Every act of aloha counts. Click here to DONATE to the MAUI RELIEF Fund.            

Warm And Fuzzy In West Virginia

Isn’t it cute? | Jade Moon photo

Isn’t it cute? | Jade Moon photo

You easily can spot the Hawaii people on the Mainland – we’re the ones taking pictures of squirrels.

Because, you know, squirrels are so cute. We get all excited when we see one of the critters running in front of us, climbing branches, peeking at us from behind tree trunks.

Nevermind that you Mainland folks roll your eyes at us when we squeal with delight. We ignore your jaded assertion that squirrels are simply rats with bushy tails. We think they’re, well, exotic.

I’m reminded every time I travel that we really are cozily ensconced in a balmy island bubble. It’s safe, it’s beautiful, it’s culturally unique.

But it’s good to remember that it’s not the entire world.

My latest foray outside our little tropical nest was to the town of Huntington, W.V.

Huh? Why there, you ask?

Well, that’s where my son is going to school, and I wanted to cook him a Thanksgiving dinner.

It didn’t look very promising when I got there. Winter had arrived early, and everything looked ghostly pale and dead. Even the snow wasn’t storybook pretty. But I’ve traveled enough to know that the beauty of a place reveals itself, if only you take the time to look.

Huntington is a small town. Its heart and soul is the university, Marshall, of We Are Marshall fame. The 1970 plane crash that killed most members of the football team was a tragedy that, to this day, defines the spirit of the school and its community.

My son chose Marshall based partly on the campus – it’s small and attractive – but also because of his experience with the people. Everyone seemed sincere, helpful and friendly.

And here is where the beauty of the place shone: in the warmth of its people. I don’t know if they’re like this all over West Virginia, but in Huntington folks are downright neighborly. Maybe it’s because it’s a small town. People are open and friendly. They like to chat. I was charmed by their accents, their apparent decency and their ready smiles. I ran into a few problems having to do with frozen cars and broken computers, and I have to say people bent over backward to help out a clueless stranger. Kindness equals beauty, in my eyes.

And funny, it seems no matter where you go, there’s a Hawaii connection. It’s like “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” island style. I found out one of the guys in the Five Guys Burger restaurant is married to a Hawaii girl. And the owner of the only seafood restaurant in town serves mahimahi and ahi. It was like a little taste of home (only with hush puppies instead of rice).

So the trip was a success. Not only did my son and I enjoy a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal, but I managed to find a few patches of glorious fall color amid the gray. Those occasional pops of color were just enough to cut through the dreary freeze.

And then, of course, there was that squirrel. He was fat, cute and definitely camera ready for this excited visitor from Hawaii.

Twitter: @JadeMoon1