22 August 2014

Happy folk are Hobbits to dwell near the shores of the sea

"Happy folk are Hobbits to dwell near the shores of the sea," said the Elf Haldir to the Hobbit Merriadoc Brandybuck. As one who takes the words of J.R.R. Tolkien to heart, that "I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size," and one who loves the ocean, I know the truth of Haldir's words (even if spoken in a fictional tale).

Very often Mainlanders ask me what it is that I love so much about Hawaii. A simple answer is that I am never happier or more relaxed than when I am in Hawaii, the reasons for which are many:

The weather: When I first stepped off the plane in the Honolulu International Airport eight years ago, I looked around and said, "This is everything I ever wanted in life but never knew existed!" By that, I meant the shapes and colors of the plants, flowers, and trees; the stability of the temperature; the consistent breezes coming off of the Pacific Ocean carrying the scent of flowers across the islands; the majesty of the mountains; the closeness of the clouds that look as if you can reach up and grab one to use as a pillow.

The coldest temperature on record occurred just over a year ago when the temperature fell to a chilly 59°F; the hottest temperature on record climbed to 100°F in 1931. The average temperature is 85°F, with most of the humidity being blown away by the trade winds. It is simply paradise on earth.

Arthritis doesn't bother me here: It only took a day or two during my first visit to the islands to realize that the Hawaiian climate has very positive effects on my arthritis, allowing me even to hike up mountains in fog and mist (in the Midwest, even opening the door on a foggy morning sets the arthritis off like you wouldn't believe).

This summer, since I would be in Hawaii for almost a full month, I decided to put this observation to the test. When I landed a few weeks ago, I decided not to take my arthritis medicine and see what would happen. My suspicions proved true: it has now been three weeks since I last took my arthritis medicine (which is necessary in the Midwest and in Rome, though not as much) and I have not noticed any effects of arthritis at all!

Because my immune system isn't constantly fighting itself here and using up what energy I have to keep from swelling, I have not known exhaustion here on these islands. As an example, if I have to celebrate three Masses on a Sunday back in Illinois, I am completely exhausted all day on Monday. Twice now during this current stay in Hawaii I have celebrated three Masses on a Sunday (two in the morning and one in the late afternoon, and a Mass on a Saturday evening) and awoke Monday morning feeling fine (as I felt when I went to bed those two Sunday nights).

The faith of the islanders: From my first visit to Oahu, I have noticed that the Hawaiians do not simply attend Mass; they actually pray during, before, and after the Mass. Too often too many parishioners on the Mainland are simply taking up space in the pew at Mass without actually entering into prayer. In Hawai'i, the number of the latter is minimal, as visits to several parishes have now shown to me. When the Hawaiians are praying, you can almost feel the strength of their prayer; they really do believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

The Hawaiians like to sing: Even during the week, the Hawaiians sing at least the Alleluia, Sanctus, and Memorial Acclamation at Mass (with or without accompaniment), and many parishes even sing an opening and closing song, as well. Try doing that on the Mainland where even reciting the Gloria and the Creed on a Solemnity often results in rolls of the eyes and glances at watches, neither of which have I observed in the islands. What is more, when the Hawaiians sing at Mass, they sing with emotion and so make the words they sing a heartfelt prayer.

Shoes aren't required: Not only is it customary in Hawaii to remove your footwear when entering someone's home, it is generally expected that you do so; not removing your footwear is considered poor form and borders on a gesture of insult. Even today, when visiting the Hulihe'e Palace, the removal of your shoes is required before you are allowed to enter the former home Governor John Adams Kuakini.

I have hated shoes for many years now. The first thing I do when I return home is take off my shoes. When I had an office in the Catholic Pastoral Center, I was very happy that the front of my desk reached all the way to the floor. It allowed me to slip off my shoes as soon as sat down and, if need to be, to quickly slip them on again without anyone knowing.

Fresh pineapple: Is there anything better in this world than eating a fresh pineapple? Or having drinking a glass of Dr Pepper with pineapple? Or enjoying a pineapple Dr Pepper milkshake? Or a bacon cheeseburger with a grilled pineapple ring? I don't think so.

Ohana: The Hawaiians are the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever met. Once you have the joy of meeting one, you become part of the ohana, the family. Even if you only see each other once a year, there are no worries because you are part of the ohana. To meet a Hawaiian is to have a friend for life. Aloha is simply the way of life here.

These are just some of the reasons I love Hawaii and life on these islands. One of my favorite songs expresses it well:

Yes, indeed: Happy folk are Hobbits to dwell by the sea.

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