Update: We received an email April 13 from Hawaiian Airlines Consumers Affairs. We learned we would get a $500 credit for future air travel, plus be reimbursed $292 for the lodging we forfeited on Maui Feb. 23. The airline texted Feb. 23 while we had boarded the ferry for the airport that our flight from Seattle to Maui was cancelled. We were rebooked the following day, but lost the cost of a night’s lodging at our Maui Airbnb.
Note: Bajada Bill and Cactus Kate returned home from three weeks in Hawaii at 3:30 AM on St. Patrick’s Day. Hawaiian Airlines cancelled our outbound flight to Maui Feb. 23, rebooking a flight the following day. It cancelled our homeward bound flight from Kona March 16 fifteen minutes prior to our flight home. We are so grateful for the efforts of the Hawaiian Airlines agent at Kona Airport who found us seats on Alaskan Airlines March 16. Home for two days, I’ve gone swimming in the 45° and 44° waters of the Langley Marina with my fellow mermaid Sophie. All photos by Kate Poss unless otherwise noted.
Our second week on the Big Island began with an early morning visit to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. We liked the feeling of this National Historic Preserve, which was once a sanctuary or refuge for fallen warriors, and elders, women and children displaced by war. The refuge offered a second chance for redemption. Learn more by watching this well-told 22-minute film.
While there, singer/performer Pomai Brown and his wife Toni sat under the shade of an A-frame ti-leaf-covered structure weaving traditional Hawaiian baskets and tikis. We visited a while, letting them know we were staying with Keoni Thompson and his wife Zoe at their redwood and cedar home. Keoni and Pomai sing together in this video. Pomai performed at the couple’s wedding last year. Their music reflects how we feel on the Big Island.
We drove to nearby Ho’okena Beach to swim with algae-eating yellow tang. After exiting, we noticed dozens of them in the nearshore tide pools, admiring their bright yellow forms through the incoming waves. They are a popular fish for aquarium enthusiasts, selling for $165 each. The local word is that collectors are exploiting the fishes’ population. Various aquarium web pages say the practice is ecologically sustainable. There is truth, no doubt, in each view.
We saw the same couple—Veronique and Paul from Invermeer, British Columbia—on three different occasions. We met them first at Kealakekua Bay, near Captain Cook. It is the site of an initial contact between Hawaiians and Westerners with the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778. Cook was first welcomed as a god, but when the Hawaiians realized Cook and his crew weren’t sent from the heavens, and a chief was kidnapped for supposedly taking an English boat, Cook was murdered on Feb. 14, 1779. A monument to him can be seen from this beach. With this history in mind, we chatted with the Canadians while we watched leaping dolphins in the distance.
Another day we drove around South Point—the southernmost tip of the Big Island—and prepared for a swim at Punalu’u Beach, a truly black sand beach. There were Paul and Veronique once again, encouraging us to swim in the rolling waves through which we saw green sea turtles.
Our third visit was at the Paleaku Grounds Peace Sanctuary on Painted Church Road. We laughed at the coincidence of seeing each other in these random meetings. We were glad of their company.
The Paleaku Grounds Peace Sanctuary is owned by popular metaphysical author Barbara DeAngelis. The property features homages to various spiritual deities, including Tibetan Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism and Islam. Far from being packed with tourists, the place is a place to walk, admire beautiful plants and trees, and hear your own thoughts. Bill and I sat under the welcome shade of a Bodhi Tree, said to be a descendant of the very tree Siddartha Gautama sat under and achieved enlightenment. I appreciated the tree’s shade and the soothing ocean view.
Later, while picnicking under a shaded lanai behind the Paleaku visitor center, we admired gold dust day geckos with sky blue eye rings and red markings. One even jumped on Bill’s leg.
We noticed a couple of humans nearby. My good vibe antennae told me they were people of interest. Good vibes are marked by a warm feeling in my heart. I looked down and saw a text from my talented pottery artist friend Jodi Cable, wishing me Happy International Women’s Day. I mentioned her text to Bill. Before long, the woman at the picnic table came over and wished me Happy International Women’s Day. Her name is Kris Treat and she had just arrived with her husband Richard from six weeks traveling in Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand they faced two cyclones, barely leaving the country in the face of the second storm.
