As I stepped off the plane, it was suddenly obvious – “THAT’s the reason they call it the Big Island!” I exclaimed to myself. Now, to be sure, I’d always had an inkling that part of the reason for the nickname had to do with the island’s purported superiority over its neighbors, in terms of square miles; a brief glance at any globe or world map would confirm that fact most conveniently. But there had to be more than that, I’d always thought – maybe the island natives themselves are physically larger than their Oahuan or Mauian counterparts? Their waistlines certainly were. Or maybe it was their hearts, or their wallets … and what if a few days in paradise revealed these to be one and the same? It was easy to guess, harder to investigate; but that’s exactly what I’d come to do.
I stepped onto the temporary stairway that had been wheeled up to the plane by airport personnel. It was sturdy and stayed put, but never quite offered the sweet sanctuary that solid ground always provides. The slightest wobble in its axis turned even the stoutest of confidences into a barely questioning remark, but a questioning all the same.
The metallic clang of each rung as it was commissioned into service by my steel heels echoed through the humid air. The captain had said there would be a 10% chance of precipitation; my senses told me it was more like 80%. Step by step I hoisted my rolling suitcase and then my backpack down to ground level. Two or three smiling workers in orange reflective vests were greeting each passenger as we passed by. My head was pounding from the roar of the jet engines and the dull depersonalization of the flying experience. We weren’t passengers – we were livestock, being herded from one pasture to another. Graze! Graze! And when you return to your own pasture, you can graze some more. Who are the people making changes? Who chooses the pastures and makes them beautiful, plows them and sows, grows the sustenance that the sheep chew on? That’s who I wanted to be. I wanted to be part of that process, the process by which land is regenerated, and beauty is restored. I didn’t want to be part of the flock any longer; I wanted to be standing on the hill, directing the growth of the lilies and the lily pads.
Passing through baggage claim, I made a mental note about the airport. Clearly, this was not the reason the island was referred to as “big”. This airport was even smaller than Burbank’s, which is saying a lot when you consider that it’s the ONLY airport in the vicinity, and services thousands of tourists a MONTH. How they could accomodate that many even in a YEAR was beyond my comprehension. But accomodate they did, and I learned eventually to appreciate and admire it, for my own attempt at creating an airport never led to even one tenth of what the Kailua-Kona airport represented to this island nation.
“Big”? There was more to it than that. The roads were big, and the large black chunk of cooled-down lava were big, bigger than you imagine them to be. No. There’s more. The meal portions. Fair mediocre. Espeically at chains; could not have expected much more there.
So why then? Why “BIG”? It was simple. “BIG” was their word for “LOVE.” The “LOVE ISLAND.” Much more satisfying.