It’s easy to beat the sun awake in the tropics. Or anywhere in the winter. Is this balmy breeze stirring palm leaves to dance and sing a sign of winter?
Today’s the day. It’s time to say goodbye to Paradise and return to the reality of home.
For whatever reason, that reality involves a winter storm advisory. Because after enjoying shorts weather for five days, it’s only fir to return to sub-freezing temperatures, icy roads and the wintry mix the Pacific NW is famous for–when the regular deluge gives way to colder weather.
Every morning we enjoyed a walk, either along the beach or through the quieter, sleepy streets. There won’t be any of this once we get back to the mainland. Who wants to get drenched in the name of walking outside?
What Makes it Paradise
Perhaps everyone has a different concept of Paradise.
In the Bible, it could be the Garden of Eden or a place in the center of the Earth where souls waited for release.
In my world, it’s a place where the days are sunny but not hot. Where the only thing on my schedule is whatever sounds good. Where I don’t have to wear socks and shoes.
And the pace of the day reflects my mood.
There are palm trees. The sky is a crystalline aquamarine, the color of my Caribbean blue diamond. Maybe it’s a blue topaz sky since it’s December.
Waves lap against the soft shores. The briny smell of the sea underwrites a sweet aroma of baked goods.
And there are no calories. At least in my mind.
What Makes it Goodbye
Is there any song so mournful as “Taps” when a bugle plays the cadence?
It suits the mood. It’s the perfect way to say farewell.
There’s an end, so we say goodbye.
Which also means there’s a beginning. It’s an ocean away in a colder place. Pine trees will carpet millions of homes with their needles.
Because it’s nearly Christmas.
The voices of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby have even reminding us of the season when the flush of sweaty beneath sunny rays lent to amnesia.
Seats are reserved on a flight. Cats wait our arrival thousands of miles away.
There will be a hello.
But first we must say “Aloha Hawaiian vacation.”
Those Hawaiians knew what they were doing. Aloha means hello and goodbye.
Because in this temperate land of sweet pineapple and aromatic coffee, they’re really the same thing.
Annoying in its persistence and volume, the somewhat musical tone shrieks. The lull of the ocean is drowned beneath the cacophony.
Time: 1:30 a.m. Aren’t we on vacation? Who signs up for such intolerably early wakeups?
We did. In hopes of watching the sun rise from the tallest point on Maui, we paid someone a few hundred dollars and then gave up hours of sleep.
Did someone say crazy?
It will be cold at the top. We were told to dress in layers. I’m on vacation in the tropics and I have no layers. I throw in my sweatshirt. The tourism brochure said wet weather gear would be provided.
Darkness caresses my skin as we make our way to the lobby. A van will pick us up at 2 a.m.
Along with the driver, we’re the only people awake at such an hour of the morning. We collect ten other people at various resorts and then head to the east coast of the island.
While our guide and driver hook up the trailer full of bicycles, we snag a cup of coffee and a granola bar. The coffee isn’t worth drinking, but the caffeine keeps my eyes from succumbing to the urge to close. They know we’re on vacation. Read: sleep in.
A winding trip up the mountain in pitch black ensues. Only the orange glow of the burning sugar cane fields offer indication that something beyond the windows exists.
At the summit, the hive of activity buzzing from every direction revs up our adrenaline. Sunrise is 50 minutes away.
Outside the van, the oversized Columbia Sportswear wind suit provided by the tour company blocks a fraction of the wind chill. It’s 35 degrees at the summit. Did I mention I’m wearing shorts, t-shirt and a long-sleeved t-shirt weight zipped hoodie beneath the wind gear?
Thankfully, they hand out insulated gloves. A gift shop with viewing windows waits on the edge of the crater.
Fifty or more people stuff themselves into the small viewing center where a modicum of heat and the lack of wind offer reprieve from the chilling, non-tropical weather outside. 40 minutes until sunrise.
“You’re blocking a fire lane,” the gruff proprietor announces to some unfortunate souls on the other side of the 20 foot wide room. “You can’t stand in the doorway.” 30 minutes until sunrise.
People mill about, bumping each other: it’s bumper cars without the cars – or the smiles. The viewing window fogs over. Automatic doors admit more people into the sardine can accommodations. A cold wind chases them and discourages me from attempting to gain some elbow room. 20 minutes to sunrise.