Kris told me she is 75 and I marveled at her clear blue eyes and vitality. She told me she eats mainly plant-based foods and avoids dairy and sugar. An avid advocate of plants and their medicinal qualities, she told me stories of previous travels with popular herbalist/author Rosemary Gladstar to far away places to study healing properties of plants.
It was a welcome treat to chat with Kris. I felt so aligned with her. After more than an hour of real connection, we said our goodbyes, saying we will keep in touch. In parting, Richard mentioned his high school friend Bill Roorbach’s novel Lucky Turtle. Richard told me he was sorry to see the story end, he enjoyed it so much. As a bibliophile I could tell by Richard’s voice that this was something to read. I ordered the book on Audible and was immersed in the story of a young woman sent to a reform school camp in Montana who falls in love with a man named Lucky. I can tell the author loves the natural world and abhors bullies.
Back at our home for the week a pair of lambs were born. The first was a black ewe, the second, a little ram, born March 8, the same evening our friend Charlie Snelling passed on. We were lucky to be a part of Charlie’s celebration of life later on March 19. His wife Sharon, one of my swimming buddies, posted these words on Facebook: September 13, 1948 – March 8, 2023—The better we know someone, the more complex and contradictory they become. But nevertheless, the key to Charlie’s character was “be here now.” He embodied that without thinking or choosing– it came naturally. He was completely present in the present…”
The following morning, I bought a vintage Hawaiian postcard at Coffee Grinds in Ocean View to send to Sharon in the wake of Charlie’s passing. I waited in line at the post office next door, listening to locals talking about the crazy winds from the night before which blew tiles off the roof and stirred up the ocean into unfishable waves. The radio posted warnings of high surf.
We drove around the southern tip of the Big Island, where we met for coffee with Martin Weiner, the brother of our friend and dental hygienist Catherine Marshall. Martin, who worked for the NPS at Denali in Alaska, retired to Hawaii 20 years ago. Martin lives in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates —also known as HOVE—one of the largest subdivisions in the world. Comprised of nearly 11,000 plotted lots, about 1,500 lots are currently developed. Water is collected in catchment reservoirs and folks we met who live there, including the owners of Tai Shan Farms—where we dined the week before, tell us they love their community.
Another couple who live in HOVE are Martain and Paula, friends of our Big Island friends Jim and Tracey Gilmore. After coffee with Martin, we followed Jim and Tracey to their friends gem of a piece of land.
Martain and Paula’s place is really magical and all the work Martain has done building a cottage, a work building and a home with salvaged materials and savvy buys from Craigslist is remarkable. For instance Martain learned of a redwood hot tub on Craigslist. He picked it up in exchange for disposing of the owners’ trash. Martain crafted this cabin out of the redwood hot tub.
The couple lived in it while building their current home. They live off the grid with solar energy generating electricity with a backup generator. Water is gleaned from rain catchment. Martain, who has lived on the Big Island since the 1980s and is a natural farmer, told us of a now-banned practice of using lead to caulk around roof nails. The runoff into the catchment tanks once contained lead. No bueno!
Meanwhile, we toured the couple’s raised bed gardens, admiring their flowers, veggies, avocado and citrus trees. They collect horse manure and mix it with ash to create arable soil in the lava remnants. Ocean View is in Zone 2 of the Big Island’s lava hazard zones. Zones 1 and 2 are the areas where lava flows are most likely to occur. Yet the folks in HOVE take this risk in stride and continue living their lives with the possibility of a visit from the goddess Pele. Kind of a Charlie Snelling view of life, as his wife Sharon wrote above. Live in the present.
The following morning, March 10, we said goodbye to our animal friends at Keoni and Zoe’s sweet farm. Kala the mini Aussie Shepherd, and Sugar the Palomino horse, walked us to our car and stood at the top of the driveway in kind farewell as we drove out of the gate.
Our home for the next three nights was at the northern tip of the Big Island in the tiny town of Kapa’au.
