Today dawned clear and cold. A short mist brought much-needed moisture to lower Kula. Low-lying light and the mist created a full anuenue. From this angle, the rainbow arced over a neighbor's house.
"You always start your column with a weather report," said Harry Eagar, a colleague and professional cynic. It was a fair comment, although not specifically true. Life on Maui is inextricably tied to sunshine and warmth. What TV newsman Guy Hagi calls "The best weather on the planet" isn't news.
Up the road, Agnes Ventura, a lifelong islander, started a previous day with a question. "Where's your jacket? It's really cold. I feel sorry for those folks freezing on the Mainland."
Earlier this week, nearby Makawao recorded a pre-dawn low of 63. The top of Haleakala shivered the sunrise crowd with an ice-forming 32 degrees. Rancher Jerry Thompson went uphill from his house at around 5,000 feet and discovered he was standing in a teeth-chattering 22 degrees. Three-thousand feet lower, the temperature in the house was 52 degrees.
A sister living in the middle of the Mainland's deep freeze laughed at 52 degrees being called "cold." "Oh, yeah? When was the last time the temperature in your house was that low?"
That stopped the laughter. The big difference between cold on the island and the Midwest: The temperature in houses there are usually heated to around 75 degrees. It's a rare Maui house that has a furnace. Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and electric space heaters are common up on the mountain, but the warmth they create seldom radiates more than 10 feet. Beyond that, it's what keiki o ka aina call "make anu" (mah-kay ahnoo), literally not warm. If it's really cold, they precede the phrase with the exclamation "auwe!"
Burning wood will warm you twice, once when you chop the fuel and then when the fuel burns. Getting warmth out of the fire takes some tending to convert kindling - cutting up pallets made of pine works well - into enough flame to ignite small logs. A wind across the chimney helps. The whole point of kindling is to get a draft going. Effective warmth comes from logs - kiawe works best - that have burned down to a bed of coals.
Lately, the outdoor cats have been using corners inside the garage until there's enough spots of sunlight outside to warm their bones. Cyrano, the house cat, likes a fire. He'll stare intently at the flames before stretching out and closing his eyes. Every so often, he'll stir, warming first one side of his fur and then the other. If there's no fire, a warm lap will do.
If memory serves, Samuel Clemens once said, "Hawaii doesn't have weather. It has climate." Of course, he was a refugee from California's Bay Area, where he or someone said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
Warmth on Maui comes from the sun, although it seems cloudy nights are warmer than nights when a host of stars sparkle in a clear sky. Maybe the ao hold in the heat - little though it may be - from the day's sunlight. The temperature in the house will climb 20 degrees when the afternoon sun streams in west-facing windows.
This year, preparations had been made. The fireplace chimney had been inspected and cleaned by the efficient three-person crew from Shaka Chimney Sweepers. There was a good stack of kiawe left over from a Mark DeCoite delivery last year. Kindling from a pallet taken from behind Morihara Store had been splintered.
It's easy to escape mountain cold. Just head down the hill to the beach, even on the chilliest days. The water may be colder than its usual 85 degrees, but the sun on the sand will warm your bones.
A digression: On an August motorcycle ride through the Colorado Rockies, the temperature started dropping. 'A 'ole pilikia. It'll warm up when I start down the other side. The problem: The other side went back up. By the time the ride went over a succession of peaks to Durango, hands were frozen stiff.
On Maui, cold is anything below 65 degrees. Cold is whatever you feel is cold. Cold on Maui is uncomfortable. Cold on the Mainland hurts, literally. Lucky you live Maui. Even during a cold spell.
End of weather report, Harry.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.