This week, my post is about October 12, 2019, the date of my dad’s first birthday since his passing this summer. I was in Kauai, on a trip of transformation and self-discovery. In this post I recount this day, which is a tribute to my dad and my experiences in celebration of him, which to me truly feels like a wink from the universe.

It was a Saturday morning in Princeville, Kauai, my single solitary Saturday of my one week hiatus on the island. I departed on my morning walk, decidedly separating from my travel partner so I could have some solitude. I had ventured down Ka Haku Road in Princeville the day before, so I generally knew where I was and where I wanted to go in relation to the cliffy lookouts and hideaway beaches.

I wanted to “see” Queen’s Bath, essentially a sinkhole surrounded by igneous rock on the north shore of Kauai. This glorified tidepool has claimed many lives and can be extremely unsafe depending on the conditions, like the tide, currents, weather – the usual offenders.

On my way towards this local wonder, I passed by one of the neighbor’s homes. Later I would learn her name to be Hanae, a Japanese woman who had been born in Queen’s Bath (that’s what she says, and I have no reason to believe otherwise). She asked me where I was from, where I was staying, if I liked the island, etc. She also preemptively offered me her water hose should I need to wash off following my “hike” of Queen’s Bath.

“Danger” sign on the Queen’s Bath hike.

At this point, I had no intention of hiking. Honestly I just wanted to take a few pictures from the cliff and call it a day. I had braved Ho’opi Falls the day before, which culminated in a flash flood warning and buckets of angel tears falling from the sky. I wasn’t looking for another clay-clad adventure.

Once I came upon the trailhead, I noticed about half a dozen people making their way past the gated entryway (an obvious indication of dangerous conditions) towards an opening in the chainlinks that opened into an alternative clearing towards the trail.

Curious as I was, I peeked around the path and started making my way down amongst a group of likeminded bath seekers.

Before I knew it, I was wading through clay puddles the size of farm-style kitchen sinks and sliding across tree roots that acted as misshapen staircases like one might find in a haunted house. What most websites say takes 25 minutes to reach, took me about 45 minutes, given these somewhat ominous conditions. (See my post for general tips and tricks for not-so-seasoned hikers on how to navigate such conditions.)

Me and the waterfall I concluded the first half of my Queen’s Bath hike with.

Once I got to the waterfall before the decent over the cliffs that border the ocean, I stopped. For one thing, I saw the Bath from where I stood, and didn’t feel compelled to attempt a swim given the conditions. It was also 10:30 a.m. and checkout was at 11 a.m.

As with most hikes, my return journey was much faster, and mostly uphill, which I also find easier on the legs (though maybe harder on the lungs). I wish I had my walking stick.

I passed Hanae’s home again. She had migrated to a different side of her yard, pulling unwelcome weeds in her garden. She looked at me and laughed.

She again offered me her water hose and helped me wash off the red clay from the backside and tank top, which I had used as a towel to wipe the sweat from my dripping brow. I learned her family had lived in Gardena, CA for a time, since there were no jobs in Kauai for a time. She bought her current home for $50,000, where she lives by herself as her husband has passed. She chose a lot away from the coastline, she says, because she is afraid of the tsunamis.

Gifts from Hanae: two oranges and a branch of plumeria flowers

Hanae is in her early 80s. She offered me oranges from her orange tree, which naturally were the best oranges I’ve ever had. When she put them in my hands she commented, “You have very small hands. Always carry a bag with you in case someone wants to give you money.” Sage life advice.

She had a ginormous plumeria tree in her yard, too. My mom has a plumeria garden, too, of at least twenty varieties. I asked if I could take a flower that had fallen to the ground. She pulled off a whole branch and handed it to me. With my oranges and plumerias in tow, I hustled home to the hotel.

Later that day, I would offer those plumerias to the sea, on the north shore Kauai at a beach called Anini, in celebration of my recently deceased dad’s birthday. He would have been 81 years old.

A ceremonial salute on my dad’s birthday, the first one I celebrated without him next with me.

There are many things about this day I will not forget.

I will not forget the kindness of Hanae, the gentle woman who offered what she could give to a perfect stranger.

I will not forget the taste of her oranges, or the smell of her plumerias, that sweetly lifted my spirits.

I will not forget the safety I felt, traipsing down that trail, without fear or hesitation.

I will not forget the poetry of it all, in celebration of my dearly departed dad, in honor of his support and wisdom.

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