Our 1940’s-era home is divided into three rentals: A big house and two apartments. Our apartment was once Krisann’s bedroom. We liked our apartment’s old windows, its comfortable kitchen and its modern bathroom.
This was the childhood home of Krisann Santiago, a third generation Big Islander, and descendant of grandparents who moved to the Big Island from Puerto Rico to work the sugar cane fields. Krisann and her sister grew up running among sugar cane, which has since given way to ranches. Krisann and her Hilo-born husband Samuel Santiago, modernized the home in 2019. Their employer, Mauna Kea Resort, where Samuel works as a server at the premier Manta restaurant, was undergoing its own remodel at the time. Krisann retired from her hospitality job at the resort, concentrating on turning her family home into a welcoming comfortable place for visitors. The couple and their grown son live next door and are friendly and gladly share the story of the home. Krisann seemed to dance when talking of her love of the property, and wanting to share the aloha spirit of the land.
Krisann and Samuel cared for her mom for 18 years, where she lived out most of her last years at the family home. A celebration of her life, with more than a hundred guests was planned for March 18.
Bill and I spent an afternoon under a broad lychee nut tree, which graced the yard while Krisann was growing up. We enjoyed seeing the Saffron Finches and Red-crested Cardinals that flew by to visit for a moment. The so-called cardinals are actually part of the tanager family and not cardinals.
Sunday, March 12 we joined Jim and Tracey for a sunset picnic at nearby Kapaa Beach Park. While we waited for them, we talked with folks who had gathered for a life celebration of a much-loved local, Atulio. Folks toasted him with margaritas. The day before we had talked with folks gathered for a celebration of life for Frances Thompson at a nearby beach. All the guests wore shirts bearing photos of Frances on every surface. Wow!!! What a great idea!
At Kapaa Beach we got to talking with a young couple, Shanda and Keanuokekuahiwi and their dog Ramsey. Turns out Shanda knows Jim and Tracey from the days when Jim ran Gill’s Lanai, a popular fish taco place five minutes’ walk from where we were staying. We had enjoyed delicious fresh fish lunch at Gill’s while staying in Kapa’au.
When Shanda learned we were to meet Jim and Tracey, she said, “I love them!” They were greeted by hugs and much talking story to catch up on the four years since Jim and Tracey sold Gill’s to another owner.
Keanuokekuahiwi is a local young man and has never been off the Big Island. He and Shanda were planning a trip to California, where they would visit Universal Studios and also head to Las Vegas. What a change of culture, I imagine.
We swam twice at Mahukona Harbor, once a shipping dock for sugar cane. Entering down a ladder at the dock, we were told to be mindful of the swells that could sweep us off the ladder. We swam with yellow tang and giant blue parrot fish. A number of locals swim here. We chatted with Ariella, an artist who does beautiful bead and stone work and is a regular visitor here.
While we were on the Big Island, I received a Facebook note from friend Laurie Davenport. She suggested I look for the art of the late Herb Kawainui Kāne, who died in 2011. Laurie is friends with Herb’s wife Deon Kane, who lives on Whidbey. Bill and I read about Herb in a local art magazine. In the story, Herb asked his friend Tyrone Young to work with National Geographic Magazine in 1983 to locate the bones of sailors killed by King Kamehameha’s chiefs. Tyrone tells of his people’s taboo about visiting graves and reluctance to enter the burial chamber, but agreeing to do so because his friend Herb asked him to. To Tyrone’s surprise, he believes he found the secretly buried bones of King Kamehameha, in addition to the slain sailors’ skeletons. A skeleton seven feet tall, which is the king’s height, was found placed in a ceremonial canoe.
While staying our last three days on the Big Island with Jim and Tracey, we re-visited the nearby Isaacs Art Center with Jim. Prominent on a wall at the entrance is a painting by Herb Kāne from a private collection: Captain Cook Entering Kealakekua Bay in 1778.
I took a photo of the painting, which is rich in detail of the initial welcome Cook received by the Hawaiians, believing at first, that he was a form of their god Lono. At Charlie Snelling’s celebration of life March 18, I said hello to Laurie Davenport, a dear friend of Charlie and Sharon’s. Laurie took me by the hand to meet Deon Kane. I showed Deon—who turns 90 next month—the photo of Herb’s painting. Deon looked at the painting and said, “That was Herb’s creme de la creme. It took him 15 years to paint that.”
