Mary Oliver and Holoholo

I’ve spent the last week with Clay in Kauai, celebrating our 30th, and I have a few observations.

1) This long-legged, beaky white bird is a stalker.

I’ve watched him walk along the top of that tropical hedge, following people who may or may not notice.

Why is this important to share? It’s not. But I love this bird, and Mary Oliver says in her poem Sometimes, published in her book Red Bird, “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” So here I am, telling about the astonishing way this bird turns his back to the ocean and cocks his head at the people, rolling back and forth as regularly as the waves.

Oliver’s words are the first words you’ll see when you go to my website, and they articulate why I write and share. It’s not only the big things, like giant cliffs and humpback whales that are noteworthy, although these are also certainly worthy of note. Which brings me to my next observation.

2) Keep your head on a swivel.

This is not the season to see humpback whales in Kauai. Most of them are already headed to Alaska to fill up on krill, but this mama had a baby she wanted to fatten up before they set out. Their big, black backs rolled above the surface of the ocean as they dove and swam, and it was totally magic, partly because it was unexpected. Which brings me to my third observation.

3) When people are standing by the side of the road, pointing at the ocean, pull over. Park (even if it’s illegal) and see what all the fuss is about.

There were at least half a dozen big turtles hanging out in a small, rocky bay. The waves would pick them up, and in the light blue curl before it crested, we could see them hanging suspended, unbothered by the roll or the crash or the onlookers. A pod of dolphins passed by as we watched the turtles. They were racing, leaping out of the water, dozens of them. Incredible. You know what else is incredible?

4) Peanut butter, oozing over the crust.

We’ve had some amazing meals (and spent some amazing money on them) but the simple pleasure of a peanut butter sandwich, brought to you like a gift from the man I’ve loved well over half my life, while sitting on a balcony overlooking the crashing ocean, a long-legged, beaky white bird on a hedge, whales and turtles out there like unexpected gifts . . . priceless.

A boat captain introduced us to the Hawaiian term “holoholo.” When looking it up on the Hawaiian language resource provided by Ulukau called Wehewehe wikiwiki (love that name so much) it’s defined as, “to go for a walk, ride or sail; to go out for pleasure, stroll, promenade.”

Captain Glen explained it like when you work a full week, and then it’s the weekend and you pack up the kids and an ice chest and head out into your day not knowing what the day may bring exactly, but ready to enjoy it.

Here’s an example from Wehewehe wikiwiki, used in a sentence: “He pule holoholo ʻana, a continuous prayer.”

I think Mary Oliver was an expert in holoholo because it takes strolling, going out for pleasure, looking at life like a continuous prayer to notice like she noticed, and write like she wrote. And it doesn’t take being in Kauai to pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it (but it doesn’t hurt!).

There are sunsets and peanut butter back in Texas, countless things to notice with the people I love and plenty of holoholo to be had.

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