Leaving Aloha? Nah, I take it with me.

I started this blog exactly five years ago, five months after I moved to Hawaii from Washington, DC.  Strange how I felt the need to write something here after 1.5 years of nothing.  Though maybe it’s not that strange considering I’ve recently decided to move back to the mainland in March and one of the drivers behind starting this blog was my move here.  I suppose you can say it’s been a long time coming, but to many it has been a bit of a surprise.  I still haven’t completely come out of the closet about it, as it increases my anxiety levels and can send me spinning.  What I don’t want to hear is: why are you leaving? why would you leave? do you have a job? don’t leave! (and so on).  I have no idea how to answer these questions and when I do I feel at a loss for words.  Conflicted captures how I feel quite well.

Yet, the excitement of starting over somewhere new (yet familiar) has taken ahold of me.  After 15 years away from California, I’m ready to go back to the place I consider home.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get to know my family as an adult and to be close to friends I’ve been apart from for years.

Hawaii has been exactly what I needed these past 5.5 years and most definitely what I needed after 10 years in DC.  I can truly say it’s been nothing short of amazing.  I’ve experienced much loss and heartache, but being surrounded by such beauty and amazing people has transformed me into what I like to think is a better person.  Of course I could have had similar transformations elsewhere, but Hawaii does have a magical way about it.

Sadness comes over me as I think of leaving all this behind, but it’s time.  And there’s no saying I won’t be back, there’s always that possibility, though my entire being knows it’s time to go.  I wonder if I’ve always known this as I’ve never truly let myself settle in here and I’ve lived my life as if I’m passing through.  On many levels I wish I could have made it work for me, but I realize I want something different, at least for now.

Oh Hawaii, you will always have a place in my heart.  When I close my eyes I’ll see the crystal blue water, sunshine reflecting off the surf and green mountains in the distance.  I’ll imagine myself on a beautiful sunny day, paddling for a wave, popping up and gliding down the face, hearing the powerful rush of the wave breaking behind me.  I’ll see my friends sitting on their boards next to me as we wait for a set to come in, laughing and smiling.  I’ll never forget you Hawaii and all the joy and laughter you’ve brought into my life.  Mahalo!

 

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One of my favorite spots on the island: Diamond Head Lookout.  Oh how I’ll miss you…

 

Befriending a tiger

Sitting on the cliffs at Portlock Point never fails to bring inspiration.  It’s difficult not to be inspired; you’re staring at an endless sea in one direction and town and Diamond Head in the other.  The swell was big and unruly today.  Feeling the ocean spray hit my skin cooled me off as I did yoga on the cliffs.  I felt like I was in a yoga DVD.

I sat on the cliffs and took some time to listen.  Not to the waves, but my mind.

Today I heard a buzzing chatter in the back of my head.  It’s a symphony of thoughts, feelings, anxiety,  fear, sadness, anger, anticipation and who knows what else, that has become unconscious background noise.  When I took a moment to notice, is when I finally heard silence.  What then?  Do I listen?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

So why don’t I listen?  Am I afraid of what I might find?  Sometimes I bubble over in joy (I like those days).  But in my experience, more often than not, it can be painful to peer inside.  What we hide are the things we don’t like to feel; the things we don’t like to believe we are capable of feeling.  Often loneliness, sadness, anger, fear, shame.  What some would refer to as their “dark side”.  We all have one.  But not listening does not make these things go away.  It’s like a tiger that lurks inside.  You can befriend it and accept your co-existence or you can pretend it doesn’t exist.  What is scarier is not knowing it exists at all.

The tiger feeds on lack of awareness. When you don’t take time to acknowledge what is going on, it will manifest itself in one way or another; usually unconsciously.    It may strike out when you least expect it; sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle.  Whether it injures others or only yourself, you are trapped in its cage, subject to its whims.  I’ve learned this the hard way and continue to do so, and will for the rest of my life.

It sounds so cliche, but I can’t help but think of the novel, ‘Life of Pi’.  I read it a few years ago and recently saw it on a flight from LA.  As I read the last chapter my heart fell as the real scenario of his 200+ days at sea was revealed. What? I was shocked and felt misled.   Pi wasn’t stranded on a boat with a tiger, he was the tiger.  The dreadful loss of his mother, the murder of the sailor and the eventual death of the cook … was the entire story an elaborate tale he made up?  A better question to ask is, did it matter?  Maybe not.

The truth of Pi’s story is not explicit, but how I’ve personally interpreted it is that he experienced the trauma of losing everything, just a teenager, and had murdered the cook for survival – and he had to come to terms with it.   The murder was completely justified and necessary to survive, but its hard to believe we have it in us to kill someone.  At least physically.  And the grief of loss; the kind that changes you forever. The enthralling story he told is his way of befriending his tiger.  And the line about, “what story do you want to believe?” rings true.  The truth of who we are, what we’ve experienced  and what we’ve done sometimes deserves a new story.  A fantastical, brave story of heroism.  Because befriending your tiger and accepting who you are is just that.

It’s 2013 already and I have no resolutions

I see all the pieces of my life, like little islands, somehow coming together to create a map.  They don’t seem to quite connect but they make up who I am.  They seem to have rigid borders but I’m not sure they need to be this way.  I don’t know where I belong now, just trying to enjoy the day.

Walking to the beach yesterday after 3 bitter cold weeks in Europe and Washington, DC and a week lying in bed from a nasty cold was like a warm bath.  I did some yoga at the tiny park before the steep slope up to Diamond Head and felt the sun beat down on my face.  As I stared out into the sea, I reflected on the past few weeks, past year and the two and a half years since I moved here.

