Walking up from the beach in the rosy remnants of yesterday, salt-encrusted, wind whipped, hair and skin still damp from immersion in clear water, I stopped, looked back, and was filled with such a warm love for the place I’ve visited nearly every day for the past 11 years that I said aloud, “Mahalo, mahalo for everything.”
That spontaneous expression of gratitude got me thinking about everything that particular beach has given me: solace, refreshment, all kinds of healing, spiritual restoration, pleasure, intense beauty, inspiration, fond memories, clarity, insights, profound joy, interactions with numerous wild creatures, glass floats and shells, entertainment, sanity.
I was struck, in that moment of reflection, by the bountiful gifts offered so freely, the recognition that deep intimacy can be forged with places. I’ve come to know that beach so well, yet every day I find it different.
And I thought of how lucky I am to have had that opportunity, and how sad it is that some people just view the beach as a marketing opportunity, a means for increasing the value of their property, when really, its true value lies in its intrinsic properties.
Kauai’s beachfronts are, unfortunately, lined with those kinds of people, who are supported by the apologists — usually paid, or wannabees — who tell us we should look the other way, “get a life” that doesn’t include speaking out against the loss of a treasured public resource, that it’s OK for folks like celebrity Pierce Brosnan to encroach on the public beach because he gives so much money to community causes or developer Michele Hughes to make illegal trails to the beach and hire private security guards to patrol it because her houses generate big tax revenues.
I thought, after receiving a couple of comments like that in regard to Saturday’s “Chicken Shit” post, of how many times in my 24 years on Kauai I have heard people say Mr. X or Ms. Y should be allowed to do such and thus because they’ve given so much to the community, as Mr. X or Ms. Y simultaneously claim that they’ve been drawn to Kauai by the desire to “give back,” even though their giving always seems to include some element of getting even more of what they already admittedly have in abundance.
And I always wonder why, if their desire truly is to “give back,” they don’t just give, rather than tying it into some quid pro quo formula that inevitably seems to include an aspect of take.
Most recently, this is playing out with gazillionaire Bill Porter, and his desire to develop the Kilauea amphitheater on land zoned open in the agricultural district, adjacent to the tacky putt putt golf course he earlier constructed. Porter is quoted as saying the project is about “giving back” as he also remarks that it’s a “real loser” from a commercial standpoint. Why should that even matter, if it’s truly about “giving back?”
I’m not necessarily opposed to an amphitheater in Kilauea, and I don’t have much sympathy for Kalihiwai Ridge residents, since most of them are contributing to the gentrification of the agricultural land they profess to now be protecting. But what I don’t understand is why Porter, who has deep pockets and the supposed desire to unite the community, didn’t follow the more proper process of seeking a redistricting of his land through the state Land Use Commission, rather than a special use permit from the county planning commission.
If he’s really keen to “give back,” why doesn’t he pay property taxes on the 473 acres of land he bought off Kuawa Road, rather than plant a “timber crop” that has no local market, but drops his tax bill down to zero?
And though I’ve heard the CPR process for that land was already under way when he bought it, I also heard his representative, Karen Tang, say on the radio that he had absolutely no plans to develop gentleman’s estates, and then later qualify it by saying, “not that I know of” and “certainly not at this time.” No, I wouldn’t imagine he would do anything at this time, not with the market so down. But if it picks up, it could very well be a different story.
At any rate, Porter got his approval, and he may yet prove to be Kilauea’s benevolent benefactor. Or he could turn out to be like so many of the others who came to Kauai and found that by giving a little, they can get quite a lot.