Like a petulant child, someone asks, “Will we be able to see the sunrise in here?” Seeing anything through the thickly fogged windows seems unlikely. A wave of uneasiness sweeps through the crowd.
“Don’t worry,” snaps the woman behind the counter. “I do this every day. I won’t let you miss anything.” 10 minutes to sunrise.
I decide to brave the freezing temperatures and leave the cocoon created by the press of bodies. Outside, a thick fog covers the ground. Wind whips around the little building. My husband stands at the railing, camera at the ready, drenched from the press of clouds.
Egress is blocked. I shiver and slap my hands together. I try rubbing the gloved appendages against my upper arms. I stamp my feet. Nothing helps, so I give in to the chattering teeth.
A swell of bodies flows out of the building. A red glow in the distance incites a unanimous inhaled breath. Sunrise.
Or not. It’s the first time ever that I have seen the clouds defeat the sun. Will we live eternally in blackness?
A faint line of gray light announces the onset of day. No spectacular photos of the sun rising out of the Pacific. Phenomenal vistas displayed beneath the shadow of the highest point on Maui remain obscured by the fog bank.
Happily, I return to the van via a stop in the restrooms where I use the hand dryer to thaw my ice encased fingers.
At 6,500 feet, we emerge into a sunny realm high above the island plains. Now the downhill bicycle ride begins, offering expansive views of the neck of the island and both coasts.
In the end, it makes the early wakeup worth the effort. If only the weak links in the front of the line stopped wearing their brakes out, we could sail down the winding road, whooping and hollering. It’s almost as joyous as flying and it doesn’t make the heart stutter like bungee drops.
Eucalyptus and lavender farms line the lower hills, embracing our sense of smell with free doses of aromatherapy. Later, we pedal past the last working ranch on the island. A whole different fragrance greets our unsuspecting noses.
Not the longest day ever, but it seemed like bedtime when we arrived back at our resort around two in the afternoon.
I think this is what sensory overload feels like. Or maybe that’s just sleep deprivation talking.
What have you risen early in the morning to do? Was it worth the effort?
Soup should be served hot: coffee hotter. Wait staff should smile and serve with friendly deference. Eggs Benedict means rich, yellow liquid from the egg yolk beneath the Hollandaise sauce.
Expectations: we all have them. They color our experiences in every aspect of life.
The problem with expectations is that they have the power to derail our joy when they aren’t met. If we expect to see dolphins on the boat ride, but we only see a manta ray and sea birds, our expectations are dashed, so much surf against the rocks.
Will unmet expectations ruin the day?
Years ago, a woman I worked with traveled to Maui for her daughter’s wedding. When she returned, she bubbled about the sunrise bike ride from the top of the mountain. More recently, people who learned we were traveling to Maui said, “You have to do the sunrise bike ride.”
When asked by my husband what I wanted to do on vacation, I replied, “The sunrise bike ride and sit by the pool.” These desires should be easily met, right?
When the clouds obscured the sunrise and I was tired, cold and frozen, the trip to the top of Haleakala could have been a bust.
I determined to prove a new formula for unmet expectations:
Anticipation + Expectation = Atypical Results
My mother-in-law, a travel mate, said the night before, “I hope it’s everything you hope for.”
What did I hope for? A fantastic view of Maui and heart-pounding thrills from a downhill race.
More than a few breathtaking views punctuated the speedy descent down the mountain (House of the Sun). Sounds like what I hoped for had been achieved.
It didn’t have to be a sunrise view from the summit. I had anticipated thrills and sights. My experience flourished with vistas and whoops.
Perhaps we need to carefully define our expectations. Or maybe it’s best to just sit back and let come what may.
Can you think of a time when unmet expectations dampened an experience? What recommendations do you have for turning our expectations into friends rather than foes?
Anyone who enjoys the ocean, the beach, green scenery or balmy nights should plan a trip to Hawaii. In short: everyone needs to experience the fiftieth U.S. state at least once.
It may prove challenging to visit only once.
I recommend Oahu for those people who want a fast-paced trip. A varied night life awaits once the pulse of Waikiki beach fades under the setting sun.
