I remember when I was in elementary school, one of my classmates traveled to Hawaii one summer. She came back and one day for show and tell, her father came with a slide presentation of pictures they had taken in the islands...at the time I looked at the pictures and secretly thought "Florida has nice beaches, too. Who needs to go to Hawaii?"
Then when I was fourteen I read the James Michener epic novel Hawaii for the first time...yep, I said the first time. I loved it so much I eventually read the first copy to pieces...and the second, well into adulthood. It was a beautifully written fictional chronicle of the various ethnicities who came to populate paradise, starting with the ancient Polynesians said to have made the 8,000 mile trek in double hulled canoes over the Pacific from Tahiti. Then the American missionaries came, then the Chinese were recruited to come to the "fragrant tree country" (called that for the sandalwood tree), and then the Japanese were recruited to come and work the fields on the plantations. Michener's book is a blending of all the diverse people who came to Hawaii and made it what it is today. I was hooked.
When I was in college, I rushed once a week to a friend's campus home. She had a television. So I went over to her place to watch "Hawaii Five-0" the original series with Jack Lord, James McArthur, and a cast of local actors. It was a good crime drama with a mythical police section called Five-0. In reality, they called it that because Hawaii became our 50th state a few years earlier.
When I was an employed college graduate, I happened to win a radio contest. The prize? A trip to Hawaii. My boyfriend at the time and I went to Oahu, home of Honolulu. While there I gave up the boyfriend and fell irrevocably in love with Hawaii - a lifetime commitment.
Also while I was there, I took part in a crowd scene that was filmed for "Hawaii Five-0". You can't make up this stuff!!! It was like the islands welcomed me. I knew I was home.
Imagine my surprise when a new revised "Hawaii Five-0" appeared on the air. And yes, I am a faithful watcher. I adore the new young Steve McGarrett. I was very fond of his previous series, "Moonlight." I was astounded to see Kono, played by a large Hawaiian man in the original, played by the beautiful Grace Park from "Battlestar Galactica." The new cast is wonderful and true to form, I love the show.
Over the years, I've traveled to the Hawaiian Islands several more times, visiting the individual islands each time - still haven't made it to Molokai, though. I did like to float in a lagoon off Maui and see Molokai across the water....sigh.
Each island is a bit different from the others, from the sprawling city of Honolulu on Oahu, to the rain forests and black sand beaches of Maui, to the majestic Waimea canyon on Kauai (called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), to the Volcano National Park on Hawaii (called the Big Island) where you must be careful not to offend Pele, the volcano goddess. Kileaua, the caldera in the park, has been constantly erupting since the early 1980s. It seems the government geologists began sticking probes into the ground around there. A local kahuna (Hawaiian holy man) warned them they would offend Pele, as Kileaua is her home. They laughed it off as superstition until Kileaua began erupting. It continues to this day. Don't do anything to tick off Pele. In fact you can get on the website for the Volcano National Park to find out where the lava floes are currently and how much new acreage has been added to the island by the cooling lava. It is spectacular to fly to the Big Island and see the great clouds of steam where the lava meets the sea.
The state of Hawaii, made up of the Hawaiian Islands, is a diverse landscape with white sand beaches, black sand beaches, pink sand beaches, and red clay. It is the site of the wettest spot on Earth - on the island of Kauai. There are beautiful tropical settings, green covered mountains, jagged cliffs, lovely waterfalls, and in many places tropical plants and lushly growing flowers.
There are orchid farms, sugar plantations, pineapple plantations, as well as the flowers, adding to the scents of your experience. Of course when they clear the sugar cane fields they burn the remaining vegetation to prepare the land for the next crop. That smells like burning molasses and stays in your memory, too.
The sunrises and sunsets are spectacular there, memorable. The sunsets happen very quickly. The sun disappears over the horizon in most places, appearing to fall into the sea. The sun rises over the volcano peaks. Haleakala, a dormant volcano on Maui, is over 10,000 feet high. I ought to know, I drove a rented Toyota up the side of Haleakala on a treacherous mountain road on which we met a semi coming from the opposite direction. But Haleakala is worth it, especially if you are there for sunrise. You are literally above the clouds as you watch the sun rise....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Oh yes, the mongoose is all over the islands, like squirrels. It seems there were a few snakes that had made it to the islands in cargo holds with no natural enemies. The cane fields, especially were full of them. So somebody had the bright idea of importing the mongoose. Eventually they took care of the snakes. But the mongoose went forth and multiplied and multiplied some more. So if you're driving in a rural setting over there, be prepared for the yellowish mongoose to run across the road in front of your car.
And on Kauai somebody had the brilliant idea to have free range chickens. I don't know if they were called free range, but I do know the clever people didn't think to put the chickens in coops or confine them in any way. The result is chickens run free range all over Kauai, even up on top of Waimea Canyon, as I learned to my dismay while staying there. The roosters started crowing each morning about 4:30. That will wake you up for sure...We did our duty in one of the towns on a trip to Kauai when I saw a chicken heading for a KFC across the road. We shooed him away telling him "danger! danger!" I felt sure he understood because he ran the other way...
Can you tell how much I love the islands? My fondest wish is to go back and visit once more. I've still got Molokai to visit, after all.
In the meantime, I will post tidbits on Hawaii from time to time. And I am starting work on my new novel, Forbidden (Kapu), set....wait for it....in the islands! It's a historical romance set during the time Hawaii was annexed by the US. That was in the late 1890s. I'll keep you posted on my progress, though I suspect it will be like the molasses that burns in the cane fields....SLOW...
Well, think I'll go water the anthurium, the orchids, and the plumeria.
Have a good evening.
ALOHA. (Book 'em Danno!)