On our last day on the Big Island, Tracey invited us on a dive cruise aboard the Namaka, a 46-foot custom-built dive boat built in Louisiana. She works for Kohala Divers, which owns the boat, and is booked most days with folks who enjoy taking a deep dive among fish, octopus and whale song. The dive shop has great gear and T-shirts as well.
Tracey recalled the trip to Honolulu to pick up the boat and the rough motoring to Maui. The trip from Maui to the Kohala Harbor was smooth. Bill and I were two of the five snorkeling guests and were guided by Noam Hersch, an Israeli-born young man with a passion for all sea creatures. I marveled at Noam’s grace and beauty as he dove straight down through sunbeams to view the coral beds below us.
The remainder of the 15 or so guests went on two, hour-long dives with dive guides.
A family of four from Dallas were among the divers, including a 10-year-old girl who, we learned, was certified last November to dive as insisted on by her dad. The little girl suffered ear pain from the first dive and laid in the shade of her mother’s arms for the second dive. Her teen sister was something to write about, wearing a thong bikini that caught the eye of probably every man on the boat. I asked the teen how her eyelashes stayed on. She told me she found special glue from Amazon that kept them intact in the water and prevented her from worrying her mascara would run. Gotta wear those eyelashes! She and her mom were the only divers to wear bikinis while diving. Everyone else wore wetsuits.
The boat trip was like the finale of a great show. We saw leaping humpback whales, spinning dolphins, a turtle and loads of colorful fish at remote Black Point Caves. Tracey sent a link for her YouTube video that shows the joy of whale play. That night at dinner, we enjoyed the company of our friends of 40-plus years.
The following morning we hugged Tracey and Jim goodbye and left early to return our Turo car to its parking lot. We called Lyft and a driver appeared in 10 minutes. His name is Steve and he told us he moved to Hawaii two weeks ago with his partner. Steve bought a car and signed up with Lyft. He lived in Corvallis OR and recalled having our daughter Gillian change his tires at Beggs Tire & Wheel in nearby Philomath.
At the airport we bought good food and sat at a table with a friendly woman. Turns out she is Heather Reynolds, a retired San Francisco attorney, who found her calling wearing mermaid tails and helping people love the water and its marine life. Her stories of swimming with dolphins and learning of their lack of worries was inspiring.
Her positivity helped carry us through learning that, 15 minutes prior to our boarding the plane bound for Maui, and then Seattle, that the Seattle flight was cancelled once again. I felt like the emoji face with steam pouring out. Then I remembered Heather’s positivity and told myself we can get through this, no worries.
Bill spent more than half an hour with an Hawaiian Airlines customer service rep who said she could book us on a flight the following day. When asked if Hawaiian Airlines would cover the cost of a night’s lodging since we were stuck in Kona, the agent said she could not do that. When we said that was unacceptable, she told us there was nothing she could do. We walked to the Hawaiian Airlines gate and were directed to a supervisor, U’ilani. U’ilani told us when learning of the Maui-Seattle cancellation, that she walked over to the Alaskan Airlines gate and found seats available to fly home that day. She gave us a $30 food voucher. We were so grateful to her after feeling that Hawaiian Airlines did not seem to care whether we were inconvenienced and out of pocket hundreds of dollars due to to its initial cancellation of our flight from Seattle to Maui. We are waiting to hear whether we will be reimbursed for our loss of nearly $300 for our first night’s lodging due to our 2/23 flight cancellation.
Our Alaskan flight was delayed and arrived at midnight. Reaching our car, where it was parked nearby at 1 AM, we missed the last ferry from Mukilteo. Traffic was spare as we drove for 2 1/2 hours along I5, listening to Bono narrate his wonderful book Surrender. We drove onto Whidbey Island via its northern access, the Deception Pass Bridge. Thank you, Bono, for keeping us interested and awake.
Ha’ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana —Hawaiian for ‘let the story be told,’ is sung as the last verse in hula songs. The story was told. Aloha!