Wednesday, March 12, 2014

La passeggietta

In Italy, la passeggiata is a time-honored tradition -- a moment in the early evening, before dinner, when entire towns and neighborhoods turn out for a leisurely stroll around a favorite piazza. Old friendships are renewed, new romances revealed, community re-forged under the waning light of another work day.

Maui is not to be out done. It has its own de facto passeggiata -- except it's in the morning and typically involves iPods,  electronic step counters, day-glo sports bras and paper cups full of venti-iced-skinny-hazelnut-macchiatos-sugar-free-syrup-extra-shot-light-ice-no-whip. (HuffPost gets the assist on this one since I can barely get out "Americano black" when under the influence of Starbucks.)

And, oh, I'd wager most of us are on vacation instead of just getting off work. (There IS a difference, you know.) Here are a few of my favorite Maui-style passeggiettas:

Along the Kapalua coastal trail, you can scramble across lunar-inspired lava formations while keeping an eye out for whales. . .

Or watch death-defying family portraits. . .

A moment after the photo was taken, the family was washed out to sea.

Not really. Just the photographers.

Or, let's face it, you can just enjoy how freakin' beautiful it is.

A walk along the Kaanapali beaches allows you a glimpse into West Maui resort life. It appears to involve swans.

And flamingos.

And a Hobbit.

But I think my favorite was. . . well, I'm not sure it had an "official" name so let's give it one: The Kind-of-in-between-Lahaina-and-Kaanapali-Passeggieta. Running parallel to the Honoapiilani Highway, this paved pathway right up against the water captures pieces of everyday life along the Maui coast -- say, like

fishing. . .

rowing. . .

and cemeteries. . .

That's right. Cemeteries.

Maui has a thing for tucking away cemeteries in some of the most surprising places around the island. This one, Hanakao'o Cemetery, is plunked down next to a parking lot, small park and the main highway. It's an immigrant cemetery, primarily Japanese, I think -- a silent monument, rising in weeds and red dirt, to men, women and families who came to paradise from Japan -- and China, the Philippines, Korea and Europe -- to work in Maui's sugar cane and pineapple fields starting in the mid-1800s. The "newest" head stone I saw at Hanakao'o was dated 1941.

The sugar cane and pineapples are largely gone now, but the cemeteries remain. A visit to Professor Google, and I discover there's very little history about them. And I find this a bit bittersweet.Until we wander through the cemetery.

Although Hanakao'o appears to be largely abandoned, we find small remembrances from families here and there: A fresh saucer of sake, a tangle of leis and, on occasion, potted plants left reverently at a beloved ancestor's grave.

And so I take heart. Someone still remembers Hanakao'o.

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