When I became cancer free in 2011 we celebrated with a family trip to Hawaii in March, just before I returned full time to GS. I had ignored Kauai’s well known reputation as one of the rainiest spots on earth and booked the beautiful St Regis Princeville. The kids, then almost 3 and 6, delighted in every part of the trip including the endless rain. I sulked. My favorite memory, besides the magnificent helicopter ride over the Jurassic park like valleys and peaks, was when a photographer asked us to say Aloha for a family picture, and Bebe’s high pitched voice belted out “Ayohhhhhhh-ha!” Yuke from Star Wars, Yove, Yentils, Yike, and Ayoha. Who needs L’s?
The Hualalai side of the Big Island gets just 9 inches of rain per year (Kauai 200+), now my idea of Hawaii heaven. Some wonderful friends are generously hosting us, and I will be shocked if being here hasn’t improved my platelets. I admire the plunge this family took to make Hawaii home over the last 3 years. They had owned a lovely condo at Hualalai and lived in SF, but designed an Architectural Digest worthy house in Kukio when they realized that they could really make this home with two young boys. Elegant, understated, beautifully thought out, endless attention to detail in both aesthetic and usage, and all with jaw dropping views across a lava strewn plain out to the turquoise blue ocean full of breaching whales and dolphin pods 20 strong. Timeless stone, aged teak, and every soothing shade of blue. Living in a bikini, cover up, hat and flip flops, savoring mouth watering mango, pineapple, papaya with lime, and a devilishly delicious frozen coconut pudding. I have tried out several of the seating zones, and their is no inferior view. I lost myself in a fantastical fiction, The Golem and the Jinni, set at the turn of the century in New York City. It sounds weird, but is utterly absorbing as the story dances from King Sulayman’s desert, Bedouins, and a glass palace from 800 BC to a lively New York being shaped by immigrants from every walk of life, in particular Syria and Poland. Central Park is little changed, and life spans between tenements and Park Avenue mansions.
I miss leaping into my normal water activities, but am happy just relaxing and watching the kids build sand castles, kayak surfing, and Bebe cartwheeling on any available surface. Will spent an hour in one spot snorkeling with baby sea turtles, and then told me he has discovered an oxymoron in “gentle shove”! We took an incredible boat ride yesterday morning to seek out whales and dolphins. The island was hidden in haze (volcanic fog) but the sun played on the water changing it from indigo to turquoise. We saw a few breaches where the whale leaps out of the water, but mostly tail smacking and spouting. We’ve be seen almost as much from their deck! But to be that close was mind blowing. The magical part of the ride was being surrounded by a pod of dolphins. Pink bellied, gorgeous spinner dolphins who raced by the bough of the boat and then entertained us with flips and synchronized leaps. Creighton, Dawn, and the kids were brave enough to swim with them and said they make eye contact and come as close as possible, bubbly and curious. Creighton said when he dove 3 ft under he could hear their chatter as well as whale song! We had just been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium at Christmas where they have some powerful pictures of a female whale really looking into the photographers eyes, so seeing all these amazing creatures feels even more special. While I’ve had to settle with dipping my toes in and then doing my water jog in the spectacular infinity pool, I think my my next beach trip I will be strong enough to do more in the water. One of the beach staff took pity on me and got me out in an outrigger canoe. So peaceful, and clear enough to see coral and sea turtles. I think I will be putting more beach excursions into this year.
I so enjoy family dinners, both at home and as we are having now with one other family. It is so wonderful to have the kids at ages where they truly take part in the conversation, express views, and of course tell jokes. I particularly love when I find myself laughing out loud because they have really said something funny. Last night the kids obsessed about trips to the ER and our family stories about reptiles in SF. Will’s favorites are the python in the garden and the chameleon back at California St. Perhaps you’d like to hear?
Will was playing on the swings, and I was reading on a sunny Friday a few years ago. Thea started barking fiercely and persistently. When I finally turned around, I found the recipient of her anger was none other than a 5ft long yellow Python wrapped in a tight ball and warming itself in the dirt behind me. It turned out that our just divorced neighbor was rebound dating a woman who liked to keep her Python in her purse. For real. Apparently the python preferred our warm yard to her cluttered purse. “Billllllll!” I yelled. “Can you please come get your snake?”. Just another Friday afternoon on Lake street. The python made 2 other appearances in our yard before finally staying put. Possibly because they realized a cage is more suitable than a purse, and/or because they heard my comment about it being perfect for my next pair of shoes. Pre-kids the first thing I would do after work would be to take a few deep breaths on our balcony before changing for my daily hike. One day I came home to a 3ft chameleon. In San Francisco. On our balcony. I called Creighton at work, and he was clearly making crazy lady signals to his colleagues while I told him what was happening. Ha! When he finally came home a few hours later, sure enough the chameleon was there and was 3ft long. He jumped too! We went inside for a bit, and when we returned ere was no sight of it. I looked around and leaned over the balcony. Turning my head to the right, nothing. Turning my head to the left, a chameleon 3 inches from my face. I jumped about 5 ft! I believe Creighton may have been laughing… He used a towel to pick it up and put it in the bath tub. It hissed, long and loud. It was not happy. It started pumping its head up and down. Not happy. We called Animal Control hoping they would find its home. At this point we had it in the tub with so lettuce and a bowl of water. When they lady gently picked it up, it looked directly into my eyes and clasped two of its little fingers together. Can a lizard be cute? I think in this instance, yes. It was trying to say Thank You, and it was a weird, magical, touching moment. Since then, sometimes the finger clasp says more than words. It is very handy. We we never took pictures, but they will always live vividly in my head, and I hope they will be wildly exaggerated over the years by our kids.
I love that in travel you can lose your sense of time. When I’m home I spend far too much time at the hospital between blood draws, appointments, treatment, scans. So while I love home, I also appreciate the travel that makes me feel like we are gone for weeks instead of a few days. Somehow it stretches life out a bit. And I will take as much of that as I can get!