Many of our friends wonder what we do over here on Lanai, a place where they think “there’s nothing to do.” This misses the point, because here we don’t do “things,” we do people.

8 a.m. Wednesday: I’m cleaning up my banana patch. My single rubbish can is already overflowing. My neighbor, who lives on the mainland, has a yard man who sees this, and offers to back up his truck to my garage so I can dump my green waste in it.

“I’m going to the dump anyway; just drop your stuff over here,” he says.

I thank him with a few chocolate chip cookies, and he drives away.

8:30 a.m.: One of my oldest friends stops by on his way back from the beach. He’s having some legal trouble, and we’ve asked a Honolulu friend to represent him in court. So we sit on my porch and talk about the specifics of the incident, but we also talk about his small farm, a new well that was just dug, and how his new hearing aides are finally working.

9:00 a.m.: He leaves as the phone rings. “Robin. Are you home?”

A fisherman friend, who I recently helped with some computer issues, stops by with a hot tray of sweet & sour kavakava. He tells me that he hasn’t been catching any large fish, so he made this dish with the smaller ones. He’s a good fisherman (and a good cook); this is his ono thank you.

Lanai Post Office

The Lanai Post Office is a central gathering place on the small island.

Robin Kaye

10:00 a.m.: I walk to the Post Office, one block from my house. There is no mail delivery on Lanai, all our mail has to be picked up here, making it a hotbed of local gossip and information exchange.

I’d gone over the day before to put some fresh chocolate chip cookies in my P.O. box and called in to the staff to “enjoy!” The lines inside are long (six people); this is no time to go inside. I give up any “news” I might have learned.

10:15 a.m.: I walk home and hear “Robin. You home?” being called from the back of my house. It’s my gardening buddy, delivering five bags of soil additives. We unload the pallet, shipped over on our weekly barge from Honolulu, and then talk gardening. We exchange seeds and bemoan the challenges of growing certain vegetables that don’t like our cool climate (it’s 58 degrees as I write this).

5 p.m.: I’m sitting on my porch when I hear the front gate open. It’s my friend’s three daughters, all home for the holidays. One is in college on Maui, one in college and working in Honolulu, and the third is working two jobs in Honolulu (or “town” as we refer to it here.) I learn a little bit about their lives and they deliver presents from their family to my wife and me.

Before they leave, I give them a bag of chocolate chip cookies. We arrange to have a pizza night soon at their house, where they are caring for their aging tutu.

6 p.m.: The phone rings, “Robin. You home?”

Another fishing buddy delivers opakapaka. It’s very fresh; caught maybe three hours earlier. We sit and drink a glass of wine, talk story about fishing and travel. He leaves to have dinner with his fishing buddies.

6:30 p.m.: The phone rings again. “Robin. You home?” This time it’s one of our oldest friends. His wife passed away several years ago, but his daughter is home for the holidays and she’s made his wife’s most delicious carrot cake — which she knows I love. He comes by to drop off this gift.

6:45 p.m.: Our 11-year-old dog goes crazy. She hears the diesel sound of the FedEx truck and demands to be outside. Patrick, the FedEx driver has arrived to deliver Amazon packages. But more important to our dog, Patrick (who has become a family friend) delivers a doggie treat to Dobby. This is a gift she anticipates every day around this time; from 5 p.m. on, you can find here glued to the kitchen window, watching the front gate.

Lanai rainbow

A rainbow graces Lanai.

Robin Kaye

When I first came to Lanai in 1974, it was to document a very challenged lifestyle. A spinoff of Dole Co., Oceanic Properties, had announced plans to add 10,000 more residents with second homes, hotels and other resort developments. (That plan didn’t materialize then, but my six-month project resulted in seven years on Lanai and eventually, my photodocumentary,
“Lanai Folks.” But that’s another story.)

Some of these plans have recently been revisited, revised and are likely to be slowly implemented by Dole’s latest successor,
Larry Ellison.

Back in the ‘70s, I said this in “Lanai Folks:”

“The daily generosity, the small but important waving between drivers on the roads, the kokua to friends and strangers, the sense of place, of belonging, the inherent goodness and lack of guile in many of the older Hawaiians — these, and, always for me, the beauty, depth and intensity of the land make it a good place to raise a family, or just to be.”

It’s now 40 years later, and you know what? Not much has changed. It’s still a good place to “just be.”

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