By Léo Azambuja
We never see rainbows in clear sunny days; that’s not when we need them. They only show up when it’s cloudy, lifting our spirits. And who doesn’t smile at the sight of a rainbow?
“When it looked like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds,” the late poet Maya Angelou sang in an inspirational video years ago.
Last month, a dear friend of mine from Molokai, Noelani Lee Yamashita, came to Kaua‘i determined to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Inspired by Angelou’s video, Noe decided to celebrate her 40th birthday with what she called a “Rainbow Tour.”
Noe and her family have many friends on Kaua‘i, so as soon as she mentioned on social media what she was up to, her “rainbow” days quickly filled up.
Ironically, not long after I picked up Noe at Lihu‘e Airport, a double rainbow filled the skies. To me, the double rainbow meant: You give a rainbow, you get a rainbow.
So for 10 days, Noe hopped from place to place, lending her bright, colorful personality to all her friends, and also making new friendships along the way. Back home, Noe and her husband, Todd, wear many hats in Hawaiian cultural preservation, environmental work and sustainability and technology advancement.
One her first day here, Noe went to Limahuli Garden in Wainiha, and shared with the staff her experience in environmental conservation and malama ‘āina on Molokai.
At Kanuikapono Charter School in Anahola, she met with Kerry Panui, her UH classmate, and talked to students in three classes about her work restoring Hawaiian fishponds back home.
In Waipā, she helped to make poi. It was there that she met a young woman named Hoku Cody, a seabird biologist who a few days later took her on a tour at Kilauea Refuge. For Noe, it was a pleasant surprise. Part of her Masters degree at UH years ago focused on ʻa‘o, or Newell’s shearwaters, abundant at the refuge.
In Kilohana, she met with about 20 members of a leadership group she is part of, Pacific Century Fellows, and everyone went on a pig hunt. Though she didnʻt kill anything, she did help to clean a pig the hunters caught.
In Hanapēpē, she met with Malia Nobriga Oliveira, who is from a family of saltmakers at Hanapēpē Salt Ponds. They had connected a year ago on Kaua‘i, when Malia was pregnant and Noe came here to run a breastfeeding workshop. Now, they discussed how to support each other’s endeavors, and will likely meet at the World Conservation Congress to be held in September on O‘ahu.
Prior to her Rainbow Tour, Noe thought she would spend her downtime hanging out at the beach and writing about her activities. But if there is one thing she failed at, it was getting a tan. There was no downtime — rather than letting Noe spend time alone, her friends took her on various fun activities.
She tubed trough Hanamā‘ulu irrigation ditches, found a beach full of seashells in Po‘ipū, kayaked Wailua River, hiked to Secret Falls, walked the grounds of Fern Grotto, hiked Limahuli Valley, went on a tour of Waipā and ate lots of yummy food.
For every rainbow she spread, she got another one.
Even I got a rainbow, actually, a double rainbow. Noe helped me to copy-edit a couple dozen articles for an annual magazine project at For Kaua‘i. Not even our argument about Oxford commas (I hate them, by the way) overshadowed our fun.
Almost 10 years ago, I worked at The Molokai Dispatch, the island’s weekly newspaper of record owned by Noe’s husband, a close friend of mine. While we edited For Kaua‘i, going through old memories of such a great time at The Molokai Dispatch was a blast.
Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Soon you’ll see rainbows everywhere.