Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Seasons in the Sun

It's been cold here.  Really cold.  I don't think the thermometers rose into the positive realm, day or night, for at least 3 days.  So it is inevitable that my thoughts wander to may Maui days, which happens a few times a year.  My memories of my time in Hawaii are mostly sensory: the fell of salt on my skin, the smell of liliko'i fruits piled on my front seat, the surge of the ocean at the Cliff House in Kapalua, the color of the waves at Ironwoods, the sound of rain dripping on the leaves in Hana.  Do I miss living there?  At times, yes.  Do I wish I still lived there? No.  Do I want to spend more time there?  Absolutely.

Here's a question I often get when people find out I lived in Hawaii: If you had to choose between mountains or beach, which would you choose?

My answer has become short and easy since my return to Telluride: I did choose.

I left warm and breezy Maui and moved back to the sunny San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.  I also often get this: Did you miss the seasons?  Depending on who I am talking to, I either say Yes, just to end the conversation because I am on the gondola and just want to get home and eat some bean tacos, and it is clear that that is what they want to hear as some weird justification for why they are choosing not to live in a place as incredible as Hawaii, or I explain, as I did with Johnny on our ski tour last weekend that Hawaii does, in fact, have seasons.  They are distinct yet subtle and are remarkable.  By the way, here is a photo of me with my first quasi-peak we skied in the distance behind me (the snowy one):

It might seem idiotic to say that the seasons in Hawaii are as dramatic as the ones in Colorado, yet they do exist and are evidenced in the water, wind, air, flora and fauna.

I had a personal rule that I had to get in the water every single day, rain or shine.  Some rain days I passed (there aren't that many on West Maui and there is usually a spot nearby where it isn't raining) but for the most part, I stuck to that, driving a short way just to plunge in and take notice of the water quality, which changes throughout the year.  In the spring, after the big winter storms have died down, the water starts to clean up and calm down.  Clarity returns, waves taper and the songs of the humpback whales diminish.  Warmer temperatures ebb in to the shorelines and as the surge lowers, different parts of the coastline become accessible again.  The direction of swell shifts and southern shores start to see surf opportunities again, not just winter "wrap around."

If you are in the water a lot, these changes can feel as dramatic as the greening of leaves on aspens in early June.

The northeast to southwest direction of the near-constant trade winds noticeably increases in the wet/rainy or winter months, bringing rain and drizzle and gray skies to the eastern, northern and northwestern parts of the islands.  It can be really nice to awaken in January to a slow steady rainfall, and know that you can spend time indoors, guilt-free, for the first time in months.  The sun is extremely intense and there are times during the summer you just wish you could hide from it.  Conversely, there are also winter days when you just want to get out of the wind and feel the sun on your body, so you poke around and find a nice little spot in the lee of the wind, hunker down on your beach towel, and soak up a few rays before the sun sets, grateful for the warmth.

Living on West Maui means you get to watch the sun set every evening, if you like, and you can see the exact place where it sets over Moloka'i in the summer months, and over Lana'i in the winter months.  There is also the nice gap in between islands where it sets in between seasons.  My lifestyle when I lived there was so dreamy that watching the sunset was as activity, and the details were unforgettable.  Where the sun descended was extremely noticeable, especially when it was accompanied by humpback whales breaching and splashing around in the winter months.

Winter also brought the endangered monk seal; those blubbery beasts would find a sandy beach and drag themselves onto it after a long stretch at sea, pass out, and awaken to a crowd of people taking its picture and keeping the legal distance while it recuperated enough to launch itself back into the surf and continue on.  There was one that would evict a giant green sea turtle from an underwater ledge at the Cliff House in the winter months, than mosey on its way again come spring.

One of my favorite memories of Maui is the way people share fruits that ripen at different times of the year.  Mangos sweeten up around the summer solstice, and you can drive down any street and see people out with their long-armed mango pickers, slowing and stopping traffic as they grab mangos from the trees on the edge of their yards, then leave them out for people to buy on the honor system.  Then everyone makes mango bread and mango chutney, and it seems there is that one tree that has superior mangos, and someone brings in a bag to work and we divvy them up.

I have a memory of camping out on Shipwreck Beach on Lana'i and slurping down the best mango I have ever had, juice spilling all over my hands and arms and face, just eating it like a peach and loving it.

Liliko'is are the vining passion fruits that ripen up in late summer, and my friend Michelle dips apple banana slices in them before she dehydrates them, that and her famous no-bake liliko'i cheesecake!  They become the staple of smoothies for a few weeks, then juiced and put in the freezer to bring out in the spring months.

Avocados are the same - Sabrina had some magical tree near her house and she would bring in a giant bag of green buttery delights for us to share.  Have you ever seen poinsettias blooming in someone's front yard just before Christmas - a red so red it literally hurts your eyes to look at it?  Or the snowy blue-purple flowers of the jacaranda in May? Talk to some fishermen and you will have enough information about the seasons to fill a few more pages.  And so it goes around the year.  

Most of you know me well enough by now to know that my basic philosophy of life is: find something you like and Get Into It!  We've all heard that dumb saying, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention", right?  Well I say: "If you're not paying attention, you're not Living."

Seasons in Hawaii are noticeable, they are subtle, they are immensely delightful and they are deeply satisfying... if you are paying attention.

So why did I move, you ask?  I will save that for another post!  Here are some photos to live by:

Summer North Shore!

Can't get there in the winter!

There's that liliko'i pie!!!!!!!

So anyway, I guess to sum up I would say, when people ask: Didn't you miss having seasons?  My true answer would be No, I didn't actually miss seasons.  I missed different seasons.  And there are times when it doesn't get above -7 on the ski area that I miss THOSE seasons. 

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