The Art of Fun
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written by Jocelyn:
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         Especially at times like these, everyone could use a little fun fitness. The antidote to the often bleak daily news is in our own backyard, especially in Hawai'i. My fun gurus are Debbie Young, an extraordinary Honolulu artist whose own life is an art form, and Shuzo Uemoto, a photographer who traveled to Bhutan not long ago. 
          I looked Debbie up after I heard about her habit of driving from Honolulu to the North Shore to swim and go beachcombing—before work! 
Little did I know that for 25 years, Debbie worked in what may be the most stressful and depressing place in the world: a hospital emergency room. 
          “I used to work at the Queen’s Medical Center emergency room, the swing shift, from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. so I could hike in the morning or drive around the island,” the suntanned artist explained. “I would drive to Hale’iwa before work and snorkel at Three Tables. Work is like brushing your teeth; it’s not my life. But it was a reality check, and I got to meet people. I worked there for 25 years, in registration. It was hard, intense work.
          “Fun, for me, is being outdoors. It calls to me. I start the day in the yard, and that makes me happy. Taking care of your yard is like taking care of your life. You see what flowers are coming up, what’s growing. I usually go to the beach and swim every day. I do whatever I can, as long as I can get into the ocean at least once a day, sometimes twice. All the stress falls away when I’m swimming.”
          She described how she and some friends, while swimming just off Kaimana Beach in Waikiki the other day, saw a monk seal in the water. And how, the day before yesterday, they spotted whales on a two-for-one whale-watching tour. “It’s about being in the right place at the right time,” she says. 
Time is elastic for inspired doers like Debbie Young. You’ll find her doing tai chi on Mondays at Kapiolani Park and looking for sea shells whenever there’s a moment. “I love looking for shells,” she says. “Recently some friends and I stopped at a tiny bakery in Waialua, got some of their ‘puffies’—part chocolate éclair and part cream puff—stopped at a beach park to enjoy them, and then did dawn patrol at Ka’ena Point.”
Debbie drives around with high-powered binoculars in her car and pulls over at the mere hint of something promising. The daughter of the late, great, iconic Hawai'i artist John Young, she is genetically wired to see beauty and is also empowered by uncanny blessings from the serendipity gods. “We were in Kahuku one time, by the Japanese graveyard, and I saw what I thought was an old feather,” she recalls. “It was so unusual—a single long, thin feather.” It turned out to be the find of a lifetime, a rare tail feather of the red-tailed tropicbird, whose two central tail feathers may bring the bird’s length to 42 inches. 
Long, mellifluous Hawaiian beach names—Papa’iloa, Laniakea, Mokule’ia—pepper her stories with the energy of discovery. And while rare reticulated cowrie shells, rolling-pin-shaped beach glass balls, whales and turtles appear in her world like old friends, there is also the real-life world of friends.
          “Have I told you how much fun it is to get together and have potlucks and make margaritas from fresh squeezed limes?” she says. “It’s the people. Getting together with friends, weaving it into the fabric of our lives, is a high priority for me. I love going to the museums too, the art shows, and I love interacting with other artists. And watching sunsets—is that fun! Painting is fun, and the magic that happens with art is great fun.”
          Then Debbie had to go—to attend a fellow artist’s opening—and I turned to Shuzo Uemoto, photographer for the Honolulu Academy of Arts, who had recently returned from Bhutan, where happiness is a finely honed art. 
          “I think fun is to be free of encumbrances,” he mused. “I love to ride my horse in Waimanalo, ride my motorcycle, and sometimes go surfing. In Bhutan, I found out that you can have fun without having all the…stuff. It’s Babylon here in America; you need all the stuff. You go to Bhutan and see that you don’t need all that. In Bhutan, the villagers get together in an open park and just shoot arrows, do archery, and throw darts, and for prizes they give pieces of colored cloth. They have a wonderful time. They play all day, morning to night, and they have very simple prizes, like the cloth squares we call furoshike.”
          As for the country’s Gross National Happiness, called the Gross National Product everywhere else, it’s unique. Shuzo recounted a story he heard in Bhutan: “There’s a province or town in Bhutan that is rich in copper, and the king stopped any ideas about prospecting because it would have destroyed the village. Although copper is very lucrative, the thinking goes, it’s not to be mined at the expense of the people, their happiness.”
          Back in America, Shuzo was struck by the message he gleaned from the movie “Into the Wild”: that happiness is real only when it’s shared. “I know I’m happiest when I can share a time with a friend,” he concluded. “That’s what makes me happiest. Finding happiness is like the Japanese idea of shibui, when you eat a not-so-ripe peach and think about the ripe peach. You can find joy in that. You can find joy in austerity, because you think about the richness.”
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