An obscure comfort

The incomparable Valley of the Temples, Oahu, Hawaii, 1994

The Byodo-In, Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Oahu, 1994

“It comforted her, in the confused unhappy welter of her emotions, to see the mountains always tranquil, remote, in their lonely splendour; untouchable, serenely inviolate. It was an obscure comfort to her to know that man’s hectic world wasn’t the only one — that there were others, where agitation and passion and bewilderment had no place.”Anna Kavan

The history of Hawaii is filled with conflict and sorrow that contrasts sharply with the stunning beauty of its islands. Perhaps it is appropriate that one of the most peaceful and enchanting places on Oahu is a large cemetery called the Valley of the Temples. Of all the scenic places we visited repeatedly while we lived there, this landscape remains my favorite.

Our time in Hawaii was rich with unforgettable experiences, among which were more than a few that brought deep anxiety or lonely sadness. Regardless of whether my mood was lighthearted or heavy when I visited the Valley of the Temples, I never left without feeling better. By island standards, it was a relatively long drive from our home on Pearl Harbor to beautiful Kaneohe; this was before the H-3 was finished, so we had to take the LikeLike Highway or the Pali Highway to get there. But I enjoyed the drive, in part because I knew of the calm beauty that awaited us.

Once while we were there, a caretaker showed Drew how to ring the large bell, and let him feed the birds who would swoop down and take food directly from a person’s hand. Once I saw two of the many peacocks get into a fight and, in the blink of an eye, unfurl their magnificent feathers. Sometimes the black swans would swim by. Always, when we crossed the bridge, the huge Koi fish would clamor to the surface and pile on each other’s backs hoping to catch any food that might be tossed. Their greedy desperation was both fascinating and repulsive.

Even when the animal residents were not particularly peaceful, the setting always seemed filled with an otherworldly tranquility.  By the time we left Oahu, that had begun to change somewhat, as the island’s best-kept secret became more widely known, and the number of visitors increased. The last time we went there, they had begun to charge admission to visitors who did not have a loved one buried there. I felt fortunate to have enjoyed it so often before costs and crowds changed the experience.

When I saw the quote from Kavan, I thought about how often my sadness or fear had been eased by the majesty of this scene, and by many other wonders in this astonishing world. Each fills me with deep reassurance of a benevolent Creator’s love, and an unshakable knowledge that a serenely inviolate realm is there for us when we stand still long enough to open our eyes, our ears and our hearts.


  1. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, my friend. ☕️ How wonderful that you were able to enjoy this, the Valley of the Temples, and then to share your experience, and more. Early morning finds me enjoying my adirondack, coffee, and fresh sounds of this new day. My 80 year old next door neighbor has just been for his morning beach stroll, so we’ve greeted each other. That’s an inspiration! A young dad walked by, with two young sons in a Radio Flyer wagon.The older one hopped out to pick a flower to take back to his mommy, I overheard. My thoughts are of you this morning, hoping for you a good week, and glancing at the other adirondack next to me. For a moment, you’re there! 💛 🌅 🙏 Love, She

    • Sheila, thanks so much for sharing these lovely morning scenes with me. I always wondered whether I’d ever be able to get up out of an adirondack if I was lucky enough to have one– especially one looking out on the beach! So it’s just as well that I’m there in my imagination. Hope you are having a good week with many such refreshing moments. Thanks for being here. Love, J

  2. Good morning, Julia! Yes the breathtaking awe of God’s creation, mountains that last so long that we think we may begin to understand the concept of eternity – what peace and quiet joy they bring!
    Your blog today also reminds me of a (less quiet) joy expressed by Matthew West, that would appear to have been inspired by similar scenery:
    Have a beautiful day!

    • Susan, thanks for sharing that! I had never heard that song before, and don’t remember ever hearing of the artist, either. One way I can really tell my age is that I hardly know who any famous people are anymore. (Does that sound a bit like Yogi Berra?) 😀

      • Of who? Just kidding. I did have an embarrassing conversation with some musically minded folks yesterday. I didn’t know any of the artists that they mentioned.

        • Yes, that sounds familiar. Same thing happens when I hear people talking about television or movie stars. I don’t mind, really, but it was nice while we were watching the Downton Abbey series and I actually could follow other people’s conversations about it. But overall, I like being old and knowing more about birds and plants (however little I might know about that) than I do about celebrities.

  3. Amy

    Hope I get to see this lovely place. Hope it is tranquil as it should be. Praying you are well and having a good week. Praying Matt is having a great week at camp. Love you.

    • I hope you get to go there, too. You’ll have to let me know if it’s getting to be infested with too many tourists. Kaneohe Bay is worth seeing in any case, and now that the H3 is finished, it’s an easy drive. But the Pali Highway is a gorgeous route to take too. Be sure Kat takes you to the Nu’uanu Pali lookout if you haven’t already been. It’s another favorite spot for me, kind of haunting when you know the history though. Scroll down and read #6 and click on the photo of the battle.

  4. It sounds like a beautiful place, Julia. I feel a bit wistful that they now charge admission, though I understand that with increased visitors, there are also associated costs.

    I’ve been thinking of you especially this morning, as I just re-hung my “caged” bird in a new place. It’s the robin, as that it what makes me think of you the most. Hugs

    • Thank you, Alys! I am so happy to know you are thinking of me. I think of you so often, too, and write many more letters in my head than actually make it to paper and then into the mailbox. 😀

      • Awww, Julia, I’ve found myself doing the same. I write blog posts in my head too…and grocery lists. Sigh. Big hugs.

        • 😀 I’m glad you understand!!

  5. If it hadn’t been for your suggestion, I never would have seen it. I’m glad to say no fee was charged us upon entering but that may have been because we needed to go to the bathroom.

    • Wow, maybe they decided to rescind the fee schedule…or maybe it’s only charged during the really heavy tourism months. It seems like it might have been a seasonal fee. I’m glad you got to see it. I don’t remember even knowing that there was a bathroom there!

  6. Thank you, it is always good to hear and see what places hold a presence of God or natural power for a person–so critical to find and absorb, especially in these times. I am also so much more balanced and happier when outdoors at least once a day for as long as i can be–and walking, at the least. Blessings.

    • Cynthia, I have been unable to be outside much lately (partly due to the weather, and partly due to other circumstances) and it is REALLY taking a toll on me. I simply must get outside more. Thanks for your confirmation of that with this comment. It encourages me to know the renewal I find outdoors is NOT my imagination. It’s true that some places are definitely more full of divine spirit than others, but pretty much any outdoor area with a bit of green grass and trees is like a balm to my soul. Thanks for being here and sharing this journey with me.

      • So glad you will follow up and take care of yourself even better. God moves and breathes in the earth He made for us and the other creatures. Peace to you and yours. Glad to be part of a community who cares about our lives and work.

        • Thank you, Cynthia!

  7. Wonderful description of Hawaii, Julia.
    We limit our growth, through experiencing God’s beauty in creation, when we don’t take the opportunity to explore beyond our own backyard.

    • Thanks, Alan. Exploration really is a great way to learn and grow, and it’s lots of fun too. 😀

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