Paying Attention

Island Sun

One of the joys of living on a tropical island is being able to enjoy a sunrise or sunset on the beach. Or both. On the same day. Even on the same beach.

Yesterday morning we decided we hadn’t had breakfast on the beach for awhile, and so we went — a jug of coffee, fresh fruit and fried rice in hand. T opted for a run and swim before breakfast, while I practiced deep breathing meditation then revelled in a steaming cup of french roast while surveying the other denizens of the beach. The paths were already busy with walkers and joggers, singles and buddies all keeping a good aerobic clip. A few day trippers —- mostly families with young children, coolers, boogie boards, inflatables, and sand tools in tow — were also arriving and staking out their patch of sand or shade. (One give-away about the locals vs. visitors on the beach: locals generally look for a shady spot on grass, while visitors seek out sunny places in the sand.) The south-facing shore was just warming up in the early morning rays – the sun had just cleared the Ko’olau mountains in the east, and whatever warmth the spring morning sun had to offer was clipped by a brisk trade breeze (blowing from the northeast).

An added joy of any visit to Hawaii’s beaches is the close encounters with the wildlife. At this particular shore we are always visisted by the local cardinals, mynahs, bulbuls and doves looking for a free hand-out. The little zebra doves will stay close but they don’t openly beg, they appear to keep themselves nonchalantly busy while keeping a sharp eye for errant or proferred crumbs. Meanwhile a red-crested cardinal planted himself right in my line of sight, caught my eye and began chirping melodically – I don’t know if he was singing for his breakfast or just making inquiries, but it was a pleasant encounter either way. Then, came the mafia — which is how I always think of the mynah birds. They have a certain reptilian look about them to begin with, but after I first witnessed a gang of mynahs actually surround a single one of their member, and then beat him up(!) the characterization has always stuck in my mind. Of course I’ve seen birds dominate others of their species in territorial battles, but I’d never seen this type of “gang behavior” before. Mynahs also have a way of landing among a group of other birds and strutting around as if “taking over a joint” that lends itself to this characterization. They are certainly fun to watch.

Less frequently, but with regularity we also see monk seals and green sea turtles (honu) near shore, dolphins spinning and fishing off-shore, and today – whales breeching and blowing about a half-mile off-shore! The smallish whales would leap and land on their backs causing huge splashes, followed by spouts of blown water. We watched the show move from west to east at about 10 minute intervals for half an hour. We couldn’t tell if these were humpback whales, but if they were, they are due to return to their summer feeding grounds in the north this month so we were happy to catch a sighting this late in the season.

The thing that astonished me most while we marveled at this close-shore display was this: no one else on the beach saw it. As we cheered and looked around after the first splash, we noticed that our fellow beach-goers were engrossed in activity and oblivious to the show — headphones in place, eating, chatting, playing, swimming, running, walking . . . . doing. They were missing such a treat.

As we packed to leave a little while later, I hoped that the others on the beach that morning each found some time before they returned to their busy lives to be still and to see. To listen to and connect with the other residents of our islands; to feel themselves a part of nature.

Fried rice with pineapple, sausage, edamame and three onions.