Thursday, September 15, 2011

There's Silver in Them Thar Hills

It was a dark and stormy….okay, I’m not Snoopy sitting on my doghouse with a typewriter trying to write the great American novel, but it was gloomy and gray today.

Low clouds hung over town as I watched the fuzzy bands of rain move across the windows of our apartment. I moped about the weather at first, thinking of the San Francisco days of fog for weeks on end and how the gloom could bring me down. Then I thought about the past few days and how great the weather has been, after all, we went to the beach late afternoon yesterday and watched the dogs sprint across the waves, happy to be on their evening walks. A couple, visiting from somewhere, took photos of themselves on the beach with the sea-blue ocean behind them. Then they kissed and hugged, obviously happy and in love.

Every time Mark and I go to the beach, I’m instantly in a better mood, and yesterday was no exception. The water temperature was 82 degrees. It was like stepping into a saltwater bathtub, but with kids, surfers and dogs sharing the big tub with me.

So this morning, I realized it can’t be perfect weather all the time and I resigned myself to today being a gloomy day, which will remind me to appreciate the nice days.
But I forgot, I’m in Hawaii.....(nature always has a surprise)

I had to drive around the island for a few meetings today. With windshield wipers on, I first gazed out at the cloudy grayness in front of my car. Then I looked up the mountains. The rain had created ribbons of silver, rustling streams of water, falling between the lush greenness of the mountain peaks. Waterfalls were everywhere!

(Sorry, no photo, since I was driving.)

After appreciating the scenic drive, I had to stop at Queen’s Hospital for a test. It’s like driving up to a hotel. Queen’s is the main hospital in Honolulu, yet it doesn’t seem very big. I guess I’m comparing it to San Francisco Hospitals and Stanford Hospital. The landscaping is kept up with native Hawaiian plants. The parking lot was full, so I had to go to valet parking at the entrance. People were crowded around the drop-off area and not one person honked or yelled. Everyone quietly sat and waited and appreciated the moment, even in a stressful place like a hospital.

I asked for directions and only one person knew where I needed to go. I asked for a certain wing, but apparently no one uses its name. There’s very little signage in Hawaii. Street signs are tough to find and addresses are almost non-existent. Once I told them what department I needed, everyone told me, "Go down the hall to the elevators and get off on the third floor."

As I wandered the hospital hallways, I was struck by how clean it was. There was no run down furniture, no gum on the floor or cigarette butt smashed into the pavement outside, maybe that’s because outside is not pavement. Nope, it’s stone.

A beautiful hospital, surrounded by tropical vegetation, with clean surroundings and calm, smiling people; is this why people live so long in Hawaii?

Even in Hawaii, We Won't Forget

Sunday morning I opened the blinds to find a nice Hawaiian day greeting me. Then I saw the American flag flying off my neighbor’s lanai across the street and I remembered. 9/11. Ten years later.

I was asleep in my San Francisco apartment that day, when my sister called me at 6AM. “A plane flew into the World Trade Center.” In my sleepy head, I pictured a small plane with a student pilot who made a horrible error.

When I turned on the TV and saw the images, I couldn’t imagine it was really American soil where this was happening. But it was. Being on the West Coast, I felt so very far away from the people of New York and Washington.

Here, in Hawaii, ten years later, I feel even more removed from the East Coast. I watched the TV coverage sporadically throughout the day. At 2:00 I saw the two shining beams coming from Ground Zero and for a moment I thought they were showing coverage from last year. Why? Because it was dark in the images the TV was broadcasting and it was the middle of the day here. I never really comprehended how far away Hawaii is from the whole Mainland.

When Mark and I watch the end of the 11:00 news, we see CNN starting their morning shows. The anchors have their morning cup of coffee, and Ali Velshi talks about the stock market for the day. The upcoming day. The one they are just starting while we head off to sleep.

At least the woman across the street reminds me first thing in the morning that I am an American. And in case anyone on Oahu missed her flag, the Fire Stations won’t let Hawaiians forget. The sign is still hanging in front of the Fire Station, complete with dried lei from last Sunday.