The first time my father took me to the island of Oahu, it was not to see the popular beaches. Instead we went straight to the interior of the Hawaiian isle where dense wilderness overtakes the landscape, creating a virescence that leaps out at the eye in full three-dimensional glory. It was a capital sight for me, an immediate opening up of my senses to the wonder of nature’s artwork. Ever since, immersing myself in Oahu’s jungle trails has been a necessity, an addiction I cannot deny.
For my father, whose own parents had taken him as a child to the depths of the Wai’anae Mountains, Oahu’s wild heart was the key that unlocked his soul, bringing him back to himself. Our hikes exploring Waimea Valley or the Hau’ula trails were times, he explained, for us to experience nature for inspiration. Silently crossing burbling streams or making our way deeper into the Ko’olau Range, we kept our senses alert for the sounds of barks and nuts crunching beneath our feet, the quick flash of a red-crested cardinal as it dove into the branches, the whiff of delicate perfume from rose apple blossoms. Our speechless rambles were only broken with peremptory whispers as my father identified the cheerful yellow amakihi swaying on a limb, the fiery red stamens of a flowering myrtle as it quivered in the breeze, or the discovered tributary of a tiny silver runnel. My time with him was spent not on discussions about my future or his past, but on total absorption of Oahu’s natural paradise. Everything else, he claimed, was secondary.
A Natural Lesson
My nature lessons began on the island and they were steeped in science, art, and religion without my ever realizing it. Alongside my father I tore open fallen calabash to examine their white flesh interiors, saw the postmodern movement in the intricately twisting boughs of the koa tree, and learned to imitate the waxbill’s call to battle. The sight of a wiliwili flower would send him into poetic raptures while seeing the fertile valley from the top of Mount Ka’ala brought tears of joy to his eyes. On our treks, every ground fern and creeping bindweed was a lesson to be studiously attended to, but it was not simply the minutiae of the forest that my father uncovered for me. Often times we would simply stand before a grove of trees or a waterfall, taking everything in. “Communing with nature,” was how my father’s friends would mock our periodic excursions, but he did not care. To him everything about life, including spirituality, could be investigated, admired, and worshipped in the hidden world of Oahu’s viridescent maze.
The unspoiled reserves and mountains of Oahu have been the best part of my life. Their variegated plumage, jewel-like delicacy, and endemic personality are a treasure to be cherished and preserved by everyone. My father revealed to me the power that such natural lands can have on the psyche of industrialized, urbanized humans. The peaceful valleys and affluent forests of Oahu are where I still return to regain my enthusiasm for life and remember my father’s treasured lessons. While traveling along Oahu’s back country paths I can hear his voice mingled with the call of the thrush. Looking down upon Makua Valley, I delight in seeing the same blooms that my father saw with his. Climbing the moss carpeted slopes I am blissfully lost not only in the transcendental exquisiteness of Oahu, but in the sweet memories of quality time spent with my father.
Oahu still retains breath taking scenery among its jungle laden interior and jade green mountains. The island’s remote location made it a safe haven for the vegetation which managed to migrate thousands of years ago to its shores. Explorers of Oahu’s rich natural scenery can be delighted with the unique endemic quality of the island’s flora. Continued efforts by locals, visitors, and organizations such as the Hui ku Maoli Ola along with the Nature Conservancy can ensure that Oahu retains its priceless natural resources for all to enjoy.
For a look into the powerful beauty of Oahu’s shore and waterfalls, visit our Journal issue: Into the Blue.