PHASE THREE: Discovering the beauty of life

PHASE THREE By Arnold Bornstein: Wonders of Hawaii provoke world thought.

By: Arnold Bornstein
   Where we live, you’re familiar with the term snowbirds — people who reside here for the warm months and then head to Florida or other Sunbelt states for the winter. We just got back from a place some 6,000 miles from here where we saw a similarity.
   They’re called humpback whales, and you could call them snow-whales, as in snowbirds, because they inhabit the waters off Alaska or the Arctic during the warm months and then for the winter you’ll find them enjoying the warmth of Hawaii, which is where we saw them.
   A friend who visited Hawaii several years before us called it "as close as you get to heaven on this earth." We understand what she meant, for the main Hawaiian Islands are laden with volcanic-shaped mountains that are covered with dense green foliage and intertwined with streams and waterfalls and kinds of flowers and fruits that you have never seen before.
   It seems like it’s always 80 degrees and sunny on the innumerable beaches with a gentle breeze on your face and body, as you sit by your shorefront hotel’s beach bar and sip a rum and fruit juice cocktail called a mai tai. You still have the memory of tropical birds nibbling on coconut leaves on swaying palm trees as the sunset shimmers shades of orange against an ocean’s blueness that you have never seen before.
   On your arrival at the Honolulu airport, you get a traditional aloha greeting with a lei of fresh flowers. Many people appear to think that the state’s capital, Honolulu, is an island. It isn’t though; it’s a major city on the island of Oahu. Two famed areas of the city include Waikiki Beach and the naval base at Pearl Harbor.
   High-rise hotels are lined up along the beachfront. The area’s main street has some of the world’s most fashionable and expensive shops, as well as a carnival atmosphere with mimes, street performers and hustlers. As tourists are walking by, a hustler will offer to place exotic, brightly colored birds on you and then ask if you want your picture taken with your camera, for a fee.
   One early evening we took a sunset dinner cruise along the Waikiki shoreline near Diamond Head, the extinct volcano, and despite my navy sea duty many years ago, I got seasick and couldn’t enjoy the dinner or mai tais, and I went on the outside deck for fresh air.
   We took a short flight on Aloha Airlines for our next stop on the island of Kauai. It’s where they filmed scenes of Bali Hai for the movie, "South Pacific." Steven Spielberg had stayed at the hotel where we had lunch, while filming his "Jurassic Park" movies. There are no roads cutting through the interior of the island, and sections evidently look just as they did thousands of years ago. It seemed like the ideal setting for Spielberg’s movies about dinosaurs. A bus tour took us to the Waimea Canyon, called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific."
   On a one-hour helicopter ride over the interior, we got a bird’s eye view of some of this planet’s most spectacular scenery, including Mount Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth.
   Another short Aloha flight brought us to the island of Maui. By bus, we went to the lush Iao Valley and saw the Iao Needle, a narrow volcanic spire that rises some 2,700 feet The luau one evening was touristy, but we did enjoy the Polynesian dancing and music, including the hula and fire dancing. Of course, in an island-hopping, packing-and-unpacking tour with 35 other people, some moments become blurred, but you share the experience in camaraderie with people from North Dakota, New Mexico, California, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Canada and elsewhere.
   By the way, the sugar cane fields of Hawaii have all but disappeared, and there are very view pineapple fields left because of worldwide competition. For me, the name Dole was synonymous with Hawaii, but when we got home and bought a Dole pineapple at our local supermarket, it was from Costa Rica.
   We had broken up our trip both ways between Newark Airport and Hawaii with overnight stays in Los Angeles. My Brooklyn Dodgers T-shirt evoked seemingly favorable comments from four or five apparent Los Angeles Dodgers fans.
   When you recall the overwhelming beauty of Hawaii, you also think of Japanese warplanes coming in over those beautiful Oahu mountains to attack Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. A very moving experience is visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the sunken battleship, the final resting place for most of the ship’s 1,177 crew members. A very small and very slow fuel oil leak still bubbles to the surface every now and then, as it has been doing since 1941 — and National Park Service officials expect it to continue for another 40 years or so.
   You think about the countries at war you have seen, the countries recovering from war — including Nagasaki, Japan, seven years after the atomic bomb was dropped, countries where the poverty is almost unbelievable, countries where there isn’t enough food, countries where medical and health care barely exist.
   You contrast those memories with all of the beauty on earth that you have just seen in Hawaii. You think about that humpback whale cruise you took off the shores of Maui. These creatures grow up to 52 feet long, weigh from 30 to 50 tons, and have tails up to 12 feet wide. We saw them occasionally kick their tails and fins out of the water, and you periodically see them spouting sprays of up to 13 feet, which is part of their breathing.
   Scientists tell us they sing amazing songs under the sea, which they can’t explain as to why but which they have recorded. Near extinction several decades ago, the humpback whale population has increased because of international law protection. It makes you wonder about their fellow creatures, namely human beings, and how we are faring on this planet.
   Our daughter is a teacher in the Manhasset School District in Long Island, N.Y. She works with a sixth-grade girl named Chrissy, who recently received as a homework assignment: "If you were granted 10 wishes, what would you wish for and why?"
   Her journal entry included: "I would wish for no more world hunger…I would wish for no more animal abuse. I would also wish for everyone who is homeless to have houses and people to care for them…I would wish that everyone in the world gets one wish, but it must be good and not evil…I wish that there was no pollution or littering. The reason I did not wish for world peace is because I think that is a goal we must achieve with our hearts, not with magic."
   Writer Lori Taylor once said: "Children are the dreams we send to a future we will never see. They are our hopes and dreams for the world."
Arnold Bornstein is a resident of Greenbriar at Whittingham.