1) If the guide book says there are lots of roosters on Kaua’i, really take this information in. Read it again: “THERE ARE A LOT OF ROOSTERS ON KAUA’I.” Think about what you know about roosters: among other things, they like to crow. If there are a lot of roosters, then it stands to reason that a lot of roosters will be crowing. Ask yourself, What might I need that I otherwise might not bring on an island where there are a lot of crowing roosters? Ear plugs? A white-noise machine? A shotgun?
2) If you allow yourself for the first time in your life to order yourself a pair of prescription sunglasses, do not convince yourself that the ocean is gentle enough and you are savvy enough that you can wear the sunglasses while boogie boarding. And if you wear them boogie boarding anyway, when your husband says, “You might want to take those off and put them in the beach bag,” listen to him.
3) If a red-haired, 20-something hitch hiker dressed in shorts and a straw hat stands by the side of the road next to a pile of coconuts, give him a ride. It will be fun.
4) If someone you meet on the island says about Lydgate Park, “The snorkeling isn’t that great,” don’t believe her. Any moment when you are under water and there are colorful fish swimming with you is an amazing moment.
5) If you go to Jo-Jo’s Shave Ice Shack because the guidebook says it’s the best shave ice on the island, try not to get so bored waiting in the long line that you slump against the counter and accidentally knock over the tip jar – which happens to be an old glass blender. Because if you do, glass will go everywhere and the sullen 20-something who is the sole worker there will use this as an opportunity to shoo all the customers out and close the shack for ten minutes while he makes sure he has swept up all the glass. And ten minutes is just long enough for the one who made this mistake to feel so embarrassed that they don’t want to go in after 10 minutes because everyone will know the delay was their fault. But, hey, even if you forget these details, don’t sweat it. The island is crawling with shave ice places, and lots of them are pretty good – even if they aren’t Jo-Jo’s. You’ll still be able to find flavors like Hurricane, Buttered Popcorn and Dill Pickle, and you may even decide to eat all three flavors at the same time.
I recently bought some coffee that, by mistake, was un-ground, and so now I find myself every morning grinding the beans for my coffee – and for as long as I live, this will remind me of my friend, Steve Novick’s mom, Becky.
My freshman year of college at the University of Oregon, Steve and I became friends. A mutual friend actually owned a car, and occasionally Steve would remain after the end of the school day in order to socialize with us – which meant we had to find a way to get him back home to Cottage Grove.
Steve lived in Cottage Grove with his mom, dad, and two younger brothers. Times were lean at Steve’s house, and yet every time we returned him home safely, Becky would offer us a cup of coffee for the road back to Eugene. She had a preferred ritual around the coffee. They had an old-fashioned coffee grinder, and Becky’s idea was that a certain number of beans, and a certain number of turns of the handle, produced the best cup of coffee. Steve would carefully count the specified number of beans into the top of the grinder and turn the handle. The aroma of coffee spread into the small kitchen as the grinder broke open the beans, and permeated it further when hot water hit the ground beans sitting in their single-cup Melitta filter.
Coffee was still a luxury to me during those years. Becky’s hospitality captivated me. The things I deemed as precious were difficult for me to be open-handed with, and yet Becky wanted to share some precious coffee with Steve’s friends before we had to leave again. I very much enjoy thinking of her as I noisily grind my morning coffee.
Today on the Free Bench: A smiling blue fish pillow, two knife holders, a container of leftover spaghetti, a DVD of Whale Rider, and a package of Black Tiger Prawns with the heads and shells still on.
We returned home Tuesday evening after being gone for 13 days to find a delightfully festooned Free Bench and a note.
I will not detail the contents of the entire note (or maybe you can read this tiny print!), but the gist of it was that “our gracious neighbors” (that is, me and Garth) have provided us with this Free Bench so don’t abuse it by leaving stuff that really should just be disposed of.
It was a sweet thing to come back to – and not just because anything one might describe with the verb “festoon” is bound to be pretty cool. I was delighted that someone took this sort of initiative. I doubt I would have. How does someone look at our Free Bench and, rather than thinking, “Not my problem,” says, “Hey, this is my neighborhood and it’s my job to do my part to keep it the way we all want it to be”? I know what it looks like when people don’t do that. There is a block that Kami and I give a wide berth when we walk to her school because it’s just sort of dumpy and depressing. No initiative on that block.
We suspected a couple neighbors of having this sort of get-up-and-go that probably resulted in the note and decorations, and finally we learned it was Ronnie. She lives around the corner, is maybe 10 years older than me and drives a school bus for a living. She adores animals and, as long as I’ve known her, she has always had a dog who looks a little like this:
Ronnie has single-handedly entreated (through small signs at dog-poop level) that people walking their dogs through our ‘hood pick up after them. Ronnie is my inspiration.
Yesterday, before I turned it off, I heard a story on NPR about how in Spain, an old tradition is returning: hunting wild boar on horseback with spears. To my mind, something happens when we enact a tradition that is no longer a necessity. We no longer examine the thing itself, and maybe we divorce ourselves from the need that gave rise to the tradition in the first place. We lose something important in the process.
In Hawaii, we had a day when we ate almost exclusively things grown on the island. It was a cool experiment, and it was also devoid of any requirement. If we grew tired of the experiment, we could go to the store. Sometimes I spin wool into yarn and knit things to wear and use. It is for the pure pleasure of it. I could buy basically the same thing for a fraction of what un-spun wool and yarn cost.
I don’t exactly think I’m suggesting that continuing traditional practices are suspect. Obviously, there can be artistry and pleasure involved in many things that are no longer essential, and I happen to think the world is sorely lacking in artistry and pleasure. But I feel stumped by how to honor not only the historical necessity of something but also the fact that it is still a necessity in so many parts of the world. And even if few Americans have to go hunt and gather for our food, more and more of us scrounge for the means to buy our food.
I am wondering how to carry my privilege honorably in a way that does not minimize the struggles of others (and perhaps even lightens their burden a bit). Maybe something on the order of how Native Americans thanked (and likely many still do) the spirits of animals they hunted and killed for food. I am eager for your thoughts about this.