Letters — The Silence Of 59

Dear editor:

For those who are more accustomed to the temperate world, the notion of winter in Hawaii may seem like something inconsequential, as its warmth and sunshine surely pales in comparison to northern winters – filled with nothing but seemingly-endless, frozen nights,bone-chilling winds, and countless hours of shoveling snow just to get the car out of the driveway.  There may not be four seasons here, but there are two (“hot” and “wet” in the Hawaiian reckoning) and although these seasonal differences are subtle, they are present nonetheless.

In the lowlands of Hawaii, just a few times each wet season, there will be some clear nights – with no blanket of clouds to warm us – and the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is when something magical happens.  The invasive Coqui frogs (pronounced “kó-kee”) that are normally so loud throughout the night are suddenly silent – the two-tone, incessant mating call of the male frogs simply vanishes.  Apparently, the rare chill puts a damper on their habitual nighttime plans for romance.  After hearing, “Ko-kee! Ko-kee!” every night, their silence is a welcome reprieve.  I have always imagined them screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!”, or perhaps the letters pee and iabove might be replaced with a few other choice letters – ones that more aptly describe their natural urges.

For me, winter has always been a time of quiet reflection, and on those rare tropical nights, I am instantly taken back to the serene and snow-hushed winter nights to which I was so accustomed.  If, by chance, one of these 59-or-less nights be lit by a full moon, I can almost imagine the moonlight as if it were a soft dusting of snow that covers even the coconut palms – while pulling up a blanket for once, instead of just a sheet.

I have always appreciated stillness and longed for more of it, amid the busyness of my life.  Could it be that the Coquis’ silence is there to remind me to take a pause from my usual pursuits, and take a deeper look and reflect upon my life?  Am I not always screaming, “I want! I want!”, when all I really need is to pause; take a breath; and recognize that everything I need is within me and all around me?  Maybe the cursed Coquis have a purpose to serve after all.

The morning comes, and I find myself once again weed whacking and forcing back the jungle, machete in hand, racing to beat the heat of the day, even in December – I am in awe at how a little tropical chill, and the gifts it brings with it, makes winter just as beautiful as italways was way up there in that land of ice – now so far away.

Jason Riessland

9. December 2013

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