It's a quiet morning in Maui's south shore beach town. The tall coconut palms are stationary against the sky. The sea off Kalama Park is flat. On the horizon, there's a gathering of tour boats. Whales at play? Probably. Check for critters closer at hand. Early-morning light coming in from the side should make it easy to spot honu heads. Not this morning. No green sea turtles in sight. The only nearby critter is drinking coffee from Starbucks.
On the other side of and below the top of a naupaka hedge sits a fisherman. Or, at least he has a line in the water. Some need an excuse to sit and watch the water. Last night, the sea thumped against the seawall. The whole point of the naupaka is to keep the spray at bay. This morning, the fisherman is in no danger of getting splashed. There are waves, but they are breaking on the outside reef off Cove Park.
Where once you might have seen tourist kayakers, maybe a free diver or a wishful surfer, there is a line up of upright individuals dipping long-handled paddles. Sets of waves are sliding in through Kealaikahiki Channel. They aren't much, maybe 3 feet at the face, but they are nicely formed and long. One surfer reads the ocean well.
Sunlight flashes off the wet paddle blade. The surfer digs hard. He drops in at just the right spot. The right-left break uncurls for yards, lasting maybe a minute or more. The surfer raises his paddle over his head. It's too far away to see his grin. Others in the lineup do less well, but get some rides. The tankers used by stand-up paddlers don't need much of a wave to get going.
Tourists and residents are making good use of the concrete sidewalk that wiggles through the park. A couple strolls by. Each has a Starbucks in hand. A clutch of women come along. The couple appeared to be enjoying the scenery and the sea-scented air. The women are exercising. Arms pump. Knees come up. Eyes intent on some weight-loss goal. Even so, they seem to be having a better time of it than if they were on gym machines.
An older man with a tiny dog appears at the far end of the sidewalk. The toy terrier is well trained. It walks about a foot away from its master's left foot. Man and dog pause to let a young woman on a bicycle pedal by. Man decides to leave the concrete. The dog becomes animated.
The man looks across the empty grass behind the tennis courts. He has a curved, stick-like thing in his right hand. He sweeps his arm upward. The knob on the end of the stick flies into the sky. The dog takes off, tracking the ball. It hits the ground once with an audible plop. The dog snags the ball in midair and turns tail. His short legs are a blur.
The dog drops the ball at the man's feet. The man digs into a pocket of his shorts and gives the dog some sort of treat. That's followed by pats on the dog's side and head. The man cups his friend's chin. It's too far away to hear the words. The man touches the ball with his curved stick. The ball becomes a knob. The dog becomes animated.
Up sweeps the arm. The knob soars. The dog scampers. The ball is caught on a second bounce. The tiny terrier races back for a repeat of a treat and pats. There's a ritualistic aspect to the scene. A practice session? If so, the dog has the man well trained.
Two blocks away, cars, trucks, mopeds and bicycles fill South Kihei Road. The morning rush hour, a time when many are in a rush but no one goes very fast, is long since over. It's easy to see moped riders in the distance. Women sit upright, backs straight, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, feet together. Men slouch, backs curved forward, legs sprawled, toes often pointed outboard.
Back home, up on the mountain, the Kaheawa wind turbines have returned to their toothpick size. On the coast, they seemed huge. The house remains chilled from the mountain night. The angle of the light, the temperature and the taste of the air is familiar, easily unnoticed.
Maui has many micro environments, each with its particular charm and grace. Or, maybe lack of it. It just takes looking to experience them. There's the urban, the country town, the suburban, exurban and the natural. It's easy to get caught up in the home-work-home of day-to-day. Think about the dog chasing the ball for a pat and a treat.
Why should tourists have all the fun?
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.