The last 4 months in 5 quick photos

(top to bottom: Marveling at Fort Feline, a Gold Beach Oregon community for feral cats; trying to see possibility vs a lost cause; hiking the gorgeous (Columbia River) Gorge; prepping for an upcoming, multi-event family wedding; taking time to notice a blue and gold fall)

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Momentum

Dante, never one to sugarcoat things when writing about hell’s 9 circles or the terrifyingly familiar sins of purgatory, chose to put the phrase a great flame follows a tiny spark into the “Paradiso” section of his masterpiece.

Given that most of the wet matches I brought with me when I clawed my way out of limbo #562 are still drying, it’s a comforting thought. And hey: I’m starting to see flickers of light in some parts of my life and wisps of smoke in others. Surely that’s a positive sign?

Of course I’m hoping I’ll eventually have (contained) flames that qualify as steady-and-ready if not Mr Alighieri’s “great.” In the meantime, however, I’m glad I have what I have—including a better ability to support those trying to move from draining stagnation to freeing stag leap.

…motion is a sure-fire clue there’s momentum of some kind afoot, but it’s surprising how much energy can be conveyed without word, sound, or movement…

(top to bottom: Ilya Idelchik’s vivacious “Flamenco Dancers” grace San Diego’s Spanish Village Art Center; orchids in Balboa Park’s Botanical Building defy homogenity; just outside Granville Island’s totem-carving wonderland, flexing fish bedeck a totem pole that welcomes visitors; artist James Harrison’s glass-centric Ghost Ship casts a 24-hour glow on Portland Oregon’s Eastbank Esplanade)

Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore [pt 2]

Previously, I shared how I eased into a week of island life by wandering around some of the North Shore’s laid-back beaches, towns, and nature reserves. Looking for a rinse, lather, repeat scenario? Then read on.

Back when I had more of a brain, I swear I read that new experiences—be they pleasant or stressful—focus the senses. How else to explain the fact that I’m terribly oblivious to things in my real-life surroundings, but tend to skew much more I was blind but now I see on vacation?

On Oahu’s North Shore, a watchful figurine keeps an eye on the waves and those who ride them

Even if I’m mistaken, surely being relaxed enough to notice the striking markings on neighborly geese, green sea turtles, and dogs was a sign of positive things happening to my body and/or soul.

Renting a tucked-away space on property one hour and a world away from Honolulu airport increases the odds of sharing space with real personalities

Since the line between “attentive” and “obsessed” can be a bit blurred for me, though, I’ll keep mum about how many times rocks had a starring role in my photos.

The historic Lili’uokalani Protestant Church sits right in the thick of what passes for action in low-key Haleiwa

Admittedly admiring the stones’ craggy textures and subtle shadings was easier from land than from sea. Bad enough that I’m incapable of getting out of ocean swell without banging myself up on any nearby rock—once Mr Vix and I decided to attempt standup paddleboarding my seemingly magnetic attraction to hard, jagged lumps became even more problematic.

I didn’t realize that until I was actually on (or more accurately off-and-on) a board, of course. Others made wafting across glossy water look so effortless!

At least my athletically inclined companion was also quite…challenged…by the activity. As the dunkings mounted and the learning curve refused to budge, we exchanged meaningful looks with the small dogs hitching a ride with their paddling owners.

Top, standup paddleboarding in Waialua Bay looked so simple; Bottom, my trusty hat and I were both wet and bedraggled after my first attempt at monkey-do

Luckily, our second attempt to SUP was a much closer match to our fantasy script. Late afternoon sun, stretches of the stunning Anahulu Stream to ourselves, green turtles sunning themselves on the banks, and actually STANDING UP versus kneeling or falling in.

While mere onlookers a few years ago, this visit we were the ones standup paddleboarding along the ridiculously picturesque and tranquil Anahulu Stream while bathed in golden light

Though I’d arrived on the island wanting to spend every daylight minute of my trip in the water, laziness and nosiness won out. Even in the relatively remote North Shore area, we had to make concessions as to which activities could be fit in and which canned due to time. Which may be why Haleiwa was officially named a historic, scenic, and cultural district in the early ’80s, but what do I know?

What I do know is that there were plenty of minutes on our trip for both repeat stops at juice bars and for capturing the business end of a watersports shop…

L, Don’t even think about leaving Lanikai Juice and its heaps of locally grown goodness without an antioxidant rainbow in your hand; R, a local watersport landmark continues its bold color scheme around the back

…as well as for aimless driving around that let us admire small businesses in action and repose…

A moment of rest at Paradise Shrimp Farm’s roadside stand in Waialua

…and for taking in views where volcanically pigmented earth met up with sky and luxurious growth.

While sugarcane’s influence continues to decline, this drive-by shot gives a glimpse of how agriculture still rules on Oahu’s North Shore—good news for fans of the island’s pineapple, coffee, vegetables, and more

All of which made me (once again) glad that so many West Coasters consider Oahu the proverbial red-headed stepchild of the islands. I don’t know how anyone can turn up their nose at a spot that has all of the above plus the gorgeous Waimea Valley Reserve, but hey: more exotic tropical foliage, wildlife, and archeological remnants for me.

Enter the public portion of Waimea Valley Reserve’s nearly 2000 acres and discover a setting filled with tropical foliage and wildlife…including some endangered strains and species

At the Waimea Valley Reserve, beauty and critters are around every corner, and amazing birdsong seems to accompany one along every path

Though just a North Shore visitor, I’m aware that the area’s last 100+ years of history includes colonialism and careless use of the land as well as typical 21st century social problems. And while the busy town of Wahiawa may not be full of rural delights, I’m glad there’s a story of renewal and preservation unfolding there that’s a counterpart to the conservation efforts in the Reserve.

