Thursday, August 03, 2006

Kauai's Kalalau Valley Lookout

The towering, majestic cliffs of Kauai's Na Pali ("Pali" = "Cliff") coast represent one of the Kauai's most spectacular sights. While numerous waterfalls and streams (that are all powered by the wettest spot on the planet, Mt. Waialeale) quietly but dilligently carve out rugged valleys, the ocean just as inexorably pounds the earth down below into Pali. Stone-walled terraces still exist in the valleys as monuments to where Hawaiians once lived and cultivated taro.

While the Na Pali coastline can be experienced in many ways - on foot (via the Kalalau Trail that starts at Kokee State Park), via a helicopter, or on a raft - the easiest, and arguably, the most visually stunning views (although one could just as easily argue that any view of the Na Pali coastline is destined to be "visually stunning", so that comparisons are essentially moot!) can be had from the Kalalau Valley Lookout (~4000 ft. elevation). You can get there simply by following Waimea Canyon road all the way to the end (see my earlier Waimea Canyon in Color blog entry).

The lookout area is typically shrouded in Mt. Waialeale's cloud cover; though if the clouds are slowly drifting out toward the water, only a bit of patience is required and they are likely to part long enough (at least in spurts) to permit a peek of this magnificent valley. However, if there are heavy clouds coming in from the ocean, you may need a considerably heavier dose of patience to catch a view!

Kalalau Valley Lookout is my Church, for it is here that I feel closest to the heart and soul of the world and universe. It is here that I most strongly resonate with Einstein's Cosmic Religious Feeling. And it is here that I can best hear the faint whisper of the true answer to the question, "Who am I?"

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Molokai = Tranquility

Each Hawaiian island indelibly leaves a unique imprint on a photographer's mind/I/soul. For example - for me - Oahu , while indisputably lovely and a photographer's paradise, is somewhat of a tropical version of a fast-paced (at least by "island" standards, as all the Hawaiian islands are decidedly "slow" by mainland standards!) mainland resort, and leaves me both relaxed and a bit anxious to go somewhere "quieter" after a brief stay. To be sure, much of Oahu's "fast pace" is arguably confined to Waikiki, Honolulu and their neighboring areas, and much of the rest of Oahu (particularly its eastern and northern shore regions) induces a feeling much closer to what I associate with Kauai (see below) than to how I have characterized it here. Nonetheless, since my experience of this island has always been anchored to Waikiki (and Honolulu), Oahu unfortunately remains in the category of "extraordinary place to visit for a few days, but..."

The Big Island is full of nervous energy and mystery, as though it is still unsure what to make of itself or where it wants to go. It feels unsettled. While this unfocused energy undoubtedly provides a creative spark, it makes it hard to completely still my inner world; which is something I must therefore always consciously devote some of my own energies to do whenever I am on the Big Island. I therefore typically leave the Big Island feeling both exhilarated (for having seen so many wonderful sights) and exhausted (for having to counter the Big Island's yin with a bit of yang).

Maui contains many scenic wonders (Haleakala, Hana, and the Sacred Pools, to mention but a few), but is - for my tastes - too commercialized. The seemingly endless parade of pristine new golf courses, while clearly a welcome sight for some, takes much away from a "pure" experience of the natural Hawaiian splendor. Maui thus always leaves me longing for a simpler, less glitzy, Hawaii; somewhere where the gentle whisper of the land and trade winds can still be heard above the modern din. I am sad for Maui, as its heritage and true self seems to be slowly, but inexorably, eroding.

Kauai holds the dearest spot in my heart, as it is a perfect blend of old and new, and displays some of the most awe-inspiring natural beauty on earth. If there were one place on earth I could choose to live, it would be Kauai. I equate Kauai with rejuvenation; physical, spiritual, and artistic.

Thus, finally, we get to Molokai: a simple, quiet, tranquil oasis of the deepest, most ineffable calm that I have ever experienced!

I am convinced that time comes slowly to a stop (and if not a full stop, certainly to no more than a crawl;-) halfway between wherever it is you start your journey to Molokai and your first step onto this special place.

You become oblivious to everything - every time - except for the eternal now.

For me, Molokai is tranquility, for that is the state of mind I am always in whenever I am lucky enough to visit. Just "being in Molokai" is akin to performing effortless meditation.

The hard part - speaking now as a photographer - is to find ways of expressing how I feel about Molokai in my images. Unfortunately, I've yet to hit my mark! I guess I'll just have to go back for another tranquil, timeless, effortless meditation ;-)