Lessons from Island Life

I almost hit two chickens and a rooster when I was leaving the dump today, as I was understandably distracted by the white bird riding on the top of a rusty, green pick up truck like some winged, landlocked surfer.

Yeah, so I drive to the dump once a week. Because this isn’t the Hawaii you see on TV, and I don’t live on Oahu near Waikiki Beach. I live on the Big Island, on the bottom floor of a home in a neighborhood that is one mile from the coast. A very steep one mile, up the side of a volcano (not the one that is currently erupting). And up here, you have to pay for garbage removal. So you drive it to the dump yourself, along with all your glass and cardboard and anything else that is deemed recyclable.

And you try not to hit the wild chickens roaming between the police station and the dump. And you wonder if your fiance’s car might also have a white hitchhiker perched on its roof as you crank down the windows (because there is no AC, and it really isn’t necessary when you can just enjoy the ocean breeze) and drive away.  And you wait for the wild turkey family, including mama and her 7 babies, to waddle across your driveway before running inside to grab your reusable bag, and heading back to Costco to return the coffee maker you bought. Best to keep a few of these reusable shopping bags in your vehicle, since there is not a single store around here that will bag your groceries in a plastic bag. And you will probably be exposed to minor stink eye if you ask for a paper bag. When you live on an island, being environmentally friendly is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle. Anything that does not get recycled will end up in your backyard, or worse, wrapped around a sweet sea turtle (honu) or in the belly of a darling dolphin. Not cool!

“What are those crazy white birds called, babe?” I asked Patrick.

“Cow birds. Because of that,” and he pointed to a pair of these resourceful birds of white riding around on a cow we drove past on our way to Costco the first time. When you move to the Big Island, you take your Hawaii born and raised fiance’s advice when it comes to living in a state rumored to be “so expensive” and you purchase coconut milk and pretzels and saimin (ramen) noodles in bulk from Costco, and fill up your gas tank there while you are at it. And you definitely don’t spend $5 on plastic “bag” clips when old wooden clothes pins work just fine. Not to mention, they are free, and would otherwise have ended up at the dump.

In truth, the best things in life are free, and no one knows that better than this incredible community I am a part of! Jumping in the ocean is free, sunsets are free, trail running is free, hiking to the Captain Cook monument is free, and walks to the farm at the top of my road to visit a horse grazing among wild hibiscus that end with talking story in my yard with my neighbor Margaret, who also happens to be a writer, is… you guessed it… FREE! Heck, there are even free concerts at this shopping center or that hotel almost weekly!

The best things in life are free here. And the best way to truly live aloha, as opposed to just exist here, is to learn to be a free spirit. Go with the flow. Be flexible, in running and in island life. Like the surfers that let the waves come to them, you have to let life come to you. You have to be present and open. I’m told that when you’re surfing, you can’t be thinking of what you’re going to do about the check engine light in your car, or whether that Mother’s Day card will reach the mainland in time, or any number of issues that I entertain when I am running up and down the Queen K. The truth is, island life bears less resemblance to road running. With its pull on life in the present, island life bears a striking resemblance to trail running, yoga, and naturally, surfing. Be present, or you’ll miss the next wave.

When you’re trail running in a rain forest on a Sunday morning, you can’t be looking behind you, or you’ll trip over that giant ginger root and eat a faceful of mud. When you’re a mainland runner transplanted to the volcanic soils of the Big Island, be intentional about your racing, but not obsessive! If you cling too tightly to the training plan, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to “run” with your fast fiance on his easy day.

And when you’re out running errands after writing that fifth article about fiber optics, you can’t be SO consumed with your to-do list, and stuff every second of your day SO full that you miss the chance to join your landlord and dear friend for a walk around the neighborhood, where you learn that while you cannot pick that mango dangling above you, as it is in your neighbors yard, it’s all yours if it falls onto the sidewalk! The best things in life are free… mangoes!

And that coffee maker? It was returned because we found one at Walmart that was $11 less, and around here, $11 could be the difference between an Ola Brew pineapple cider and food truck tacos on Monday night, or saimin at home! Or a bottle of wine at Target, which incidentally is the exact same price here as it is in the New Hampshire Target that I visited WAY too often.

And now, I have to chase one of the many roaming neighborhood cats out of my jungle garden now, as he certainly has his eye on that bright green gecko climbing my lava wall. And I’ve rather come to enjoy Mr Gecko’s company as I drink my Kona coffee while the sun comes up each morning!

Oh, and the white birds? My running buddy attests that they are egrets, and if anyone knows that the best things in life are free, you better believe it’s them. Especially free rides around the dump!

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