Hawaii and I broke up in 2005. It was a mutual decision; no hard feelings. We’d been together for 6 years and it was just time to go our separate ways. We had tried a few breaks (that’s when I met Alaska …and Australia). Soon it was clear that Hawaii and I wanted different things, and so we said goodbye.
After another dalliance with Alaska, I shacked up with SoCal and we made a good go of it. Saw the sites, grew some roots, adopted two cats, and threw some killer parties. And then, poof! It was over. I got custody of the cats.
So I’ve returned to Hawaii. The reunion lacks the adrenalin of a new affair, the rush of uncertainty, but has the warmth of familiarity. Hawaii’s an old flame, burning more brightly than before, because this time, it might be for keeps. Hawaii’s an old flame who’s weaknesses are as familiar as her strengths, and I love them both. This time, we might just want the same things.
First, a tribute to my ‘ex’: A lot of people, at least those who run in the same circles I do, like to turn their noses up at Southern California. “How fake”, “How superficial”, “Too obsessed with image”. And yes, Southern California is one hedonistic, self-love-fest. And it’s awesome. I’m not sure it’s good for one’s long-term spiritual and mental health, but I needed a dose of that access. You want something? It’s yours. Because in Southern California, it’s all …about …you. Self-righteous, I-recycle-more-than-you/feed-the-hungry-more-than-you-do pomp has no place there. Get that pedicure. Buy that little-black-dress. Drink that martini. You’re human; vice is in the blood; embrace it.
I’m being slightly facetious, but there’s something liberating for the guilt-strapped, social liberal to take a dip in the elixir of SoCal. And I heartily believe that you can’t do good for your fellow human/planet if you don’t take care of yourself. And if caring strays towards pampering? Well? You’re your own judge of that.
And LA? My own personal playground. Love that city. (Hate it if you like. It could use a few fewer people.)
And now, Hawaii. Oh Hawaii. Aloha Sifu and Sensei. Here, is where I learned to slow down. Here, is where I absorbed the lessons I learned on earlier travels. Here, is where I learned to talk story. Here, is where I remembered how to listen. It is good to hear your voice again.
Hawaii is soft air, trade winds, turquoise and royal water, benign bounty, ticklish rains, and rainbows. Hawaii is cold-remedies offered by strangers on buses, real interactions at every intersection, and raw conflict. Paradise post apple. Eve you bitch, love ya.
Hawaii is grabbing a snorkel and spending time in warm waters with turtles, the remaining coral, and tracking a humuhumunukunukuapua’a. It’s the scent of tuberose and pikake; plumeria behind the ear. Malasada’s at Leonard’s, shave ice, yakisoba, pho, pupus, dim sum, mochi, and poi (though please add some coconut milk to that poi). Humpback whales brought me here in 1999. They taught me a lot too, though those stories are for another day (see http://www.sirihakala.com/page3.html).
Hawaii is also where the natives haven’t quietly gone to reservations; where an overthrow of government in 1893 hasn’t been forgotten. And I’m a representative of the US government. I’m a haole from Minnesota. I resonate to temperate winds, prairies, deciduous forests, red-tail hawks, white-tailed deer, wolves, lakes and thunderstorms. What the hell am I doing here?
I am here to listen. I’m here to acknowledge that Hawaii has taught me things that other places have not. I’m here to talk story. I’m here to love humanity, regardless of where they’re from. And regardless of how difficult that might be.
Metaphors aside, my last romantic relationship taught me to have more respect for one word: maybe. So we will see. Maybe our timing is right.