Again and Again – Soaking in the Beauty with People We Love

A Photo Essay
Kauai, Hawaii 

We went there first in 1980. And we left our kids at home for the first time ever. They were 8, 10 and 12 and my parents came and stayed in our home, schlepping them hither and yon for two and a half weeks while we flew across the Pacific to check out the 50th state.

That time we went with another couple, island-hopping to get the lay of the land. But we knew from the very first touchdown on that northernmost and oldest of the islands that we would be back in that place, kids in tow, just as soon as we could possibly make it happen.

And two years later, we did it. All 5 of us sharing a 1-bedroom condo, air mattresses on the floor, mosquitoes buzzing, frogs chirruping by the thousands. 

And we loved it.
Every single inch of it. 
It’s hard to say enough about all that we love in that place.
 From the 150 year old wood frame or volcanic stone churches…

…to the thrilling drop-off above the Napali coastline,
as viewed from the overlook…
 …to the waterfalls and colorful striations of the Little Grand Canyon on the road up to the overlook…

…to the windswept Tunnels Beach with it’s conical-hat Bali Hai in the distance…
 …to the richness of local taro fields lining the sides of the Hanalei River…
…to the sweeping panorama of the beach at Kalihiwai Bay, whether a sunny day…
 …or a cloudy one – complete with rainbow.
  Of course, I would have to tell you about that solitary lighthouse across from the bird refuge…
 …and certainly, the lure of the jungle-rich roadway driving north…until there is no more road to drive.
 One consistent siren call is most assuredly the sounds of local bird-life. The distinct cooing of Hawaiian doves,
the worried call of the bright red or grey and red cardinals,
 and – of course – the early morning cri de couer of hundreds and hundreds of these guys, wandering wherever they please,
thank you very much.
I would have to include the singular beauty of entire groves of palm trees, swaying in the breeze.
And of course, one of my deepest loves:
the wide variety of beautiful flowers, colorful and fragrant.
 Anthurium, pink and red.
 Every shape, size and color of orchid.
It’s not called the Garden Isle for nothin’.
Wonderful wildflowers, too. 
 Red ginger, and sometimes pink.
My personal favorite – and the first thing I buy at the local Farmer’s Market – is the white, heavily scented tuberose.
And these wild bird-flowers are fun, too.
Golden shower trees abound – and of course – the state flower can be found everywhere, in every shade of pink, purple, orange, yellow, white and red. 
The glorious-for-one-day hibiscus.
 But as breathtakingly beautiful as it is,
as warm and welcoming as we find it every time we come,
as lovely and relaxing and refreshing as our time there always is – 
it is the people we share it with
 that make this place memorable.
Setting aside time, money and commitment for vacationing 
is a very high value for us as a family.
In fact, after commitment to growing in discipleship,
loving one another well,
learning our whole lives long –
I would have to say that re-creating is among our top four family values.
My husband and I began our married life by traveling halfway around the world together – to serve, to explore,
to grow together as our own family unit.
And every year since then, we have saved for, 
planned for and enjoyed time away from the regular routine.
We seek beauty,
learning about new places,
meeting new people,
and enjoying one another 
in a setting that is removed from the demands of daily living.
So we’ve been back to Kauai 
(or to Maui, our 2nd favorite) 
about 15 times in the last 30 years.
And some of our richest family memories are 
part and parcel of that small northernmost island,
the one with all the greenery and all the family lore.

Each of our parents invited their children and grandchildren to Kauai in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversaries.
We’re making plans to do the same in 3 years time, when our own comes around.
We took each of our children’s spouses with us on family trips to this place – two of them before they were officially members of the family.

And four years ago, we planned an extra-special trip, 
one that became even more so in retrospect.
Our middle daughter and her family of 5 rented a house in Princeville for a month.
Dick and I rented a house on the edge of Kalihiwai Bay for the same time period.
We were 10 minutes apart by car and each of us entertained parts of our extended families over the course of those four weeks.

My mom and my youngest brother came for one week and stayed with us. Within two years, he was dead and she was blind, frail and losing her memory.
The treasure of this time together 
is something I carry with me just about every day. 
 My husband’s mom and his incredible sister, whose marriage of 38 years had just ended, came and stayed for a different week. 
Today, four years later, 
Mom is on hospice care; 
Dick’s sister is preparing for a very different life 
once her mother is gone, most likely moving across the country to be nearer her daughter for half of each year.
Life just keeps on changing, you know?
And the gift of time away together?
It cannot be measured.
Since our initial visit 32 years ago, the islands have changed, too. Some of that change is welcome (like a wonderful Costco near the airport); some of it not so much (like increasing development and numbers of people) – but the essentials of the place remain the same.
It is beautiful.
It is marked by a much slower rhythm of living.
It is far enough away to feel removed 
from the lure of life on the mainland,
but not so far away as to feel isolated.
I cannot possibly put into words how deeply grateful 
I am to have spent time in this grace-filled space. 
I think it’s about as close to Eden 
as I’m ever going to get this side of heaven – 
and I KNOW God lives there year ’round.

Joining in the Community Writing Project for The High Calling, put together by Charity Singleton and edited by Deidra Riggs, two of the finest women on the planet.
You can read other vacation stories at Charity’s place:

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  1. Oh, Diana, thank you for this. I believe you know the soft place I harbor for Polynesian islands…Kauai is one I have not yet met in person.

    And that rooster? I must share a giggle. Rich and I visited Waimea Valley while we were on Oahu earlier this month. They provide a brochure to use in identifying birds. They identify the roosters and hens as “jungle fowl, related to the pheasant. Distribution: worldwide.”

    Jungle Fowl. How’s that for spin? 

