My home in Oahu’s North shore town of Haleiwa was a 2 bedroom ‘shotgun’ plantation wood structure left over from the 1940’s. It sat on a raised level just across the towns only 7-11 store on Kamehameha Highway. My backyard overlooked the pineapple fields and the massive mountain range that shoots out to Kaena Point, the most westerly tip of O’ahu.
While in Hawai’i, I worked as a life skills trainer to a young, feral girl on the autism spectrum. On my time off, I would explore the island, surf, join bonfires on the beach and race through the pineapple fields. There was always talk of protecting the North Shore’s natural environment and warding off big development was very important to the people of the town. Everyone liked the way things where.
My neighbor, originally from Oregon, was an exceptional Mormon surfer guy who use to go out at midnight off Sunset Beach with a spear and long flippers to fish all alone. I was amazed he stayed alive. A jack-of-all-trades, he would spend countless hours fixing his cars and inviting me to learn how to fix Volvo car engines.
He managed to convince me to begin training with him on the island, primarily running. Running is something I did all my life with my Dad every morning. I accepted my neighbors challenge and we began training by following the directions in the training manual crafted by the famous Oregon coach who invented the first Nike shoe with a waffle-treaded sole. The coach went on to train champion-sprinter, Steve Prefontaine.
We would begin each week with five mile runs, then eight to nine mile runs, and move on to fast-paced twelve mile runs. Fast-jogging in O’ahu is breathtaking. The scenery is exotic and the land begs to be traversed. Everything is so open as opposed to the car culture we have on the U.S. mainland where roads and highways take precedent.
When one is running long distances, as in more than ten miles, the mind begins to question the purpose of driving the body to keep going. If you can master those thoughts, peace of mind enters and the body soon finds equilibrium, the heart finds its pace and the running becomes a more mental matter focused on lessening physical impact and harboring energy. It becomes all about the efficiency of each strut.
Being efficient with each physical movement while running was a science unto itself. My neighbor taught me out of the manual to hardly lift my knees when running to avoid impact strain on the ankles, knees and hips, thus prolonging the ability to go farther longer. I also learned to move forward with my thighs and lower body, rather than expend energy through movement on my upper body. In effect, the upper body was more of a calm, resting zone, whereas the lower body would ‘pull’ me forward. Being mindful in keeping this harmony was important. This kind of running is very different from all-out sprinting where the arms open up like wings and the torso becomes very active along with the whole body. Long-distance running is actually meditative. The time spent moving coupled with the slower pace welcomes reflection and thought in the mind giving a therapeutic effect to the whole matter.
My time and movement in Hawai’i gave me a deeper appreciation of protecting nature. The constant sea-turtles bobbing their heads out of the water as one surfed, the adventures through the jungles to far-flung waterfalls and knowing I had the ability to drive out and be in nature was better than gold in the bank. I can’t eat the gold, but I can soak in the sound of water breaking on sand, the feel of the breeze on my body and behold the gentle picture of paradise, unspoiled by ‘development.’
I visited all major Hawaiian islands and have a special love for O’ahu. It is a natural playground with a community that is big on ‘ohana,’ which means family. The ‘aloha’ spirit is humble, positive and welcoming, reverberating across the land and giving one the sense of being home. Being a steward of the land and treating each other like family, as in loving one another is central to Hawaiian culture and in-line with the bedrock principles that make the United States of America the ‘greatest country on earth.’ To that end, be it running countless miles, surfing the ‘seven-mile miracle,’ biking through pineapple fields or hiking through jungles and mountains I learned that some things are worth keeping, such as the natural wonders that God has given us. Protecting nature is part an American tradition started by the likes of citizens like John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Marjorie Stonemason Douglas and President Barack Obama. Our landscape is part of our heritage and doing our part to keep it as pristine as possible is our God-given duty.