The holiday season is full of magic and warmth and giving, no matter where in the world you happen to be. But growing up in the Midwest, I’ve grown to miss the Christmas of my youth. This past hike into the Ko’olau range, the forest in its own unique way, let me relive some of that joyful past.
Time can be a wonderful abrasive. This time of the year, it’s the snow that I’m wistful for. Now, snow in the Midwest usually falls sideways, at 40 mph, and in stinging pellet form. In the polished gemstone that is my Christmas memory however; large, fat snowflakes fall gently from the rafters in a meandering slow dance. Each individual snowflake seems to have a curious propensity for landing exactly on a child’s outstretched tongue. The peacefulness when the gray-gloomy world is wrapped in a fresh blanket of snow is quite vivid. Somehow I also recall Jimmy Stewart yelling. That is a big part of Christmas emblazoned in my mind. Shoveling, black ice… meh, I don’t remember that. I hear your queries and yes, to acquire this kind of polish, these stones have been in the stream for quite some time.
So, while the volcano didn’t give me any of this White Christmas-y snow, it showed me other things that also amuse and enchant (and happen to be white)…
We came across some large Holei (Ochrosia compta) trees full of flowers. The white corolla on these are much more recurved than I’ve seen previously. The trees themselves were at least a couple feet in diameter at the base.
Here, the mountain must have known my wintery longings. We happened across a Cyanea humboldtiana in full flower! The infloresence is striking; long peduncles with large upright flowers. It was quite the awesome sight.
In another gulch, I luckily noticed several shells on the ground. These are the old shells of one of the famed tree snails (Achatinella fuscobasis). These pretty snails are only found on the island of O’ahu. They have undergone a dramatic decline in population. There aren’t too many places on the island, let alone the Ko’olaus to find them. From tales of thousands of colorful snails living on a single tree to this, just happy to come across the rare shell on the ground. It’s a sad tale.
All hope is not lost. Notice that some of the shells are bleached white. Those shells that have lost all or most of their color are from snails that died long ago. But one of the shells is still quite colorful. Its owner was still alive until fairly recently. That got us to thinking, “maybe, just maybe they’re still around”. And, after an exhaustive search… success! Here’s a picture to end on a high note.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Achatinella fuscobasis &
May all your days be merry and bright, little one