Wahiawa’s 2011 public transportation center acknowledge’s the town’s present needs and pineapple plantation-centric past

So here’s to places that share their beauty and their history, their changes and their struggles, their stories and their bounty. Sometimes the exchange is exactly what’s needed to create a bridge from one’s own past to a richer, more colorful future.

Kamehameha Highway has little in common with its 4-lane-plus cousins, winding along the North Shore’s beaches, towns, and agricultural parcels

PSA: Take a history-laden video tour of Waimea Valley Reserve

Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore [pt 1]

Leaving a job that was well past its sell-by date for something with lots of tangible improvements—and the promise of intangible ones—should have been incredibly easy. But no: I exited dragging a chunk of reluctance behind me thanks to a core group of amazing co-workers I didn’t want to give up. Co-workers who’d provided daily laughs, intelligent insights, reliable teamwork, and empathy.

Plus genuine happiness when they heard I’d whipped together a week of escapism before starting over in a new environment. They couldn’t go unwind and have fun, dammit, but since I could I certainly should.

To them, I was the soot-choked canary weakly fluttering toward blue sky, the newly elected mascot of Team Save the Drama for Your Mama, the lucky thing who’d been handed pudding filled with proof we all deserved better.

Clearly I needed to do them proud in spite of my tight timeline and eroded energy. I went for a classic solution: a brain/body reset in Hawaii. With nothing from the old or new job to worry about, relaxing into island life happened surprisingly fast.

Easing into island life

Due to plane fares and vacation rental openings and preferences I ended up on Oahu’s rural, romantic North Shore. Mr Vix and I arrived as the surf season was winding down, which meant we only got to ogle folks on 25-foot waves vs 50-foot ones. And we found the smaller beaches sparsely populated even on weekends.

Somehow neither seemed like genuine hardship.

Surfers aside, daily walks along Kawailoa Beach usually featured more fishing poles than people

While we’d explored a lot of Oahu during our last visit to the island—including a couple of day trips to the North Shore—we deliberately stuck close to our temporary home this time. “Close” being a relative term, of course. As visitors, it seemed rude to ignore ALL of the outdoor activities that promised to take us farther and farther from the realities of everyday life, so off we went.

From an end-of-the-road trail that led to an oceanside preservation zone but came with pleasant diversions…

After a dusty hike in to the remote Ka’ena Point Reserve, I enjoyed a both-eyes-on-the-winter-surf-beyond reward while hiking out

…to encountering creatures who put my attempt at snazziness to shame…

Despite blue-green-grey colors and iridescent shoes, getting out-peacocked by a too-fast-for-me…well, peacock

At the Waimea Valley Reserve, a finally-still peacock provides a lesson in pattern-mixing

…to reminders of the ocean’s power—

Though I knew the North Shore’s legendary waves and riptides might rule out daily swimming, I was able to find protected spots without much trouble

and its beauty—I spent my days in a haze of delight. I’d arrived hoping for daily swims, and lucked out by finding local spots too boring for surfers but awesome for me.

At the end of Dillingham Airfield, Army Beach offers sandy shores, crystalline water, and a perfect spot to cool off after hiking to Ka’ena Point as long as the surf cooperates

Out of the water, plenty of intriguing visual stories drew me in. While the late Ron Artis’ community-driven work brightens many North Shore landmarks and gives locals and visitors alike windows into the past…

Storytelling is embedded in Hawaiian culture; here, musician-turned-artist Ron Artis’ work beautifies a storage unit outside Haleiwa and Wahiawa’s Sunny Side bakery

…one can also find communications that call for respect but vary in permanence…

Informal meets formal reverence: L, a call to keep the remote road/path to Ka’ena Point from becoming a dumping ground; R, the Waialua-Kahuku War Memorial

…hauntingly beautiful structures that leave the viewers with more questions than answers…

Vacant for more than 60 years, the former Waialeʻe Industrial School For Boys–a reform school–occupies prime North Shore real estate

…plus spots sacred in ancient Hawaiian culture and protected today.

L, Recent offerings at c. 1600s religious temple Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, likely a place of past human sacrifices; R, haunting eyes adorn an abandoned military bunker at Ka’ena Point, another sacred spot in Hawaiian culture

As we soaked up the sun along with the sights, I could feel long-term tension start to erode—and believe me, that’s a story my body’s been longing to tell.

Next: Part 2 of Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore, in which I reveal my apparent fascination with stones, empty space, and exotic red flora

Gratuitous Color Shot #18: I took it on the run baby / ’cause that’s the way I want it baby

Hawaiian folklore deems Oahu’s rugged, remote Ka’ena Point as a leina a ka ‘uhane, or jumping off point for souls leaving the earth. Guided by ancestors or deceased friends, a soul leapt from the point’s sacred rock into the ocean before entering po heaven. But apparently not all the dead were as lucky: some say souls judged unworthy were cursed to wander the island in misery and isolation.

As I’m extraordinarily pleased to announce I’ve accepted a position with a new company, the legend’s core concept—being escorted and supported when heading into the unknown—is one that resonates with me greatly right now.

Especially since the drawn-out process of seeking a better professional life had me living in dread that someone would sidle up to me and start singing “Heard it from a friend who / Heard it from a friend who / Heard it from another you been messin’ around [with interviews].”

Fortunately, my efforts to slide out with minimum drama and a bit of grace succeeded. Objectively, I know I’m headed for a better place; subjectively, though, I’ll be in limbo for a while as the whole new-job thing sorts itself out.

Wish me luck with my leaping?

At Oahu’s westernmost spot, a fellow hiker embraces a more upward view of Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve

PSA: Read more about efforts to restore the ecosystem at Ka’ena Point