Yesterday in the kitchen I snatched a kiss from my wife. At that moment I felt like kissing her. Not wanting to lose the moment, I came up behind her, put my arms around her waist, leaned over and as she turned I kissed her gently. It was a beautiful spontaneous moment between the rice and the salad. The other day, I watched a Yellow-Fronted Canary take a brief bath in my daughter’s little plastic pool. On my way out of the house I went to put a cup away in the sink. Glancing out the window I saw the bird land on the slide. They are such a pretty creature so I stopped to watch. With a quick movement it hopped down into a tiny pool of water, dipped in headfirst twice, shook vigorously from head to tail, made a splendid little splash, then darted away. That was also a beautiful spontaneous moment. The essence of a stolen kiss and the sight of a rushed birdbath are brief moments of joy that make living enjoyable. If we learn to watch for them, life provides us with endless opportunities to steal moments of joy.
Some of my favorite moments are in-the-car encounters that happen regularly: being rained on intently for a hundred yards then, in an instant, return back to sunshine; a furtive fragrance of plumeria amidst an airport pickup; an Io gliding past the windshield; a brilliant rainbow across the Waimea plains; Black Francolins racing across Queen Kaahumanu; the slow-down-through-town-Monkeypod-shady ambience of Highway 11 through Naalehu; the view coming down the long hill of the crashing ocean at the Whittington Beach Park pier ruins; the last-second-as-you-pass view of a Kaupulehu donkey waiting to cross the road; glimpses of hoary bats in your headlights in South Kona; the cacophony of Myna’s roosting at sunset as you pass the Banyon tree at Hulihee Palace; the waterfalls of Hamakua; the smile and hand wave of a courteous driver’s invitation to go ahead; the clear day view of steaming Puu Oo vent as you pass Hirano Store on the way to Volcano; the “Caution: Overhead Artillery” signs on Saddle Road are always a humorous read. These are all driving moments that I experience often and that make driving on the Big Island a joy.
There are, of course, many experiences that are unique and will never be repeated. These are the ones that you tell people about. What are the chances that a hump-backed whale will swim right underneath my kayak ever again? Will I ever happen upon a Parker Ranch cow in the middle of Keanakolu road pushing out a newborn calf? I once spotted an African dung beetle in the road (we were going slow) rolling a dung ball along just like on the Nature Channel. I got all my guests out of the car to watch the process. They loved it. One day in the forest an Io landed in a small ohia-lehua four feet from my head. I’ll probably never see another northern harrier, a raptor from North America far from home, flying low over the grasslands of Kaohe. That species has only been seen three times in Hawaii. Luckily I had a carload of birdwatchers with me as witnesses. I would love to experience the surreal “moonbow” that was once reflected in the Humuulu fog from the brightness of a new full moon. I know for sure I won’t live long enough to view another total eclipse of the sun. One of the more comical memories is of a tiny baby gecko who began the process of swallowing a large winged ant that was not much smaller than the gecko. After a brief struggle the gecko finally gave up and the ant crawled out of its would be predators mouth.
Because of my job as a nature guide, I probably get more than my fair share of unique moments. But we all share common encounters that oftentimes are easily ignored and forgotten. Pets doing something cute; a sparrow flying around inside the grocery store; a beam of warm sunshine on a chilly morning; a cooling breeze passing through a hot house; the refreshing snack of a sweet, dripping with juice Kau orange; the smell of the beach; a late afternoon passionate downpour.
I expect these moments to come along. Especially when I’m out on the trail I have a strong feeling of anticipation-something has got to happen. The anticipation brings alertness. I look for both the familiar and the one-of-a-kind. And when they come the encounters make me happy. I’m always surprised and startled when a long scary centipede comes racing across the bedroom floor. And I always smile when my wife demands in no uncertain terms that I get rid of it right away. We all experience these short dramas in life; we should cherish them.
One thing I love about Kona is the sunsets. They are always different and often spectacular. But even more impressive to me is the attention the sinking sun demands from those with a view of the horizon. People stop what they are doing to watch the sun go down. And that itself is a beautiful act. Everyday events happen to all of us. Nature lays out little moments of surprise, delight, beauty and wonder. It is up to us to be diligent, watchful, and expectant. It is up to us to snatch those moments and steal them away as our own private sunsets. It’s a lifetime of stolen moments that make a happy life.