You know you live in the right place when you don’t want to leave.
That’s what I told myself as I slowed my pace while walking to my boarding gate at Honolulu airport.I stopped on the walkway overlooking the courtyard below and inhaled the smell of the plumeria. I took in the colors of the trees and the sound of the wind before I shut myself into the enclosed boarding area. I didn’t want to go to California.
I was heading to a writing conference at USC, my alma mater. I was going to a place I love, doing what I love, and I didn’t want to leave the place I have come to love more – Hawaii.
Before I moved here, people told me the ‘aina (land) would either take me in or spit me out. I worried, especially after my bumpy arrival here. Hawaii isn’t like anywhere else I’d been. I needed to adjust.
So I did.
I learned to slow down, to listen to the land, the weather, the animals, the people.
I think of the mountains and how they slope into valleys and stretch out to sea. It’s like relaxing in a comfy lounge chair. I settle into the slope and breathe in the green around me, then gaze into the blue stretched out before me. Living here is soothing.
There are three places I feel connected to on this planet: one calls me back to its magic every few years; the second grips me and tells me I can’t leave because I have roots there and need to explore them: the third, O’ahu, welcomes me to the space it has made for me, and invites me to rest and take in its beauty.
Upon my return, I exited the airport and sat in traffic overlooking the industrial part of town. Even there, I felt the land welcome me home.
Shops in Honolulu take Yen. Sales people speak Japanese. Signs and menus are in English and Japanese. The Japanese influence on this town is everywhere. A good example is Marukai market. It’s a club store, sort of like Costco. Members can stock up on Hawaiian-made snacks, Japanese home décor, and necessities like fans, altars, bamboo plants and Hello Kitty items. Never will you run out of rice if you live near Marukai. Fresh sushi and every kind of shoyu/soy sauce is also available.
On a recent visit to my hair stylist, he placed a new product in my hair to give it sheen. I loved it and purchased a bottle. “Put a little in the palm of your hand and run it through your hair before you blow dry,” he said.
“About how much?” I asked. “The size of a dime?”
“Too much” he said.
“So, maybe pea-sized?” I asked. “Too little,” he answered. He then nodded his head, and said, “Edamame size.”
Edamame size? Only in Hawaii have I heard people refer to something as edamame-sized. I really am out of the U.S.
But where exactly am I?
In Honolulu, the Japanese influence is strong, but what about the rest of the island? In the less populated areas of Oahu, there’s another world, one before the Japanese culture landed on this island… it’s that of the native Hawaiian. Here’s a photo that illustrates their thoughts:
I make no political statement. I endorse no group. I am an American living in a land that is removed from mainstream American culture. Life has an ebb and flow here based upon the weather, the geography, and the mix of people. Hawaii has no majority ethnic group. English, Japanese, Hawaiian and Pidgin (among others) are spoken here. Baptist churches reside next to Shinto Temples. The Episcopal cathedral tower can be seen while standing in front of a Chinese temple. The Mormon temple and rural Protestant church live harmoniously in the country, while evangelical churches dot most neighborhoods.
What is important now? Appreciating the beauty of the land here. Even in the rain and clouds, the mountains are spectacular. They tell me a story every time I look at them. When they look angry, I wonder why. Is it my emotion being projected onto them or are the mountains trying to tell me something?
When the alternating blue and cloudy sky reflects upon the ocean creating flowing shades of turquoise, aqua and sea-foam green, I stop to admire the constant change in color as each wave laps upon the shore, then disappears. In those moments, I’m reminded of the constant change of life. Nothing stays the same. Each moment is unique and fleeting. Mother Nature reminds me to appreciate the moments life gives me. And that goes for the people. I’ve written before about the nature of human beings. Seventy years ago Japan was our enemy, now they are our friends. I’ve encountered native Hawaiians who have judged me by my skin color and others who have accepted me as another human, blind to the difference of skin color between us.
A friend asked me what my thoughts are of having lived in Hawaii for just over a year. Mostly, I’ve changed my priorities. I don’t need the latest clothes by some designer or the latest upscale linens. I don’t need to rush. Nothing has to be done so quickly that my rushing it negatively affects another person’s serenity. I’ve learned I can’t assume the way a person is by their skin color or cultural background. I let the land dictate the way my day goes.
Sometimes the ocean calls me and I just have to stop at the beach to feel the water wash over my feet. As the last of each wave swirls around my ankles, I watch the clouds float by reminding me to live in the moment, to be a good person, and to accept all inhabiting this multi-cultural island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.