I noticed an interesting thing while waiting for my sister's flight to arrive at the Kona airport: all of the de-planeing passengers had big smiles on their faces. It's not surprising--they just arrived on vacation! But, THAT was not the only reason they all smiled; I suspect they were all smiling because the the Kona airport is so dang CUTE. It made me smile when I arrived too!
Instead of being a huge building like most airports, the Kona-Kailua airport on the Big Island is just a collection of outdoor pavilions, with big, beautiful tropical plants growing all around. Here's a photo of it:
Here's what you see as you wait for your flight:
Tracy's flight arrived 30 minutes late, but I didn't mind...I was wearing a plumeria lei. I wanted her to have a special and memorable experience when she arrived, so I purchased the lei for her, but was delighted to have a few minutes to wear it myself!
If you've never worn a plumeria lei, I urge you to add that to your "bucket list" of experiences to have at least once in your life. The plumeria flowers are wonderfully fragrant. Their fragrance is very long lasting, and so a day wearing a plumeria lei around your neck--carrying that fragrance with you wherever you go--is an experience in olfactory bliss.
I first had the experience in 1998, when I attended Education Week at BYU-Hawaii on Oahu. During one of the classes, I was volunteered to learn to hula in front of the entire class. As compensation for my public humiliation, the sweet older lady teachers offered me a homemade plumeria lei. Wearing it the rest of the day was so wonderful, I would have happily been publicly humiliated again for another one!
Here's a photo of the wonderful plumeria flowers:
When Tracy arrived, I placed the lei around her neck, we grabbed some dinner to-go, and then we headed to Kailua Bay to eat our dinner as we watched several rowing teams practice as the orange sun slowly dipped into the sea. Here's what we saw:
(Incidentally, this is the spot where the Ironman Triathlon starts each October).
As we sat there, enjoying the sunset, Tracy said "I think I could sit here forever...feeling the ocean breeze, seeing the beautiful sunset, and enjoying the fragrance of this lei."
I agreed...it was lovely.
I'm normally a very pragmatic person, and am very careful about the way that I invest my time. It's not often that I invest my time in enjoying beauty, but that's one of the things that I really love about Hawaiians. Taking the time to create a lei that will wither within a day is not something that I would probably do, but I'm so thankful that the Hawaiians value beauty enough to do that, because I loved savoring their work.
Another beautiful, but time-consuming thing Hawaiians do is make gorgeous quilts. Hawaiian quilts are typically based on a floral pattern, appliqued on a solid background, and then the quilter stitches an outline of the same pattern, about an inch away from the fabric. Rows of stitches, repeating the pattern over and over again about an inch apart, cover the quilt, making it incredibly beautiful, but also incredibly time consuming to create. It's the type of thing I would never take the time (or have the patience) to do myself, but I savor the beauty created by another's patient labor.
Another wonderful sensory experience was visiting the Mauna Loa macadamia nut farm, taking their tour, and sampling their free samples. Since I'm still on my low-carb diet (I've lost a total of 109 pounds so far), I didn't sample the chocolate-covered nuts, but loved the Wasabe and Sour-Cream-And-Onion flavored macadamia nuts. The thing I loved most, however, was the coconut-macadamia nut herbal tea. The aroma of the tea is heavenly, and the flavor beautiful too, especially when you take the time to pay attention to the subtle nutty roasted flavor.
In the hopes of being able to enjoy a little Hawaii during my busy life at home, I brought home a package of coconut-macadamia tea, purchased a Hawaiian quilt which now hangs in my dining room, and also purchased a plumeria start, hoping to grow a little, fragrant plumeria tree in a pot inside my home. Here's what the start looks like:
Here's a photo of it planted, and in my south-facing Utah window.
I recently read a book that suggested we take "daily vacations", where we spend 20 minutes each day focusing on something that gives us joy or pleasure. I like that idea, and think I'll make a conscious attempt to enjoy life's little pleasures--the scent of flowers, the taste of sweet tea, the beauty of sunset--every day...not just when I'm away from home.