A Toast to Auld Lang Syne

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Story by Diane Haynes Woodburn

Diane Haynes Woodburn

As I write this, 2017 is coming to a close. According to the Chinese calendar (and the internet) 2018 is the Year of the Brown Dog: a male year, dominated by the element earth or mountains. Loosely translated, that means something big is blocking our view. “We need to use our wisdom to find the better way,” the website ChineseFortuneCalendar.com advises. It also assures me 2018 is a good year to increase wealth. Go figure. I’m guessing there’s gold in them thar hills! So perhaps beginning the year with our annual Luxury Issue marks an auspicious start.

Today, however, I’m feeling earth more than treasure—and luxury is the company of a good friend. It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Patti and I sit at my dining-room table, looking over a panorama of plates and plastic containers laden with yesterday’s holiday treats. It’s a sugar and butter overload, yet neither of us is interested. We each pour the other a glass of wine instead.

“I just can’t bring myself to decorate my tree,” Patti confesses, blinking back tears. I nod in understanding. Each of us suffered the loss of someone dear this year. For Patti it was her mom, for me it was my close friend Deb. Our mutual sorrow is still raw. I offer Patti a piece of cake from a favorite serving dish. “This is the plate you brought back from Italy,” Patti notices. “Yes,” I reply. “That was from the trip Jamie and I took with Chris and Deb.”

Suddenly, I find myself transported to Florence, roaming the ancient cobblestone paths and alleyways, walking arm in arm (as European women do) with Deb. The aromas of fresh-baked pastries, strong espresso, and hot pizza linger in the summer air. A storefront with hand-painted ceramics and an elf-sized door catches my eye. Inside, a Geppetto of a man sits on a wooden stool, spectacles perched on his prominent nose. “Buona sera, signoras,” he smiles, his paintbrush poised over a ceramic plate. But which to buy? With Deb’s help, I choose wisely.

Later, after a richly satisfying dinner, the four of us enjoy a languid, if slightly tipsy, meander toward our hotel. From nowhere, it seems, comes the sound of music—mellifluous voices floating above us in hauntingly beautiful song. We follow the sound to a high, lighted window behind which an a cappella choir is practicing. Although we can’t see them, their voices resonate, echoing off the centuries-old rock walls that serve as our private cathedral. Other passersby are mesmerized as well, and stop to join us. I hear whispers in Italian, French, German, Arabic. We smile at one another, then all eyes lift to the window in a serendipitous moment of harmony and joy.

“I know Deb always did your tree for you.” Patti’s voice brings me back to our table in Kula. “I’ll do yours this year . . . if you’ll help me do mine.” We toast to the pact.

In this, our Luxury Issue, we offer some admittedly extravagant ways to indulge yourself and those close to you, from living like royalty for a splendid night of escape, to experiencing the spa day of your (well, actually my) dreams. You can even whirl above paradise in a private helicopter tour. Treasures abound in these pages—but, as I recall that evening in Florence, I remember that the best treasures are those you least expect—and hold dear for a lifetime.

Wishing you a new year in which the brown dog lies low, the path is clear, and riches abound in the most surprising places.

A hui hou,
Diane Haynes Woodburn, Publisher

“The greatest gift of life is friendship . . . and I have received it.”  —Hubert Humphrey

To my friend Deb Kaiwi.
I treasure the memories.

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