Copyright © 2018
by Ralph F. Couey
These are the dog days of summer in Hawai'i, when the cooling northeast trades die away and the humidity rises with the afternoon heat. In any other place, one could look to the calendar and assume that the cool of autumn lies just over the horizon. But here, the weather really doesn't change all that much. I've often said that you could tape record the weather forecast, replay it every day and you'd be accurate at least 310 days of the year. The biggest difference between winter and every other season is the increased rainfall, and slightly cooler temperatures. But if you didn't grow up here, you might not even notice the change.
Being closer to the equator, the sun is far more direct, and many a visitor has suffered the painful indignity of sunburn as a result. Also, if you come here from a more temperate climate, you might find the heat and humidity to be an annoyance. But iff you live in a place like this long enough, your skin pores begin to open up, and thus you become acclimatized at least to a point. A normal day which would be uncomfortable anyplace else, becomes simply normal.
When the sun begins to slide behind the Wai'anae Mountains, and if the winds are blowing at all, the air begins to cool down nicely. Not October in Denver nice, but still... All homes here are of single-wall construction with no insulation. But they still tend to retain a lot of heat even after the sun goes down. Even with fans, a living room in Honolulu is not the most comfortable place to be.
Cheryl and I have taken to spending the evenings out on the back patio to escape the still-uncomfortable heat inside the house. We set up our chairs in that spot where the breeze wafts through between the house and the back fence. There we talk, read, write, cogitate, or just vegetate as allow the breeze to make us more comfortable.
The city blasting those megawatts of light upward dims most of the stars and planets in the night sky, but you can still see a few of the brighter ones, Jupiter, Venus, and three of the stars making up the handle of the asterism we all know as "The Big Dipper," Mizar, Alioth, and Megrez. From where we are, about halfway up Waimano Hill, the lights of the western part of O'ahu spread a glittering carpet almost all the way to the foot of the mountains. Even when the sun disappears, the sky is still lit, framing the mountains in the most vivid colors you'll ever see. Here, the sky is the palette; and Nature is Monet and Renoir, Degas and Cezanne, all at the same time. A person cannot watch something that beautiful and not be changed.
That evening as we sat there, I was looking up at the sky, thinking about a star whose light had taken some 81 years to reach my eyes, when I noticed the clouds. These were not the big, looming storm clouds, but rather small cumulus, drifting southward with the breeze. As they passed overhead, they reflected the light from the city below, giving them a soft, silvery luminescence. They appeared, I mused, almost like what I thought an angel might look like.
Of course. I was in paradise. Why wouldn't I see angels?
They are graceful, these clouds, and ever changing. as they slide by, I can see how the edges are continually being remade by those meteorological rules that govern such things. When I was younger, I remember lying on the driveway looking up at the sky. (You didn't lay in the grass in Missouri, lest you become inundated by chiggers.) Clouds are marvelous things. They can appear to be any shape, limited only by one's imagination. I could see all kinds of things in them, animals, objects, even people from time to time. But they were only there for a short time, eventually moving out of eyesight. But there were always more to follow, more things to imagine. I still play that game as an adult, for a time becoming a child once again.
I've learned to look for those quiet moments, when I can be swept up in the beauty and rhythm of nature. In Colorado, there were those evenings on the front porch, listening to the soothing sound of crickets; in California, it was the sound of the ocean waves breaking on the beach, and as I look back, there have been other times, other places, other sensations. I really need those moments when I can empty my head and just...be. Perhaps you need those moments as well.
Eventually of course, fatigue sets in and we must fold up the chairs and retire for the night. It's still uncomfortable inside the house, but as the hours pass, that cooler night air does eventually find its way through the windows, dispelling that stubborn heat.
I look forward to those evenings. When rain intrudes, forcing us back inside, I become slightly annoyed, as if nature would ever answer to my beck and call. But even with the occasional showers, there is a remarkable consistency to the weather here, that at times becomes almost boring.
But it's still way better than shoveling snow.