The lush slopes sweep down through terraced coffee groves to the ocean whose surf roars into the lava rocks and streaks up the cove. Sunstreams glint across the swell and, in the far distance, a humpback whale breaches the waves.

Did I mention we went to Hawaii – our first vacation in several years?

We ventured past the point where vintage, tea-stained, maps declare, “There be Dragons.”  Well, we are yet to come across dragons, but there have been wonders, diverse wonders.  We learned that the Hawaiian language reaches far beyond “Aloha,” is vital, rich and evolving. Those impossible vowel strings sound like exotic melodies from a local’s lips  – (and like strangulated squeals from mine!)  We’ve enjoyed the hula, the fire dance, and the haka, learning stories of the gods and spirits, the culture of hospitality, and the blending of the Polynesian peoples, whose maritime knowledge simply astounds. Previously, we vacillated between admiring Captain Cook and his crew, (who came across these isles,) and questioning their sanity embarking on voyages of discovery on cumbersome eighteenth century, wooden vessels in search of “new” lands and the northwest passage. Stunning and daring as these were, they fade in comparison with the seafaring enterprises of the islanders who took sail in the fifth century on craft bound together by twine twisted from creepers and with braided sails. Cook’s navigation seems primitive in contrast with modern day radar and satellite, whereas the islanders depended solely on experience and the stars.

Our hiking guide ( introduced us to the rich variety of plant and animal life, species we have never seen before, some endemic only to the islands, and some oddly familiar; hundred year old redwoods, fragrant eucalyptus, and a plague of chickens. There are three times as many chickens as there are humans on the island of Kauai and their roosters willfully ignore the memo advising them to restrict their crowing to daybreak!  Our guide led us carefully to dramatic overlooks bordering the steep and vast island canyons formed seven million years ago by the volcanic activity still evident today. We spent a night at Volcano House in the Big Island’s Volcano National Park, perched on the rim of the crater. From the dining room, Chris easily counted thirty steam vents, spraying the sky and misting the setting sun.  Lava fields, some only a few decades old, extend for miles, some ending only where earth’s fire collides with the force of the sea. 

Ah yes, the sea – teeming with whales, no longer hunted and free to make the perilous journey from Alaska to their calving waters in these warmer climes. They seem to leap for joy amid the spinner and bottle-nosed dolphins, the enigmatic sea turtles, rays and shoals of glimmering tropical fish. What an abundance.

Photo by Jeremiah Felsen

I could wax lyrical about the food, the pineapples, apple-bananas, starfruit, mangoes and passionfruit, the coffee, chocolate and macadamia nuts, and all the fish – but it will make me hungry and I now need to contemplate a diet.  Suffice to say, we indulged our senses and our bodies.

We cannot bid farewell to these paradise islands without mention of the darker side; exploitation, subjugation, and the tragedy of war.

The Arizona

The jaunty sun shone out of a clear blue sky, the bus driver joked as he pointed out upscale shopping centers and exclusive hotels, encouraging us to shout “Aloha” and stamp our feet in response to his witticisms. Then we drew up to Pearl Harbor, and the mood changed. It’s a meditative and sobering memorial of the surprise Japanese attack that changed the course of the second world war, on any day, let alone the day when Russia invaded Ukraine, reminding us shockingly of the corruption of power and the devastating force of arms.

*Silhouette photograph  by Jeremiah Felsen

End Notes


The Lamlighters
Emma Stonex




I Know the End 
Phoebe Bridges

Was Magician
This is The Kit


Home Again Poem
Zodwa Nyoni

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