A thin blanket of clouds cast a softening haze over the moon, which is dwindling fast, yet still was bright enough to cast our shadows when Koko and I went walking this morning. Venus, just an arm’s length from the moon, was similarly subdued, and so a plane approaching the Lihue airport assumed the brilliance of a planet.
In the east, the sky shifted from pure dark to pink upon black to scarlet upon gray, and then it faded for a time, gathered strength and returned as a vibrant orange-red, creating a fiery screen behind which the sun could rise.
I happened to travel north recently and noticed the dust screen is down from the new miniature golf course that’s been built along the highway in Kilauea. There it was, its tacky little presence looking even cheesier against the splendor of its mountain backdrop. I’m not sure what bothered me most, the grotesque fake pohaku or the thought that another Kauai landscape has been phony-ized, and thus trivialized. Whatever it was, my heart sank.
Then today in The Garden Island I see an article about how kids were brought over there to install native plants and while it’s always good for kids to get their hands dirty and grow things, I wondered about taking a school field trip to such a place and the message they were receiving. Forget the dry and wet forests, kids, native plants have now been relegated to landscaping materials for a miniature golf course. This is where your futures lie, kids, in something that’s entirely contrived.
It’s billed, in the highly promotional coverage provided by the newspaper article, as “much anticipated” and the community’s “new gathering place,” and I thought of how that community’s gathering places used to be Kahili and Kalihiwai beaches, where they’d help out with a hukilau, and Kilauea School and the dispensary and the neighborhood center.
And now it’s going to be a miniature golf course. Kind of speaks volumes about what’s happened up there, like at nearby Kauapea Beach — oh, excuse me, I mean “Secrets.” I recently went there via the main public access, a place I hadn’t been for a number of years, although for a time, I walked it daily.
The parking lot used to be secluded. Now it’s surrounded by massive houses, all of them vacation rentals and/or second/third/fourth “homes.”
Another monstrosity is under construction, right up next to the trail head.
Stunned, I proceeded down the trail, which hasn’t changed much, except it’s more open now, and arrived at the beach, where I saw the dirt road that had been illegally made, then given an after-the-fact permit for “security and maintenance purposes,” has now been paved in concrete.
I could only imagine how much water must be channeled down that driveway during Kilauea’s legendary heavy rains. But hey, it makes it easier for the gardeners to go down and rake up and bag leaves. Because you surely wouldn’t want any leaves decaying on the beach.
I didn’t want to go south, because I knew I’d get bummed out by Michele Hughes’ scene on the bluff above the beach there, so I went north and soon saw that the landowners had cut down all the ironwood trees along the bluff top. Apparently they want the unobstructed view more than the protective qualities of trees that help stall the erosion that is causing the bluff beneath their lavish homes to fall away in massive chunks that can be seen on the sand and reef.
Then I ran into a trail down the bluff, a trail that I knew to have been made without a conservation permit, a trail that runs right through a shearwater colony and that had been refurbished in the middle of the nesting season. You can see the burrows, some of which still had chicks inside.
At the bottom of the trail lay what appeared to be a dead Newell’s shearwater. Auwe.
I did find joy that day, in the tropic birds that swoop and soar overhead, the ruddy turnstones that take flight in a twittering flash of white, the tiny waterfall formed by waves breaking over a rock, the patterns made by sea upon sand.
But I also felt sad, like I so often do when I see the gentrification of a wild place that I’ve always cherished, and as I walked up the steep trail, I thought about why.
Change happens. It’s a part of life and I generally embrace and accept it.
What bothers me, though, is how we’ve allowed such splendid places to be changed so dramatically by people who don’t even live here, how we’ve allowed public treasures like Kauapea to be marred and altered by people who have a very different definition of treasure, a very different set of values.