As Maui cycles through the year, I can feel as the island breathes its way through the ebb and flow of visitors. There are deep intakes of breath as the island fills up during the seasonal holidays, and then exhales as visitors leave and Maui quietens down during those in between times when kids are back at school.
Right now it feels as though the island has taken a huge exhale. So many people have left in the wake of the fires that ripped through communities here two weeks ago. The roads are quieter, towns are quieter. Around the airport sit fields of unwanted rental cars, bringing back memories of COVID when no one could visit Hawai’i. That is not the case now. Visitors can still come, the island is still open, just not as much of it as was the case a week and a half ago.
Usually an exhale means that Maui can rest a little bit. So much is asked of the ‘aina so that people can visit and enjoy themselves. I believe that Maui needs that rest.
I can feel the space when the crowds diminish. But this exhale, much larger than most, while it brings welcome psychological space for this quiet loving person, also holds awareness of the catastrophic fires from almost two weeks ago. Residents have lost homes, loved ones, businesses, history. A whole town has been destroyed, and let’s not forget the houses that have been lost Upcountry on the east side of the island. Fires are still in the process of being fully contained. While I am grateful to not have been effected by the fires directly, few here, if any have not been touched in some way by what has happened. It’s a community shock.
One morning recently I sat listening as a friend shared her mother’s experience. Her mother no longer has a home, it having been burnt to the ground. She has her life and her loved ones, but that place she called home and everything in it has gone. Another friend lost her house and for now has returned to family on the mainland. She plans on returning, but not yet. I find it all so hard to believe. And that sense of loss feels to me as though it pervades the island. At my men’s group last week we all spoke about how the fires have impacted us. This is a small island, a small community.
For me these images float as an omni presence throughout the day, regardless of what I am doing, regardless of where I am. Maui will continue to breathe. Breathing the grief that it holds, and breathing the future that will rise out of these ashes.