We Made It

Our first night on Kauai


May 28, 2018 Apple iPhone 7 • ISO 400 • f1.8 • 1/4 sec • 4.0 mm

I took this picture with my phone when we arrived on Kauai, very late, after a day-long journey that the kids handled like absolute pros. It was our first-ever trip to the island and we’d been planning for months, and I was thrilled to have made it there, at last.

It was a blustery night, though, and on the drive in from the airport, I was struck by the near-total absence of light on the island, aside from the little bit of it cast by the stars and the moon; as we wound through two-lane roads, flanked by tall grass and trees but otherwise totally alone, we saw nothing but layers of darkness vanishing into the distance, the mountains and palms like flat shapes against the sky.

There was also the weather. This was some serious wind (at least by my standards), and combined with the darkness, the bending tree trunks and the looming mountains, you got a very real sense of how wild and remote this place still was; it was a tourist destination, yes, but at night, it sure didn’t feel like one. What it did feel like was a massive rock in the center of the ocean that had somehow survived millions of years of relentless storm and upheaval — and it really couldn’t be bothered one way or another about you.

But the fragrance of this place — that was what got me. With all that wind, the scents were really swirling: of the sea over the hills, the clean air, the grasses, the flowers (the flowers!), the soil — all of it. In a place so well known for its ridiculous visual beauty, it’d be easy to miss how it smells — but when there isn’t any light to illuminate that beauty, you just about can’t. Maybe that was the island’s way of greeting us with an aloha after all.