Aloha and Mahalo

April 13th, 2011

Oahu, driving along the north east shore.

This is the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world–
ought to take dead men out of grave.

Mark Twain in Hawaii

As usual, Mark Twain is correct.
Hawaii does have magnificent, balmy sea breezes which rustle through the palm fronds and froth the translucent waves. I had never been to these islands before, but I can’t say that anymore. I’ve just returned from a fine vacation there visiting my son. It was ever-so kind of him to relocate there.

What kind of mom would I be if I didn’t go visit?

We split the time between Oahu where he lives, and Hawaii, the big Island where I’ll be teaching workshops in November and January.

Snorkeling on the Big Island. Clouds, color and reflection.

My focus there was on family, and on exploration: absorbing every image, every aroma, every sound. Learning as much as I could about where I was. We hiked, snorkeled, swam, lolled about, took a ton of photos, visited Honolulu’s Chinatown on First Friday, browsed through many galleries, watched street performers, shopped, etc. We ate interesting, great foods and heard wonderful music. I even did a little plein air painting.

Just after painting this little watercolor a turtle swam up onto the rocks just below where I was perched. He crawled into the sun and napped for a bit.

Humuhumunukunuku apua’a otherwise known as Picasso Triggerfish

We swam with turtles. Went nose to nose with dazzling Moorish Idols, ludicrously colorful Picasso Triggerfish… bright schools of other unnamed, vividly colored creatures. Underneath the shimmering waters we entered another realm of complex life.

Moorish Idol Zanclus cornutus (“Crowned Scythe”)

Sometimes the water visibility became oddly rippled due to significant changes in the water temperature from volcanic steam vents. Nothing dangerous or even uncomfortable, but quite fascinating.

How to respond to this overload of new imagery? It was a gluttonous feast of sensuous input affecting all of the senses: sight, sound, hearing, scent and touch. And a bit of that sixth sense too- the wonder and joy of discovery. A sense of connection with the natural world.

I responded the same way I have for so many years… Attempting to interpret and record what I see before me in my journal. Sketching and painting with my handy-dandy, little traveling paint set. All the while snapping tons of photos for more detailed response in the studio later. This wasn’t a plein air trip, but I did managed to squeeze just a little bit in.

Thomas A. Jagger’s traveling paint kit in the Jagger Museum at Volcano National Parkscent and touch…

One day we took a long drive from Kona to the eastern end of the big island: Hawaii. Our destination was Volcano National Park. The park itself is astonishing, even shrouded in thick mist as it was the day we visited. It was a quite serendipitous to see my tried and true methods validated and on display when we visited the Thomas A. Jagger Museum there.


Jagger was the vulcanologist who founded and directed the park, a Harvard grad who became the director of MIT’s Geology Department in 1906. What did he carry along on his explorations? A portable paint kit with which to record what he observed, much like the mini set in the pack I had on my back that day.

I’m quite excited about the opportunity to share further explorations with a group of artists next winter for Hamakua Retreats!

C’mon along!

4 Responses to “Aloha and Mahalo”

  1. lizamyers says:

    Aloha means Hello, goodbye and love… Mahalo means thank you.

  2. Wendy says:

    I am so glad you had a great time! Funny cause I was in Honolulu the same time as you were and I was gallery hopping first Friday’s too as it was my birthday. ๐Ÿ™‚ We could have brushed shoulders like you said. I love your quick study of your bird sketch. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Wild Cherry says:

    Fabulous-sounding trip, Liza! I think you deserved a break after all you’ve done lately ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Love the sketches!

    I always carry a mini journal kit and a camera when I travel to interesting places ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. lizamyers says:

    A birder’s life list records how many different species a bird watcher has seen. I don’t actually keep one, though I do write in my many bird books recording where I first saw a species, and sometimes subsequent sitings. Having lived in Central and South America as a child though there are MANY species that are familiar to me that I never recorded. Jabiru storks, chololo, and brazilian cardinals are old friends, as normal as chickadee s (whether northern or mountain chickadees) or cardinals (either northern or Pyrrhuloxia.)