Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees. Rumi
“Did you try surfing?!?” It was the logical question for my friend Keith to ask when my husband Cam and I ran into him at the Detroit Airport last month on our way home from a family trip to Kauai, Hawaii. After all, for years now, I’ve been saying it out loud, in a really loud voice, with bravado, how, someday, I’m going to get myself up on one of those boards and ride a rolling wave into shore. Here in Upper Michigan, where Keith and a whole tribe of diehards practice the sport, it is a sight to behold. We don’t have the warm waters of Hawaii, the pause between ocean waves, the palm tree breezes and fresh pina coladas waiting on shore. We have Lake Superior. And the surfing is best on this greatest of Great Lakes when the weather is at its worst. When the north winds are howling and the snow is flying and the lake isn’t quite frozen yet and the waves are thrashing against the sandstone cliffs and sandy beaches, the cars are lined up at our local peninsula park, and the wet-suited men and women, looking like excited skinny seals with fast-moving legs, can be seen clutching their boards while running toward the wild water. And often, I’m right there with them, just feet away on shore, whooping and hollering and cheering them on as they paddle out into the frigid bay. And when they catch one of those crazy choppy Great Lake waves, my heart skips a beat and I can almost feel myself sailing along with them. Yes, surfing is in my blood, and, it’s true; I really do want to try it.
And the desire to be in the presence of a whale is on my bucket list, too. I often draw a card from a fifty-two card deck called “Earth Magic” that I keep in my creativity room, and, in the weeks before this family trip to Kauai as I focused my attention on intention for the adventure, the image that kept ending up in my hand was of the whale. Again and again, it was the magnificent breaching mammal that seemed to have a message for me. And this message seemed loud and clear — I assumed that I was to see one in Kauai, maybe one arching out of the water with a mighty push of power beyond what I had ever experienced. So, when we — all eight of us, my husband Cam and I, our two sons and their wives, and our two grandkids — congregated in our vacation rental home in Princeville, Kauai late that first night early in January, we excitedly called out our desires helter-skelter before falling into bed jet-lagged and Hawaii-happy after our long day of plane travel. We wanted beach time and hiking trips and fresh fruits and fish. We wanted to lounge and swim and explore our island home. And I’m sure I hollered out something about a possible surfing lesson and the opportunity to see a whale, a real whale, up close and personal.
So nine days later, at the airport in Detroit, when Keith asked me about surfing, I think he was surprised by my reply. “No,” I said. “I didn’t surf. And I didn’t see a whale either!” Well, I might have seen a whale. Most people in my family did, somewhere out there on that very blue horizon. And when I squinted, I thought I spied a whitecap splash that might have been a spout or a breach, but I couldn’t say for sure, and I’m not counting it. I think that Keith might have been disappointed. He knew how much surfing means to me, and he might have thought that I was sacrificing my keen desire for the wants of others. But, that wasn’t the case at all. And this conversation with my friend helped me to clarify in my own mind what was important to me about this trip to the south sea state of Hawaii. And, if it wasn’t the thrill of getting myself up and catching a wave, or the awe of finding myself in the mighty presence of the largest of mammals, then what was it about our family trip that touched me so deeply, that I have taken into my heart and carried forward into my living?
Well, I was there with my family. And it isn’t easy to get a family of eight — a family consisting of three separate families — together for a week, let alone together thousands of miles away from any of their homes, away from busy schedules, and onto planes, and into the most beautiful and perfect of rental homes during the busiest time of the year on a Hawaiian island. And it is feat unto itself and a tribute to each and every member of this family that there was laughter and love and a “We had a blast and let’s do it again!” on the last day of this adventure. When we finally arrived home after our two-day delay in Detroit, my husband fell onto our bed and, with tears in his eyes and awe in his voice, said that he couldn’t believe it, that we really had done it. And I knew what he meant, that we not only did it, manifested a trip that gathered us all together, but that it was wonderful.
And when I think about what made it wonderful, it wasn’t surfing or whales or anything dramatic. I know that four-year-old Viren loved the muddy inland hike through the jungle, where there was no avoiding puddles, and Grandpa was the perfect goofball partner. And I know that the calm lagoons and the wide-open beaches and the waves that splashed and tickled his feet and sent him gleefully running to shore were highlights. But when we asked him what he liked best about Kauai, it was the shower in his bedroom suite with the giant shower-head that he said was his favorite. He couldn’t get enough if it; it was the shower that he bee-lined for each time we made our way back to our Princeville rental. And for Addie, his one-and-a-half-year-old cousin, who also appreciated beaches and jungle walks and squealed with delight each time she was dipped in the water or toddle-ran along the shoreline or floated in the plastic-duck-inflatable tube, it was the ordinary that set her into a frenzy. And maybe the sight of roosters strutting across yards and into streets and onto beaches is not what we call ordinary in our hometowns in Michigan and Idaho, but, in Kauaii, it is as common as common can be. Not for Addie, though, who went wild each time she saw one. All week long, she’d point her stubby little finger and hunch one of her teeny shoulders and run as fast as her little legs would carry her toward her fleeing target. She never tired of rooster-chasing.
And I can’t speak for my kids or Cam. I’m not sure what they would say was their highlight. But I can tell you that one son mentioned that it had been a long time since he had worked so little. And the other sang as he cooked our fish on the outdoor grill each night. And it is etched in my mind, the excited look on a daughter-in-law’s face when she ran back to shore after snorkeling — and the peaceful ease on the other daughter-in-law’s as she sprawled on the beach with the Na Pali Coastline at her left shoulder and the impossibly blue ocean before her. And Cam, the fly-fisherman, might say that it was the three bone fish that he fluttered up to on his first attempt at snorkeling, but I don’t think that was it, the true highlight. At night, Cam, with salty wayward hair, would sit on a living room couch, with the happiest of expressions on his face, and he would soak it in, the commotion around him, the commotion of a family being a family. I think that is what he would say was the highlight, the everything of being with family. And I, the gal who thought she needed surfing and whales, would agree with him.
P.S. The day I returned from Kauaii, I flipped through the guidebook that accompanies my Earth Magic Cards, and found the reflection related to the whale. Change your perspective, the reflection advised, see the world through new eyes, make the ordinary extra-ordinary.
Sometimes it takes a trip to an extra-ordinary island to appreciate the ordinary sweetness of family!
Our family in Kauaii, January 2017. And Happy Buddha in our Princeville rental’s back yard. Each morning, the grandkids and I rubbed his belly and placed a hibiscus on his head and said to the world that it was going to be a good day!!!