  2. pastordt says

    You do need to add Kauai to your list, Sheila – especially the north shore. Amazing place. And I LOVE the description of the chickens that are ubiquitous in the Hawaiian islands. Perfect. :>)

  3. I will!

  4. I could drink in this beauty for a good long while. You take amazing photos. And what a history you have over the years.

  5. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!

  6. pastordt says

    Thank you, Susan, for these so-kind words. And thanks for stopping by here – always so glad to see your name/face anywhere they show up!

  7. pastordt says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. :>)

  8. Your photos are fabulous, Diana — almost as good as being there. 🙂 I’ve never been to Hawaii, but our son and his wife went to Oahu in April and came back full of praise. 

    Time together is precious, and I share your view that it should be a priority. My hubby and I came from camping family backgrounds, and have been RVing with our own clan since our first years of marriage. That’s our kind of holiday and we’ve found many picturesque venues in which to meet God within his creation. This summer will be a new experience — we’ve been invited to join a family camping reunion of our daughter-in-law’s family at a lakeside resort. I anticipate a wonderful time and expect to accumulate lots of great memories (and photos, too). 

  9. Someday . . . Someday, I would love to curl my toes in Hawaiian sand. Your photos are so luxurious and will have to do in the interim.

    Love You,

  10. Diana  — I can smell the nectar and feel the breeze on my face. These are breathtaking – and I love that your family values recreating. I didn’t have that value growing up, and I have had to learn it on my own as an adult. I find that I struggle to stop working; it takes days for me to relax my shoulders even when I am on vacation. I appreciate all that I learn from you. And thanks for joining our little project.

  11. pastordt says

    Hey, Carol – thanks for the kind words. We used to do a fair amount of camping when our kids were growing up, but it was never easy for us…so we gave that up for Lent about 20 years ago and never added it back. :>) Hope you have a wonderful family reunion – should be interesting with family you don’t know as well. Looking forward to those photos!

  12. pastordt says

    You are closer to the Caribbean in CT – it’s pretty dang close. :>) (Not as many flowers, but lots and lots of uncrowded beaches.)

  13. pastordt says

    Which is exactly why we try to be gone for a minimum of 10 days whenever we can – cause it takes about 6-7 to unkink. Hard truth! And probably the worst vacations I’ve ever had are the ones where I’ve carried to much ‘to do’ stuff with me – bad idea, whether it’s actual physical ‘to do’ stuff (like my daughter’s wedding invitations) or mental worries (like the time a staff pastor was being let go for moral reasons while I was on vacation). It’s better to unplug as much as possible. That gets tougher to do in this crazy ‘modern’ (or post-modern) age.

  14. Linda Lindberg says

    What a treat this morning to finally have a chance to soak in all the familiar (and also deeply loved) beauty of this place and your precious stories – such good reminders of what is most important!

  15. I had a boss (my first operating room job) who discouraged a-day-here-and-a-day-there vacations. She preferred we take all two weeks at once because she insisted it took a week to wind down and then a week to vacate.

  16. Life just keeps on changing, you know?And the gift of time away together?It cannot be measured.Yup.I got to go to Hawaii (Honolulu) a few years back, but I went alone for a conference. My roommate and I did do a few things together including a tour around the island, and it was all so lovely. But I wish I could have shared it with my husband. He did not want to go. 🙁

  17. pastordt says

    Thanks for stopping by, friend! Always so glad to see you around here. And thanks for your kind words, too.

  18. This is a beautiful photo essay, and a fantastic reminder for all of us in the high value of vacationing as a family. We grew up vacationing, and we’re passing that on to our children as well. Later this month, we’ll head Up North to one of our most favorite places on the planet: a quiet little lake in Minnesota. 

    I was so happy to see your vacation post linked with the High Calling summer vacation project!

  19. Wow, what beauty in those images and in your words.

    We have a sort of family member who lives in Hawaii and is getting married in August. It just costs too much for us to make the trip; not to mention all of our critters at the ole ranchola and nobody to tend to them. Oh, these photos give me a taste.

    What I don’t get is the couple is trying to figure out where to go for their honeymoon. Uh, duh, I think they are already there!


  20. pastordt says

    Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer. And have a wonderful time at your lake! We had one, too, when the kids were little. Went there with my husband’s family most summers – to fish and hike. But the elevation is too high for us now, both of us on blood thinning meds. We were at about 9000 feet.

  21. pastordt says

    Thanks, Darlene – for coming by and leaving your kind words. And you are so right – all they have to do, even if they want to ‘get away,’ is hop on an island-jumper flight and try a different one in the chain. They all have their own personalities! Sorry you can’t go to the wedding – but man, the flights are priced so high right now. We’re not going either. We usually save up airline miles and use those – but we used a lot of them up last year to make the trip that eventually took us to Laity Lodge, so we gotta let them grow.

  22. Oh my goodness! This is so rich, Diana!

    H and I took a trip to Honolulu about ten years ago. Three years later we were back, this time on Kauai, with our children. They just had to see it. And we needed to see them see it. It is such a beautiful place. Your photos take me right back there.

    Thanks for sharing this with us, and for reminding us all of the importance of time together with people you love. There are few things in this world better than that.

    I’m thrilled you’ve linked this story to the community writing project at The High Calling.

  23. pastordt says

    Thanks so much for your kind words, Deidra. And I’m so glad you actually KNOW this place – it is unique and rich. And we needed our kids to see it, too! And now, they need their kids to see it. We all go whenever we can manage it. I didn’t put in a paragraph about how we use a single credit card for every expense we can think of – including med/dental care and donations – so that we can earn miles. (We pay it off each month, but we love to watch those miles accumulate!) We have often used miles rather than dollars to get ourselves there!