Something changed mid-week. Each morning we had been setting off to see all the fascinating sights this side of the Big Island had to offer. My guidebook was well thumbed and heavily populated with sticky notes. I didn’t want to miss a thing! But as my list dwindled, so did my pace and I felt myself settling into my surroundings. We had a heavenly retreat right outside our door, and that in itself was a Hawaiian experience. Soon we developed a new routine, guided by whim and lack of agenda.
Rich happily followed birds around the guesthouse, mornings and late afternoons. I returned to my favorite ocean road, which just begged me to run through the secluded tunnel of trees and finish to the applause of crashing waves. By then I had a favorite coffee shop in town, the open-air Tin Shack Bakery and just had to stop to bring home a latte and fresh scones. Life’s simple pleasures.
One day Rich received a text, alerting us that the next afternoon Kent would be holding band practice in his studio behind our guesthouse. The implication was that we might want to make ourselves scarce, but instead we embraced the music. The Lava Tree Band plays all original music that Kent has written since moving to the Big Island, and we sat on the porch of the studio to listen to “The Island of Mis-fit Toys,” much impressed.
Melanie had offered us a tour of the yard and its multitude of plantings, so we took her up on that while the music continued. She walked us all around the expansive yard, explaining how Kent had cut back the jungle five feet all the way around, an arduous task. Everywhere we walked, there were trees, bushes and flowers that Melanie has researched, lovingly tended and fostered their growth. How quickly she has learned about tropical gardening and put her knowledge to work, including a greenhouse full of vegetables and spices to supplement their table.
Melanie’s work inspired me to follow my own aspirations which I’ve been neglecting. Digging out my drawing paper and pencil, and I returned to a patch of anthurium to see if I could capture the spirit of its brilliant composition. It was a rusty attempt, as I tried to regain my eye for detail and train my pencil on the paper, but it also felt good. The next day I spent a delightful morning in the gazebo dabbling with my watercolors to finish the piece. Time sped by as I labored, and I didn’t care.
I’d been eyeing the community swimming pool for some time, and finally gave in to the urge to swim laps. There was no entrance fee, and the 50-meter pool was an oasis of blue lanes reflecting the warm sun. The notice at the front gate told me the water temperature was 74° – most certainly “refreshing” compared to my usual pool. I braced myself and took the plunge, then doggedly swam back and forth for nearly an hour before the swim team took over the lanes. By then I was glad for an excuse to head to the warm showers. But I did so feeling a little more like a local.
We were staying right next to Lava Tree State Park, and I felt it was time I took a leisurely stroll around its half-mile loop. There I could see the lava trees up close, formations that result from lava flows encircling the trees in its path, leaving behind molds of the tree trunks. I happened to bring along my sketchpad, and found a tree near the entrance with eye-catching pink blossoms to draw. As I stood sketching, someone passing by showed me the bananas forming at the stem, miniature compared to the flower. I added that detail.
For our final evening at the guesthouse we decided to take a picnic to Richardson Ocean Park. Armed with take-out food from the grocery store, we found a picnic table right away with a nice view where we could watch folks snorkeling and enjoying the beach. It was the usual mix of lava rock and some sand, and was said to be a good place to spot sea turtles, but none made an appearance. We meandered through the park and settled on a convenient stone wall to watch the sunset – something we hadn’t seen due to being on the east side of the island. It slithered down the sky with Mauna Kea clearly visible in the distance as the low rays shone across the bay.
When the sun disappeared, Rich was ready to leave, but I was still in the mood to linger and insisted we await the colors of the afterglow. It was at that moment that Rich saw whales off in the distance! Blowholes and a fluke appeared above the water, then all went quiet. Shortly afterwards, they resumed activity at closer range. Although they were still far away, we were able to see one humpback jump clear out of the water, followed by mama and baby playfully flapping their fins – much to the delight of the children watching next to us. We had been rewarded for slowing down.
By then it was hard to take leave of our little guesthouse and move on to Kona. We had finally gotten the hang of the place, and even Kent and Melanie had taken notice of our more relaxed approach in those final days. We took that as a compliment, and confirmation that we had successfully adopted Island Life.