it. We’ll bundle up in our hoodies and tuck our toes under our sweat-panted asses and drink hot cocoa tonight.
Just this Saturday, sweat-soaked, flaccidly fanning, listlessly meandering through the Maui Swap Meet stalls, I couldn’t believe it would ever be anything but hot.
“Is it ever gonna cool off, you think?” I asked the mango-banana-guava vendor (only there were no mangoes…more on this later).
“Ho! I hope not. The tourists get cranky when it’s cloudy.”
We both laughed.
“Well, we could sure use some rain, yeah?”
“‘auwe!” (a Hawai’ian lament…which I love, because it’s the closest thing to “alas and alack!” I’ve heard East of the Restoration).
So here’s where the proverbial canker ka-naws. We like seasons here. And we have them. We have mango season–hot, sticky, nowhere-to-run-but-into-the-surf-or-into-the-nearest-movie-theater kind of season. That’s Summer. Spring is jacaranda season upcountry and the light is different. Crisper, clearer. The air is more buoyant and the contours of Haleakala deepen in the late afternoon. But people don’t save up for a year or more to come to Hawai’i for damn seasons. I don’t blame them. If they wanted buoyancy and contour, they could have stayed home. They want eternal sunshine and gently swaying (GENTLY swaying…not blustering) palms, the lilt of slack key off in the distance. Friendly locals who bring them things and shaka and ooze only aloha.
We have five mango trees in our yard. In the summer, they sag with with pinkening, oranging fruit. So many mangoes, we can’t keep up. I can’t handle the hefty mango picker. I’m short and ineffectual at most survival-handy endeavors like picking, gathering, killing scary things and fashioning a shelter out of fronds. I’d totally be the first one down in the Hunger Games. This means the hubby is tasked with handling the avalanching mango harvest. He picks, we puree, freeze, share with neighbors, friends, family, co-workers. Strangers come to the door asking if they can pick a few, presumably to sell. At first I was all haole about it. It freaked me out a little to have random people just pull up the driveway and ask to have their way with our picker. Then after a year or two, I adjusted. As I do. Little by little, season after season.
I live here:
It really looks like this. Any given evening (almost), I could linger over a glass of Pinot and behold this type of splendor, nuzzling the hubby and listening to the delighted squeals of joy emanating from my children as they frolic in the sherbet-shimmery sea. But I mostly don’t. We don’t. We’re stuck in the muck of all the mundane “devoirs”: dance, judo, Scouts, homework, Costco, paper-grading, email answering, article writing, house cleaning, dinner cooking, Daily Show DVRing.
Here’s the thing. When you live on “The Best Island in the Whole Freaking World” (tm), you’ve always got this alternate, postcard image of perfection hanging over your head like an annoying cartoon thought-box. When you have to work and your kids have to, you know, get all these “enrichment experiences” under their belt so they can go off to college someday and not act like a couple of Mid-Pac bumpkins, come sunset you’re usually too tired to head out for the basking and the frolicking. Plus, there’s the reading to do and the papers to grade (I teach English at the local college, so I’m always staring down the barrel of a stack or two). On the rare occasion when we drop everything and go out for a gaze, I feel like a shirker and, on the less-rare occasions when we stay in and do the pedestrian dailies, I always feel a little bit like a loser. Any way you slice it, you come up Slacker.
Still, this evening, as I head home with a trunk full of Costco, the ancient folds of Iao Valley suck up the waning sunlight and transform it into dripping, gilded rivulets. My breath catches, the love I feel for this place washes over me and I remember. Over on the West Side, beyond Iao Valley where the river runs blood, a maile-adorned, bare-chested local guy runs through manicured hotel grounds, passing the flood-lit fantasy pool, the massage cabanas, the thatched mai-tai bar. He lights the tiki torches, blows the conch shell, then dives off sacred Black Rock, suspended for a glowing instant, before disappearing into the dark land of the ‘aumakua.