We walked along the coastal path toward the Beach House restaurant and back, the sun warm and intermittent, burning through the heavy moisture and humidity. Some rain, and sporadic wind bursts that carry the aromas of sea and flowers, swirling about us, but it is warm and we don’t mind the wet as we watch the skies change again and again. We have been walking along this bit of coast for nearly thirty years, a shoreline reshaped by hurricanes, houses toppled and swamped, streets re-aligned. The Beach House was there in the first days, and I recall the hippie-style restaurant with the cats and the questionable sanitation. It was rebuilt after the big hurricane (eighties?) and recreated into an open airy sunset-facing restaurant. Clean now, with a broad promontory of grass that juts into the sea. Excellent grill as always, but the crowd has changed, faster, louder, and there is the sense it has become a tourist stop. Time passes, nature has her way with this island, and we reach back and touch those moments of our past, amazed.
We returned to sit on our shady balcony and stare at the pounding surf. Now the sun is out, and we wonder for how long, but the sea is blue green, laid before a swath of grass spread along the curved half moon of Poipu Beach. Green cabana lounges face the crashing waters. The sea roars in my ears and, indeed, we hear it sleeping carried through the window on warm breezes, and waking with all our senses open, and I drink the sound in as though it shall restore some balance, somehow wash my being, a baptism of sound.
Kauai seems to me to be the most dramatic of the Hawaian islands. Here the winds play with the palms, sliding up and down the fingered stems, tossing them in a dance of air and light and moisture, and the sun glances off the fronds where the always-recent rain has polished and quenched them.
The roar of the sea drowns human chatter and busy-ness, as though greater events continue regardless of our witness and participation, regardless probably of our recycling and conservation efforts. Here on Kauai we humans are smaller and humbler, bits of life surrounded by the powers of weather. We glimpse briefly in a moment now, then, later, the grandeur, beauty, and indeed, the terror. This island is a watered island, where rain forests drink from waterfalls tumbling from cliffs, and hurricanes and floodwaters reshape the land, destroy and rebuild. The island is nature’s huge canvas, a recreation by elemental forces of water, fire, air, and earth. Dramatic with giant players, intense colors, rushing movement, the creation of the world again and again.
Here man’s building man has been slow, often thwarted by these forces, and the villages of Kauai reflect these fits and starts. The crossroads of towns still revolve around the general store, post office, churches and schools. Shopping centers and hotels rise and fall with the economy, and are appreciated as job providers, catering to the tourists who come to escape their cities, their mainland mania of desire and speed. Escape they do, for the humidity, the floral air, the sweet sea, the majestic palms dancing in the skies, all work their magic. Folks sit and stare from lounge chairs, from black lava outcrops, from towels in the sand. They stare at the tremendous waters rising and swelling as far as the eye can see, out to the slim curving horizon, the whitecaps pushed by the wind, the surf crashing and spilling its foam on the black fingers of reef and rock that stretch from the edges of the cove. As they stare, holding a bestseller open to the first pages, the roar of the sea slides into them, and they nod slightly, drifting off for a moment of surprising escape. They have become one with the canvas of greens and blues, of surf soundings, of aromas of hibiscus and plumeria, and a part of a greater life. They become renewed.
A line from Psalm 95 said in the Office of Daily Morning Prayer (TheVenite) rings in my ears again and again here in this land of sea, sky, earth, air: The sea is his and he made it and his hands prepared the dry land, O come let us worship and fall down and kneel before the Lord our maker…