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Islands of LoveSeptember 4, 2014
In the past few week, I have sailed across the skies above the Pacific, and landed in a place so far in every way from these islands that it has awakened in me an acute awareness of the gifts of life in Paradise. My husband and I flew to Las Vegas to visit his mom and other family members. Only a couple of days before we left, I was floating in the sparkling, chrystal waters of the lagoon surrounded by fish of gold, luminous blue, yellows and greens. Soon, I was a world away in the midst of constant blinking neon lights and the discordant beeps of many machines. Las Vegas in Spanish means the meadows, or the fields. There don't seem to be any left in this burgeoning town of apartments, stores, and huge paved parking lots. On our islands, when we see a crowd of cars, it means there is a dance, a choral presentation, or some cultural celebration inside a community hall or a church.
The rush of traffic, the hurry of people's lives is stunningly disorienting. Plus the fact that they drive on the wrong side of the road! The first time a friend drove me into lanes of traffic, I gasped at the fact that she drove right into the right lane. And where are the hugs and kisses we encounter every time we do our rounds on the island? By day 2, I started feeling skin deprived. I was like a koala clinging to a tree with my poor husband. My mother and sister in law must have wondered why I had become so huggy. As I stood at the KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) place awaiting our bucket order, a man was literally pacing and finally yelled at the poor front counter fellow, "Where's my order?" When he was told it would be 20 minutes before the non-extra-crispy breast would be ready, he bellowed loudly and angrily, demanding his money back, and bustled out. By the time he drove to another fast food place, and ordered, it would be at least twenty minutes. Where was the patient banter, the relaxed patience of waiting in line at a neighborhood shop? That's one of the ways we visit in our islands, standing in line kidding around, sharing tidbits of news, and yes, getting more hugs and kisses.
Freezing in the air conditioning, always a bit too high to thwart the 105 fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) temperature outside, it doesn't feel good outside or in, and there are no open windows in the monolith hotel where we are staying. I feel claustrophobic, and desperately miss the ocean breezes and swaying palms, the sweet air we breathe. I am used to deep breaths. Here I'm holding my breath.
The intimacy of friendships in our islands, where people take time to visit, to sit around on the deck or in the yard, sharing homemade lemonade or a cuppa or a beer, is utterly missing, except with old friends. Fortunately, I moved on from Vegas to a lake house in Washington State which I shared with a circle of women who have met every summer for 20 years. This is more like it. I am more aware than ever of the need in our cities and neighborhoods to create islands of intimacy and friendship, safe havens for the lonely of any age. Reaching out to touch the lives of others is central to our purpose in life -- to love and to serve. Smiles are free but they are priceless, and just might light up the day for someone greatly in need of a kind connection.
This trip has deepened my gratitude for the graceful pace, the gentle touches, the shared humour, the learned patience, the closeness and joy in relationships which blossom in a small community, for these are a true foretaste of Paradise.