Last night, I decided to catch a sunset in Wailea. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had numerous requests for a sunset fronting one of the Wailea resorts, so I packed up my gear and went looking for the right scene.

The resort’s property sits among lava-crusted coastline, most of which does not afford easy access to the shoreline unless you’re willing to traverse the sharp and craggy lava formations. This is the type of landscape I like – it’s a rarity you see anyone out on the lava, and it’s pretty unmolested due to the difficulty of the terrain.

After watching the wave patterns for a while, I choose my shooting spot. There’s lots of personality in the lava and surrounding pools, and the coral and rocks were providing a wonderful water pattern as the waves sloshed in.

With my camera mounted on the tripod and trained on the incoming swells, I patiently waited for the sun to dip beneath a thick cloud over Lanai. I reached for my cable release to take a shot and I heard someone approaching me from behind.

“Hey there,” calls the sunburned, 40-something gent picking his way towards me. “You taking pictures of the sunset?

“Yep,” I reply. “Just setting up and waiting for the right light.”

“It sure is pretty here,” he says.

“Yes it is,” I say agreeingly. “This is one of the most beautiful places on the Island. You have a great view of Kahoolawe, Lanai, and West Maui; there are Green Sea Turtles feeding just inside the breakwater; and in the winter, Humpback Whales are always swimming by.”

For the next 15 minutes, we chat about the diversity of the Island: How we have 11 of the 13 climate zones in the world; endangered species that the Island provides food and shelter for; the barren desert of Makena and the tropical forests in Hana; the breathtaking beauty of Haleakala and the rugged coastline of Keanae.

In our conversation, I bring up the pride Kanaka Maole (native Hawaiians) and many Haoles (foreigners to Hawaiian Lands) have for the Islands. While Pride may be one of the Seven Deadly Sins, it’s a good thing here – being proud to take care of the land, the ocean for it will provide for us. Proud of the beauty and splendor that has been created for us to admire and protect. Proud to know that by our actions, we are preserving a culture and place that will last for generations.

As the sun drops lower in the sky, I click off more frames. He turns to me and asks, “Mind if I smoke?”

“No,” I reply. “So long as you don’t mind if I don’t join you.” He chuckled and lit up a Red Apple.

While I click away, we chat about some of the must-see-and-do things while on Maui. As the sun dips below the top of Lanai, he says, “Nice talkin’ to ya,” stubs out his cigarette on the lava and flicks it towards the surf.

For a moment, I’m stunned at what I just saw.

“Go get it,” I said in a terse tone.

He replied, “Get what?

“The butt you just tossed, Go GET IT.”

“Dude, relax,” he scoffed.

That’s when I proverbially “flipped” out on his flipped butt. Did he not hear anything I said about our Island? Its beauty? Its people? The diversity that exists nowhere else in the world?

For the next few minutes, there was no conversation, but a polite “lecture” on Hawaiian protocol: How everyone is a steward of the Aina (land), to protect it, and it will provide for us; honu, fish, sea birds and other animals mistake rubbish for “treats” that are indigestible, often killing them; by disposing of cigarette butts (or any other rubbish) in the ocean, we put an ecology at risk that’s been here for generations, that may not be around for those who come after us.

He looked out at the water, walked to the tide pool his butt was floating in and plucked it out. He apologized and bid me goodnight.

As he hiked his way back to the resort, I noticed him bending and picking something up off the lava, walking another few yards, then bending over again. I realized as he was walking back to the resort, he was picking up other errantly placed cigarette butts, becoming a steward of the Aina.

Maui provided him with a beautiful view, an encounter with honu and a beautiful sunset. He, in turn cared for the land, perpetuating a cycle that has lasted for generations. Not a bad symbiotic relationship, huh?