Writer Joan Namkoong left the city of Honolulu for the cool, green vistas of Waimea on the Big Island.

Morning mists in a country town

Except for my teen years in Kailua, Oahu, I’d lived in Honolulu all my life, over half a century. City life has always been my cup of tea. But two years ago, I became enamored with thoughts of a quieter lifestyle, greener vistas, a cooler climate. I moved to Waimea on the Big Island, my newfound paradise.

Waimea, also known as Kamuela, is by no means a sleepy country town. It boasts housing developments, two shop- ping centers, each with a supermarket, a hardware store, more than a dozen restaurants, a post office and a hospital— everything one needs for daily life. There’s even traffic, both a morning and evening hour on the two-lane road that winds through town, connecting east and west Hawaii.

Waimea is a hub of activity, but on a much smaller scale than Honolulu. There’s still plenty of wide-open space here, mostly green when there isn’t a drought, and a rural lifestyle that’s laid back and comforting.

Then there’s the climate. When it’s 90 degrees in Honolulu, it might hit 80 here. Mornings are always in the 60s, cool enough that you need a jacket for an early morning walk. Ki puu puu, the chilly, misty wind of Waimea, can blow gently. Or it can gust through the eucalyptus and cedar trees that are everywhere in town.

When the mist gives way to sunshine, Waimea is spectacular: green hills and plains against cornflower blue skies, with majestic Mauna Kea dominating over the town, tele- scopes clearly outlined at the top.

As the sun begins its descent in the evening, the Parker Ranch plain below Mauna Kea changes from greens to grays to pinks and oranges. Sometimes a rainbow hovers over the puu (hills) as the evening mist comes to visit. Sometimes Mauna Kea’s white telescopes are tinged with the sun’s pink rays.

Especially in the winter months, the evenings are perfect for lighting the fireplace and enjoying a hot bowl of soup or stew. Star gazing is spectacular here, as is the glow of light from a full moon. The vistas constantly change.

On misty mornings, it’s fun to bundle up and walk around my neighborhood, bordered by green pasture occupied by grazing cattle. One morning, from my backyard, the louder than usual braying of cattle made me look up to see two paniolo (cowboys) on horseback, rounding up the herd, a glorious sight few people get to see.

Just in case a rainy period has lingered too long, I can drive five minutes down the road toward Kawaihae where it’s warm and dry. If I need a Borders or Longs, I can drive to Hilo or Kona through dramatically different terrain and climates. And yes, there are a multitude of roads off the main highway for exploring green vistas and valleys, farm and ranch lands that are beautiful to behold.

Best of all about Waimea are the people who live here, friendly, warm and equally enamored with the simple, laidback lifestyle. We all want it to stay this way, hoping that we can keep our corner of paradise from growing too much as others discover its charm and beauty.

 

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