I hate making generalizations about people, but I found two generalizations that have fit everybody I have met from Hawai’i.

The first is, off the islands, Hawaiians have absolutely no sense of direction. They can lost in a parking lot. North, south, left, right? It means absolutely nothing to them. On the islands, there are only two directions: makai and mauka. Toward the sea and toward the mountain. I think the opposite is true as well. I have a pretty good sense of direction, all evidence to the contrary. Here on the island, though, I can’t get my bearings. I know what the maps say, I know what my GPS is telling me, but I can’t get it out of my head that when I am driving south I’d swear I am driving north.

The quickest way south is Route 19. There is another road, though, that I like to take, Route 190. It is about halfway up the mountain, offers incredible views, and takes you into downtown Kona.

The other generalization is Hawaiian time. Hawaiian time is fluid. “Relax, bra, I’ll be there.” It could be five minutes or five hours. It’s all the same. I think all women are originally from Hawai’i? –yep, that will get me into trouble but it had to be said.

But I had a pretty bad night the other night. I forgot what exhaustion does to me even when I don’t feel it. I think exhaustion is just so much a part of who I am, I just naturally ignore it and do what needs to be done. But I know the signals. Isn’t that weird? A long time ago, I read about a disease where the person has no pain receptors. Maybe I read about in a book. Steven King is coming to mind? No. Steven Donaldson. Leprosy. A person with it has to be extra aware, using their other senses to see injuries. Without the pain receptors, they can be on fire and not know about it, or gash themselves, which can all lead to very bad consequences.

When I don’t pick up on the exhaustion, the depression and loss of perspective can seep in and form a new reality for me. I picked up on them yesterday and just slept in. I woke up at my normal time, had my normal coffee, and then went back to bed. I slept for a few more hours and then started the day over again.

The day was shorter for me. Winter in Hawai’i is much different. I feel this push to get an early start on the day because the sunset is so much earlier than when I am usually here in the summer. 5:30 as opposed to 8:00. So I went mauka, up towards the mountain and then down into Kona on route 190, stopping a few times to just take it all in.

Kona during Covid is much different. A weekend would find it hustling. Not this Sunday. The signs of shutdowns are everywhere. I geared up at the Crazyshirts store and had a long talk with the woman there. (Speaking of which, looking for presents? Crazyshirts offer an awesome line of shirts, pants, shorts and hats that are made from the best of materials while also offering unique designs and colors.)

A lot of stores were shuttered or just empty. The woman explained that right before Covid, a new management company took over the outdoor mall and raised all of the rents. That began a slow exodus. Covid hit and the mass exodus began. And continues.

After gearing up with a few new shirts and a new hat (even the best material will start wearing thin and ragged after a few thousand washes), I had my poke and dinner at one of the few restaurants open overlooking the bay. Sparse on a Sunday. I almost went with the Bloody Mary but opted for the water instead.

On my way back to Waikoloa, I took Route 19. The place I wanted to stop, an old lava tube by the airport, was closed off. So I drove for a few moe miles and then turned left. I still don’t know why Bugs Bunny turned left at Albuquerque, but I turned left because I had always seen this road and was curious about it. I parked my car and started to walk, makai. The road went on but I parked next to other cars. You never know what the road will turn into. If I had my SUV, I would have kept going. A rental? No. And I wanted to walk into the sunset anyway.

So I walked into the cracked, blackened landscape, wondering what was ahead.

I’m glad I turned left. Glad I walked. Glad I kept going. You really never know what you are going to find. The old lava flow, which you can see as long black strips down the side of the mountain, had been excavated into a path. A rough road at times with stretches of paved road and speed bumps. I knew I was going somewhere as cars were passing me. At the end, the cracked, black terrain opened up into a lush park on a beach. I even finally got the chance to dip my toes in the water.

When I think of beaches, I think of east coast beaches: long stretches of white sand, sometimes with a good quarter mile walk to the ocean. You’ll find more of them on the older islands. Here on the Big Island, the youngest island, it just doesn’t work that way. You find small crescents of sandy beaches here and there along the coast. In that, I think it’s much more like the west coast, the Pacific Northwest, where beaches are in between breaks in the cliffs.

But it was sunset and I knew I had to start heading back.

Everything really is about the small things you tend not to think about. The walk to was amazingly pain free. I had been having a lot of issues with my right leg, from the knee down. In Austin, I ran into a yoga instructor that really knew her stuff, all about muscle groups and the way the body works. I told her about the pain. “You’ve been doing a lot of driving, right? You’ve been driving all those miles with your wallet in your right back pocket? Stop that.” So, I did. The pain in my leg went away.

It was a long walk, even without the pain. Cars were coming my way and I’d stop and stand on the edge of the road to allow them to navigate their way around and through the obstacle course in the dark. A pick up truck stopped and asked if I’d like a ride back. I jumped in. Aloha.

I stood at my car and watched the moonrise. It’s almost full and as it climbs into the sky, it gets more and more bright, spreading a silvery light where at one point, on the way back, I almost had to put my sun visor down. It was really that bright.

And then, a good night’s rest. Without the push to do more and more and more. Just relax. And settle into Aloha.




Sunset and Moonrise