Life is filled with beautiful moments; it's all about finding them. Sure, they're easy to spot when you're on a tropical island where the sunsets unfurl flamingo pinks and cantaloupe orange out onto the horizon every night, casting ink-black shadows over palm trees and everything in their path. Any onlooker can't help but be speechless and awestruck and humbled and complete all at once; I was all three when I spent 6 days on the Big Island last week. Hawaii is obviously gorgeous, but its beauty extends beyond the landscape of palm trees, lava rocks and rainbow sunrises.
One of the most spectacular things about Hawaii is that its beauty seems to seek you out, rather than vice versa. Don't get me wrong, we did drive 2 hours to stand in awe of a volcano at 2500+ feet above sea level. And I did get up insanely early with my pal Jeff to race against the morning light, drive to where the road ends, and hike down a cliff just to watch the sun peek its head over the ocean and send glittering rays over Polulu Valley. But most of the beautiful landscapes seemed to be off in a distance, summoning your curiosity, as if waiting for you to arrive and take notice of the colors, smells and lush landscapes.
Like its sunsets, Hawaii's beauty comes in layers. You can look in almost any direction and see something beautiful. If you glance quickly at a sunset, you'll be struck instantly by color and light. If you linger for just a moment, something about the interplay of the two will draw you in. You'll begin to notice each of the colors within the warm rainbow in front of you and see glimmering flecks of light dance on the tips of landscape. What at first seemed like a mesh of colors becomes something arrestingly awesome the longer you spend sighing and taking it all in.
Talking to Hawaiian locals was a lot like staring at the slowly sinking sun. With each person I started a conversation with, I gained a deeper understanding of the island culture and its values--most notably, appreciation. Whether it was with a shopkeeper in a strip mall in Waikoloa or a retired game warden, each person spoke about the island and the Hawaiian culture in such a passionate way that I had sense how deeply connected they felt to it and the way in which it shaped their lives.
“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” —Margaret Cousins
When I think about Hawaii years from now, I will will certainly remember the orange-pink skylines and crystal blue waters. But, if nothing else, I hope to remember two conversations in particular, which reverberated through my thoughts on the 3 plane rides home, dusting off old ways of thinking and some negativity in the process.
Talking to Iggy, the 79 year old man at a bar as he recounted changes he'd seen in Hawaii, happy tales of a childhood spearing fish and eating coconut "cotton candy," and sad memories of his wife passing. He spoke about living off the land both out of necessity and appreciation and also because the island provided in abundance. Through all of his stories, a smile permeated his face, even during sad moments. In fact, after remembering something particularly moving, he'd pause thoughtfully, muse for a minute, smile again and say, "yeah, life is good, man. Life is good." I want that kind of life.
Talking to Jonathan in Hilo, in the middle of a souvenir shop about Hawaii's history: from colonization and the loss of hula and its culture, to its people's hardships, his grandmother's miraculous healing from Scarlet fever and baptism, Christianity and the power of answered prayers. How terrifying and amazing it is to leave behind the comfort of your community, the security of well-paying jobs and just follow Jesus. And seeing blessings abound? Yeah, that's beauty, all right. I want to live a beautiful life--to me, that's one with appreciation for the obviously magnificent and found joy in the otherwise mundane.