More Birds and Blooms of Hawaii

The Campus

The campus of the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, I was told, was designed as a botanical garden. Many of the trees bear descriptions on small plaques at their bases, and I’m told that while there used to be guided tours of the campus, there is now an app for a self-guided tour.

Among the campus’s treasures is this enormous balboa tree (I’ve included a colleague for a sense of scale).

The big floppy blossoms of hibiscus were everywhere around Honolulu, of course.

And my Cornell University birdwatching app got a lot of exercise, too.

(I know, one of those is not a bird! It’s the biggest snail I’ve seen outside of Florida … fingertip for scale!)

The Beach

After classes were over for the day, I would walk down from the Mānoa campus with my colleague to our hotel in the Ala Moana neighborhood next to Waikiki. She often went in the evening over to the famous Waikiki beaches, but I was too exhausted after the long walk home. If I could drag myself out again, it would be to the closer, smaller, quieter beach at Ala Moana.

There were new kinds of birds there in the grassy park behind the beach.

The water here was shallow, as calm and warm as bathwater, the sand flawless. It was a nice place to relax at the end of the day. I watched families play, occasionally ran into other colleagues from the course I was taking at the university, and one evening an older man sat beside me weaving a hat from palm fronds as we watched the sun pinken and enliven the Western horizon.

The Airport

Due to some awkward scheduling, I got to the airport for my flight home ridiculously early, which left me lots of time to kill while waiting for my flight. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a problem. I like to be early, especially when timing is everything, but in these pandemic times….

I’m doing better than ever with the mask. I haven’t had a real threat of a panic attack in a few months, just a low-level nausea for as long as it’s on my face. By the end of this course of six-hour days in the classroom, I finally reached a point where sometimes intrusive thoughts of COVID and concerns about my classmates’ masking hygiene — occasionally — no longer interfered with my ability to learn. Every so often, the conversation in the room could actually manage to distract me from those intrusive thoughts.

Waiting at the airport without distraction was a different scenario, and humidity always makes my mask anxiety worse; it was an especially humid day.

Fortunately, after a few long moments, I realized that the Honolulu Airport is a mostly outdoor facility. There are a couple of beautiful Zen gardens with ponds full of big, fat koi, attracting shore- and land-birds into the heart of the airport. It turned out to be a beautiful wait.

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