How I connected with the salt of the earth — or its water — in Hawaii

A trip to the Aloha State helps an Atlantic Ocean guy respond to nature

William Ryan avatar

by William Ryan |

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I am, in no uncertain terms, not a nature person. I am a city person through and through. I find it comforting to be in a packed subway car rather than in the openness of nature. I prefer the bright city lights at night, not the stars in the sky.

But then I went to Hawaii.

OK, maybe I’m being a little hyperbolic. I don’t know if I’ve changed my feelings about nature, but I do have a newfound sense of appreciation for the beauty of the world. And it springs, at least in part, from salt water.

Hear me out. Among the various tools to test for cystic fibrosis (CF) is the sweat test, which measures the amount of chloride in a person’s sweat. People with cystic fibrosis tend to love salty foods like pretzels, french fries, and cold cuts. I love all of those foods, and when I was an infant, my former doctor — who also had CF — recommended that I eat french fries often to balance the chloride I’d lose from sweating.

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There’s also a lot of “salty” merchandise out in the CF world. People living with CF have embraced their diagnosis by putting CF-related themes on shirts, hats, and other items of clothing, which I think is fantastic.

Salt in the outdoors

One of nature’s biggest instances of salt is in salt water. I’ve swum in it, breathed it in, and even accidentally drunk it. (Warning: Do not actually drink the salt water of New Jersey.)

The natural tones of blue in the Atlantic Ocean are beautiful, and you can submerge yourself in it and smell the salt water right away.

What I noticed about the Pacific Ocean is that the salt isn’t as potent as the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean or the Jersey shore. That’s not to say you can’t smell the salt in the water. You can sink your toes into the sands of the Hawaiian beaches and smell the ocean. But it’s not overbearing.

Maybe it’s because that’s how bodies of water naturally smell, or maybe it’s because the salt of my body heightens my sense of smell toward salt, but the waters on the Eastern coast of the United States are salty like the skin of a person with CF. It’s everywhere, and you can’t escape it.

The smell of the salt water in Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean is more subdued. There’s a whiff of its aroma in the air, but it isn’t overpowering. Where we stayed, I couldn’t smell the salt water until I went on the beach.

Still, breathing it in connected me to the greens and blues of the world. It connected me to a whole new world that I never saw before. It connected me back to … me.

We all occupy a small place in the world, and we often take it for granted. Not anymore. At least, not for me. OK, at least for another week or two, if I’m being less hyperbolic.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


Ray Ryan avatar

Ray Ryan

Hey Will, another insightful story! Look forward to learning something new each week and enjoy the way you make it fun. Can't take you to Hawaii, but you're always welcome at the Jersey Shore!

Helen Palmiero avatar

Helen Palmiero

Thanks for another informative yet amusing article, Will. They always teach me something - in this one, the connection between CF and salt. I can so understand your preference for the city over being a nature lover. I love the city lights myself but must admit I love a starry sky as well, simply because you never see it in the city. I guess that's where the city lights come in. Will, I'm so amazed and happy at how well you're doing. Keep up that fighting spirit and good attitude and let your own personal star shine bright - even in the city! Love and Love, Helen


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