If you want a wide variety of hiking, biking, sightseeing, snorkeling, shopping and adventure, I suggest the island of Maui. On my next trip (See? I warned you this might happen), I’m going to hike to waterfalls in the Northern mountains and zip line through a jungle.
Here are the top ten most memorable moments from my recent vacation in the Aloha State and, specifically, to the Valley Isle:
10. Snoozing beneath crystal blue skies beside a sparkling swimming pool
9. Quality time with people I love while basking in sunlight and inhaling balmy air
8. My inner pyromaniac salivating as men in loincloths spin fire overhead and between their legs
7. Whooping down Haleakala atop a bicycle
6. Building my ocean-colored Pandora bracelet with a turtle charm to cement this vacation in memory
5. Enjoying each meal on the lanai with friendly birds and full view of the trip mascot: turtles
4. Admiring the “neck” of Maui from 6,500 feet above sea level
3. Swimming in the warm ocean with sea turtles bobbing up all around me
2. Lapping waves as a lullaby every night and a daily wakeup call
1. Dolphins racing the boat and spinning in the air a few yards away
Take a moment to reflect on your best moments from your last trip away from home. Make a list. What tops your list? What made that moment so special?
At ten in the morning, the moon sits at eleven o’clock in the azure sky. This Maui moon paraded around in daylight with all the bravado of a Harvest Moon at midnight.
In our world, the moon shares the sky with the sun for more days than not. I have noticed this at home in the afternoon. Rarely have I spied it flying so high in the morning. This might suggest that I don’t look at the morning sky as often as I do the afternoon sky.
More than likely it means that I’m thinking about other things and take no note of the moon smiling from the sky during the day. Kicking back on the lanai in Hawaii: a totally different story.
A bright moon on the brilliant blue backdrop gave me the title for this post. Reflecting on the title brought other thoughts to mind (no, my brain wasn’t on vacation in the same way as my body).
I will moon over Maui on Monday. Webster says moon means ” to spend in idle reverie.” This definition surprised me because I thought mooning involved melancholy reflection.
In either case, I will think about Maui for many days and weeks to come. When autumn rain pelts my windows, I’ll recall the warm drops experienced while sitting beside the pool in Maui.
If gray skies dominate the Oregon weather scene, I’ll open the picture folders and remind myself of the special shade of sky in Maui. In turn, I’ll marvel again about the truly blue waters of the Pacific Ocean when dreariness turns the Columbia River a greenish-gray.
When I’m creating the setting for the underwater vault in my novel, I’ll study the photographs of the coastine of Lana’i and return to the golden day when dolphins frolicked alongside our catamaran.
What places do you moon over? Is this a good practice? Does mooning over special places and times keep us from savoring the present moment?
Underneath the veneer of this Paradise, the surf thrums. Its regularity relaxes me. The steadiness acts as the heartbeat of my vacation.
Blue water, reflecting sunlight and mirroring the azure sky above, swells against the reddish sand. With this pulse, life continues.
Images included with this post display the Paradise I view upon awaking and the last thing seen at night. In fact, I have spent many wee morning, pre-sun, hours on the lanai staring at the midnight waters rolling ashore.
The only plan for the day is a luau this evening. The Royal Lahaina Luau takes place about 10 minutes (via the rented Tahoe) south of my temporary home. A manicure may compel me to shower and dress this morning. Or I might just put on my bathing suit and stretch out beside the pool until lunch.
Thus, my definition of vacation becomes clear.
I sat by the pool in a rain shower yesterday. Most of the tourists fled the pool deck. I held my towel over my head (trying to preserve my hair) and let the warm beads refresh my skin. My husband plunged into the water.
Within three minutes, the rain tapered into a mist and the sun smiled on us again.
My definition of Paradise used to be a sunny place where it only rains at night. Now I know better. Paradise and Maui are synonymous.
If you think I’m squandering this week in Paradise by lounging by the pool instead of taking in the sights, never fear. Tomorrow is a snorkeling trip to nearby Lana’i with a 95 percent chance of catching sight of dolphins.
Wednesday morning is the sunrise on Haleakala followed by an 18 mile downhill bike ride. I hope to share pictures from said excursion in my Wordless Wednesday posting.
We have been shopping and will go shopping some more. After all, both Jeff and I had half-empty suitcases when we left home. It would be a crime not to remedy such a travesty.
What is your definition of Paradise?