Again, I find myself writing as we wing across the Pacific, this time eastward to the Southwest corner on the Saturday before you read this.
The week was a relief, a break, a needed respite from a charged world of responsibility, sadness, and the need to keep all the balls bouncing at the same time.
The “Garden Isle” of Kauai, HI, exceeded my expectations. I threw myself into most of it with abandon, most of it being golf, playing seven rounds in six days, even taking a day in the middle off from my madness. Maureen joined me on two rounds; I played one day by myself. My friend Pete Toennies and I played 36 holes on successive days.
This September trip to Kauai worked well. The summer crowd left as school began and summer vacation ended. The “snow birds,” so called in the Southwest corner have not yet descended on warmer climes as winter chills their primary residences up north. Crowds are sparser this time of year. Rates seem to be a little better but opportunities are definitely wider.
The timing allowed Pete and I to play two rounds of golf in five hours twice. The club pro at Kiahuna remarked as we finished our last round, “You guys play 36 holes faster than most people play 18.”
I wondered about that comment later. I am not a particularly good golfer, but I am enthusiastic, and I do play fast. This is even stranger in that I will be four score and ten years in four months.
I seem to be just a little bit different.
Perhaps that difference and recent changes in our family made me contemplate history.
Kauai and Hawaii, the big island, are the two islands which seemed to have retained the culture of the original inhabitants, the Samoans and Fiji’s who traveled northeast over the tortuous and unforgiving Pacific in boats we wouldn’t allow on a peaceful stream nowadays, truly using the stars to navigate by, claimed these islands as their own.
As I sat in the shade with Maureen near Poipu Beach on my day off, I watched surfers, snorkelers, and recreational swimmers dominate the ocean scene, sharing the surf and the beach with 300-pound ocean turtles and seals, I kept wondering what it was like when the natives came out of the thick foliage to fish and claim shellfish for dinner.
It struck me what the land has become is frivolous, tourist oriented, service jobs. Folks pursuing their passions like surfing or living a bohemian beach life when their predecessors would have been foraging and hunting for sustenance in the 19th century. We have made many strides in progress, but I am not sure all of those strides were in the right direction.
This kind of thought often strikes me in San Diego.
My friend from Vanderbilt days, Alan Hicks, and I often discuss what San Diego and Los Angeles were like when Richard Henry Dana plied the California coastline on sailing ships in 1834 through 1836, producing the smash best seller Two Years before the Mast. We argue about where the shoreline might have been in San Diego, Long Beach, and LA 180 years ago. We try to imagine San Diego with a populace of 200 and San Francisco with a lone cabin.
Each time I visit my home town, I wonder what it was like when my forebears settled in Wilson County.
My father’s family moved down from Kentucky in the early 1800s after coming over the Cumberland Gap and traversing the Wilderness Road into Southern Kentucky with Daniel Boone. Originally, they settled in Statesville.
When my great uncle, Wynn Prichard, began farming his land on what is now the corner of Blair Lane and Hickory Ridge Road, the land, bequeathed to him by John Knibb Wynn, evoked the image of ancient farmland. That ancestor had received a grant for his service in the Revolutionary War. Wynn became friends with Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston.
I do not go through the square and up East Main without wondering how life was when Houston ran his law practice out of a cabin about one-third of a block from the square towards College.
And I hope Lebanon and its citizens have taken more strides in the right direction of progress than the tourist chasers of the Sandwich Islands.
Jim Jewell is a writer and retired Navy commander living in San Diego and working for Pacific Tugboat Service. He was the director Navy’s West Coast leadership training and has been an consultant in executive coaching, teambuilding and organizational development. Jim still calls Lebanon his home.