Notes from Poipu, Kauai

We flew to this Garden Isle on Friday, having hopped, skipped, and jumped islands – from the Big Island at the southern tip of Hawaii, then flying over Maui, connecting to another flight on Oahu, and up and down again to the northern tip of Hawaii, the “Garden Isle” of Kauai.

Kauai, being the island farthest north, receives the brunt of storms. With more rain, there is more growth, and over sixty movies have been made here making use of the rain forests and waterfalls. Yesterday the folks celebrated fifty years since Elvis made “Blue Hawaii,” the wedding scene filmed at the Cocoa Palms, a historic resort now closed. “South Pacific” was filmed at Hanalei near Princeville.

It is a rich watered land, and we arrived to sun and warm temperatures, trade winds whipping the palms and pushing clouds across the skies. The seas are rougher than on the Kohala Coast – high aquamarine swells rear and crash into white foam. The sea roars day and night, and surfers bob and paddle the glassy surfaces, as they work their way to the perfect wave. Black lava reefs from the land, fingering the sea and breaking the waters as they pound and spew. These are not gentle meetings of sand and surf, and the beach drops suddenly, angling and desiring the ocean depths.

Poipu is, they say, the sunny side of Kauai. The resorts touch one another, making a shoreline chain of old and new and re-newed. There seems no recession here – the pools filled with children, the lounge chairs lined with sunbathers. Many locals have come out today, being Sunday, to enjoy the sea and sand and sun before returning to their real lives tomorrow.

I watch them from the safe shade of my balcony. The young wear less each year, barely enough to pass social codes, a thong, a band across the bosom. The old have grown fat, sedentary beings lolling about like great white whales. Those in between the young and the old pause and watch, mesmerized. They are heading toward fat and sedentary and whale-like. The men wear trunks not Speedos, the women one-piece swimsuits not bikinis. They sit on the edge of the pool, dangling their feet, holding a tropical drink, shaded by a broad-brimmed hat, feeling perhaps a bit tired, the first sign.

For all of us, the humid air, the breezes, the pounding surf, have pulled us out of our real lives and into a place from where we can see those lives better. Our routines are broken, our habits left at home. We are forced to meet new situations and grapple with new problems. We consider the time we left at home, our pasts, and wonder about the time we will re-enter when we return, our futures. We may repent. We might make some changes. We renew promises and embark on resolutions. We may even be inspired, having breathed in through a forgotten door suddenly thrown open, the mind of our maker, God. We breathe in his thoughts and his gentle pushings toward his will. We begin to see the angels, to see dreams.

I just finished a remarkable true story, To Heaven and Back, by Dr. Mary C. Dean, recounting the author’s drowning, death, and return to life. Many of her images are encouraging about the reality of Heaven, but what has remained with me is her sense of angels working in our world. The Church just celebrated the annual feast of St. Michael and All Angels, and their presence was reinforced by yesterday’s Scriptures. They are powerful presences all around us. They cannot interfere in our free will, but they can nudge and guide and point. When we pass from this life to the next we will be carried by them, held safe in their wings.

I am now reading a novel by Julian Barnes, the Booker prize winner, The Sense of an Ending. This too seems to be a meditation about death and life, but I fear has a darker theme and a despairing ending, having begun with a suicide. God is far away in this account, religion relegated to a far shore, unreachable. It makes me sad.

I reread my notes and note their meanderings. I meander, riding the sea swells, sliding onto the beach. Soon I will catch the trade winds and soar with the birds. I sit on the edge of the world, of many worlds, feathered by angels, nudged by my maker who beckons earth into Heaven.

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