You wouldn't think of going to the mountains without coming home with a fern lei. That's it, I remember, that's what going to the mountains meant. Go up and fashion yourself a lei, and wear it, and feel it, and smell it, you know, be imbued with it. That's the feeling I got when going up the Pali. You know that feeling, being part of it, because isn't that what love is, really touching it. Then it means something.
- Rachel Kinney Johnson, 1964 (via the Bishop Museum)
We loved the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii so much last year that there was no discussion about where we'd go for Spring break this year.
The trip started poorly, with our evening flight delayed by five hours. When we landed in Honolulu well past midnight, the rental car company was closed. We ended up taking a taxi across the island to our vacation rental and eventually pulled onto a dirt drive at 3 AM, following the homeowner's directions to "the house with the green roof and giant lizard in the yard." Feral chickens squawked in the bush, the kids dozed in the back of the van, and Pete and the taxi driver roamed the night with their iPhone flashlights in search of the lizard landmark. Eventually they found a house whose lockbox opened to the code we were given. (Days later, Saskia discovered overgrown stone slabs set into the lawn, in the shape of a massive reptile.)
By this point I was bitterly second-guessing traveling four thousand kilometres with four kids, but the next morning I pulled back the shutters to this:
Hawaii is just so life-giving. Everything feels ripe. That warm water keeps rolling in. There are thick glossy leaves on the shrubbery, and flowers on the roadside hedges. We saw sea turtles and humpback whales without looking for them. Nothing is subtle or muted. I hadn't realized how faded I'd been feeling. Everything around me was undeniably good.
For the next fifteen days, we cycled through our usual activities of daily living, but with the luxury of doing them unhurriedly, and with bare legs: we ate, we slept, we read. In between, we enjoyed the local attractions. We ate at dodgy shrimp trucks, snorkelled almost daily, and visited Pearl Harbour.
Some photos below. I restricted myself to a dozen.
Top | Hiking Makapu'u Point Lighthouse trail. Leif and I made an extra climb to check out the WWII bunkers.
Second | Foraging for coconuts in the yard of our vacation rental. Photo angle a result of me lazing on the lawn post-margarita.
Third | Pulled over near Waimea Bay one evening to watch whales.
Bottom | Tidal pools near Hau'ula. Ilia's holding a little treasure in virtually every picture I took this vacation.
Snorkelling reminds me so strongly of medicine: the mysteries just under the surface, the privilege of listening in, and the distant noise of the outside world. It's like auscultating a chest. As I snorkelled with Saskia and Leif at Hanauma Bay, I suspected that the experience would make my life's top five. It's such a pleasure to share activities with my kids where the enjoyment is mutual, after years of either resigning myself to experiences that were heavily geared to their amusement, or trying to pacify them while they endured those meant for mine.
Top | Hanauma Bay, a snorkelling destination formed by a volcanic crater with one side long since slumped in and flooded by the Pacific.
Second | Saskia, waiting for the shrimp truck to serve up lunch. Thirteen and an elusive portrait subject.
Third | Exploring Ko'olina with Ariana. Eight and a very accommodating portrait subject.
Bottom | Evening walk along the beach near Laie.
Top | Watching humpback whales along the Makapu'u trail. She'd just learned about them in preschool, and there they were, dozens of them, so in her mind now they're as common as squirrels.
Second | A rogue wave promptly washed over the turrets once Ilia climbed in, and she found herself in a bath tub.
Third | Leif and Ariana, lithe lightweights, attracted an audience of envious kids whenever they scaled a tree or rope swing.
Bottom | Tidal pools near Hau'ula.
Bonus parent selfie | Pete grew a beard, because by the time we realized that the taxi driver who called insisting that we'd left a small bag in the taxi at YVR was right, and that it was Pete's toiletry bag, we were in Hawaii. Pete saw fit to buy a new toothbrush but not a razor.
When we got back, a colleague asked earnestly if I'd been able to do some soul-searching. I did not. With four kids, much of the time I felt like a chaperone on a class field trip, I told him cheerfully. For fifteen days, my most pressing concern was sunscreen application. It was quite glorious.