I hope this finds you and your family safe and reasonably “happy” in these troubled times. Holiday Season is upon us and I don’t think any of us has an idea of what the Holidays will look like this year. Speaking for my own family: For over 40 years Christmas afternoon and evening has been the one time each year that cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents and children all get together for a few hours. Will that happen this year?
For Kauai in general, Holiday Season has long been a peak time for tourism. Many businesses, large and small, rely on this season for achieving their revenue goals. These goals are already in shatters, from the drastic visitor drop-off for over 6 months and counting. Is there any hope that Holiday Season will help get some businesses going again? We have all enjoyed the traffic drop-off on our roadways. This has, however, come at a terrible cost, on many levels. Will Kauai be able to develop an economy that is not as tourism-based as pre-covid?
Another positive of the drastic tourism drop-off has been a sharp drop in drownings in 2020. The only other year we have enjoyed such a drop off was the year after Iniki, again a period in which we weren’t able to host visitors. Since I myself have tried for decades to bring about fewer drownings on Kauai (and my ER job has shown me over and over the crushing effect of these drownings), one might think my overall mood is improved. But, other rough conditions we see in the ER have to do with stress, anxiety/depression, inability to purchase necessary medications, eating poorly, being houseless — and these conditions have not eased. In fact quite the opposite. So, like everyone else, I very much struggle with my mood and even if I’m having a good day, in the back of my mind I know that there are many others who aren’t. So any good day is tempered, and that many be the one thing that is normal these days.
Regarding ocean safety, which is supposed to be the main focus of my quarterly piece in Kauai Family Magazine: No matter how it works out with visitors, we residents need to remember that Holiday Season = winter swells season. As I’m sure you know, these swells are often spawned by hurricane conditions far North in the Bering Sea. The swells take 4-5 days to make their way to our shores and we might ourselves be enjoying gorgeous weather this entire time, including when the swells hit. Those of us who aren’t Big Wave surfers know to not venture into our waters during the huge swell conditions. But even relatively small swells serve to create dangerous shorebreak conditions, dangerous waves-on-rocks conditions, and dangerous rip current conditions. 75% of our drowning victims are visitors, who are often not familiar with these conditions. But 25% are residents. So please be careful — in the water, and of course with your pandemic prevention measures. (Masks, social distancing, hand and surface washing, etc.)
A final comment: It’s sad, very sad, that we have to be so careful about things we love (i.e. the ocean and what it holds) and around people we love and enjoy. Can’t shake hands?? Can’t see each others’ smile?? Can’t give a hug, be it short or long?? Can’t visit our friends and relatives who might be in the hospital, or even sick in their own homes?? There’s a line in “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” that goes “I saw Satan laughing with delight.” Sometimes it seems that this is what’s happening.
You’ll notice that I asked a lot of questions in this piece, and I gave very few answers. Another famous song line goes “The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” Not sure just what that means but I’m good with the line. Readers, please take care of yourselves, physically and mentally. A young poet once wrote, while working through the despair brought about by double amputations, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”Easier said than done, but we can do it.