The conditions are good.  Sun is shining.  Clouds float effortlessly over the greenest, most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen.  Waves beat rhythmically as they roll onto shore.  Breeze blows through all the lush greenery and everything slow dances to the song of the ocean.  Call it perfect, these conditions.  I ought to produce a lovely little piece with this landscape to inspire.  But I’m discovering an unexpected and strange revelation:  it’s possible to be pissed in paradise.  A hammer bangs and bangs and bangs, disrupting what is supposed to be my peaceful moment.  Construction on the house next door also happens to happen in paradise.

We arrive on the island of Kaua’i, exhausted and dirty, wearing clothes donned two days previous, but nevertheless full of hope for another magical stay- what was in store for us this time?  My husband, daughter and I visit family every year on Hawaii’s Garden Isle, and are always surprised by the many wonders this island offers.  Last year, it was an impromptu paddle out to see the dolphins.  They swam into the bay, at least fifty or so, and we charged down the mountain and out into the water on stand-up paddle boards, hoping just to see a fin or two.  These hospitable dolphins surrounded us — it was more than we dared to imagine.  They shared their home with us that day, happy to swim underneath and all around us, giving us our own Sea World show out in the clear blue Pacific Ocean.  Mommas, Daddies and baby dolphins, whose clicking sounds we could hear beneath the surface of the water, must have been chatting about their visitors, creatures on big boards.  It was extraordinary!  But this kind of thing is typical here.

The landscapes on Kaua’i are the stuff of fairy tales.  With mountains that look like dragons and giants, meandering rivers, and waterfalls big and small, one is drawn to nestle in with nature, whether it’s hiking, surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, ziplining, horseback riding or meditating in the most serene spot. This place is crazy beautiful! So crazy beautiful that it might fool you into believing that life here forever flows as easily as the water over the rocks in the river.

Startling as it is, though, people get sick in Kaua’i, and life doesn’t always go how we want it, even here, even when you wake up to a glorious vista where mountains meet the sea.  It was the flu that was in store for us, not the perfect waves and the solitary hiking we’d expected. On the third day here, we are as sick as we’ve ever been, and as mentioned, pretty pissed about it, because the epic surf and hikes are waiting as we sit humbly inside the house (with the banging outside our windows).  I’m particularly cranky, even as I start to kick the sickness, because I’ve had no time to myself and my daughter requests what feels like an immense amount of patience.

I steal moments of solitude here and there, but the banging continues, both in my head and next door.  Anytime I fight what’s happening, the results are not good. Slowly, though, the moments open up and I receive the reminder I needed- I cannot control the river, I cannot keep it flowing perfectly, no matter how much I plan.  Life isn’t always water over rocks. Mother Ocean may offer magnificent barrels for waves, but to reach them, we have to get tossed around a bit.  Sometimes we’ve got to get shaken up in order to make it out to the bigger unknown awaiting us.

My attitude shifts to a new place with a new revelation that this trip has solidified.  I haven’t missed out on anything.  I don’t have to be in paradise to be alive.  I can have the same experience in my own backyard watching the African Irises open and the crape myrtle sprout leaves.  It’s not so much where I am, but how awake I am to whatever my surroundings may be.