My life here in Hawaii is not what I’d expected: I imagined a quiet, contemplative life enjoying ocean breezes and lazy afternoons with few distractions and worries.  There are days like this but it ends there; reality lingers and catches up to you.  I didn’t expect to Continue reading

Solace as a place

Wherever I live I try to find a place where I can find solace, usually involving somewhere in nature.  When I lived in San Diego, I spent hours on the cliffs overlooking Blacks Beach.  My favorite time was dusk when the ocean turned a golden iridescent color. As the sun sank toward the horizon, the reflection shot back toward the shore, creating a blinding golden path.

Cliffs of La Jolla, Blacks Beach

When I moved to Washington, DC, I struggled to find that place, particularly due to living in an urban center with more buildings than open space.  DC is known for it’s numerous parks and which helped, but it didn’t quite make up for the ocean.  I found myself going on runs to the National Cathedral.  Partially because it was only 2 miles away.  But there was a beautiful English garden there that I’d spend sometimes hours at.  I would lie on the wooden benches in the early evening and stare up at the majestic building before me.

National Cathedral Garden

National Cathedral at twilight

I have been thinking about where that place is for me in Hawaii and what resonates most is Diamond Head.   I suppose not many people around the world can say Continue reading

The moon smiles

I wrote this back in May, under a bright moon at Portlock point:

Does the moon look down on us and laugh once in a while?

Wink to the ocean, its close friend?

It’s a silent witness of all that is here on earth.

If the ocean thinks I’m small, the moon smiles at my pettiness.

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photo credit: David Chatsuthiphan @ Unreal Hawaii

This Tornado loves you*

photo by Darryl Torckler/The Image Bank/Getty Images

I’ve lost sight in these past few days, possibly weeks, of who I am and what I want to be (as a person).  Caught up in my swirling thoughts, I have been running, trying to figure out what is next.  In this confusion, I have created inner and outer turmoil.  I feel like a tornado, lost in the spinning, pulling those in around me and dizzying them into confusion.

There has been a lot of change in the past couple of weeks and I am trying to learn to sit and wait for a new path to emerge.  Instead of chasing after something to fill the empty space and distract me from the anxiety of the unknown, I want to just sit.  It’s unlike me and I fear complacency and sloth.

It hit me today that it will be a year my mother died in just a few weeks.  Will I be okay?  As I sit here and write, I do wonder.  The grief can hit you like a tidal wave and drown all your senses in pain.

Almost a year, hard to believe.  The pain hasn’t gone away, though it has lessened.  I’ve had dreams and memories of her lately, though even more so, longing.  I long for a mother.  Not the one who raised me but the mother I’ve needed and wanted for so, so very long.

* Song by Neko Case

Living on the rock

May 1 2012
Hawaii Kai
Portlock point

It’s amazing to be standing on the very end of an island as the water
rushes by. I watch the swells surge around the rocky point to my left,
glimmering in the moonlight. Knowing this very water is circulating
into gyres and passing through to thousands of other islands, other
continents, feels powerful.

That we are here, on this rock, just a piece of land in the middle of
nowhere, is… humbling. To each and every one of us on this island, our lives are so
valuable and important.  Our obsessions and material possessions
consume us.  To the ocean we are nothing: a tiny speck on its path.

I like feeling small. It reminds me of the simpleness of life.

source: Unreal Hawaii

Gas, liquids, solids and surf

Pretty amazing how chemistry can practically bring me to tears.  Memories of being in high school and not “getting it” come to the surface and I feel like I just can’t do it.  But I have to in order to graduate.  I’m sitting here, glaring at my chem book and sipping seltzer water.

Been surfing a lot in the past week.  I feel like I owe it to myself to get back into it.  The last time I surfed regularly was over 10 years ago and I may as well be a complete beginner again. The past year I’ve been in Hawaii I look at the waves almost daily and I want to be in waves, not just observing them.  I think it’s time.  We’ll see how long it lasts, but I hope it stays with me.

I am not sure why I threw myself back into school this fall so quickly.  I wanted a distraction and I had no idea what else to do with myself.  So I walked forward in the only direction I knew how to at the time.  So here I am.  Crying over chemistry.

Sole-less in paradise

Yesterday somewhere around Makapu’u, the sole of my hiking boots peeled off as I was walking.  I looked down and they were just flapping there, hanging on toward the back heel like a loose tooth about to fall out on a 7-year old.  Though I will not be receiving 50 cents under my pillow, sadly.  I pulled them off, walked back, and hung out on the shore. I was bummed, I really loved my boots, we’ve been through a lot together.  I’m surprised I hadn’t named them like so many other of my inanimate objects I adore (sad or funny?).  I blame it on Pele and Mauna Loa Summit.  That hike did me in, and apparently, my shoes too.  I suppose days on black a’a lava with a heavy pack will do that.  It seems like a timely end though.  They’d been through a lot.

My friend said it’s nothing shoe glue can’t fix, but I kind of want new ones.  Though I did think they were the best hiking shoes in the world and were never going to fall apart.  Even yesterday, I gazed down at them in admiration.  I have prided myself in making such a wise decision to purchase them 10 years ago at Hudson Trail Outfitters in DC. They were on sale and everything I wanted in a hiking boot.  And then yesterday they just fell apart.  Both at the same time, right in front of my eyes.

the boots. the soles. but not together.

Big Island wanderings

Lately I have acted unlike myself though I am sure that is not unusual under the circumstances.  I spent Labor Day weekend on Big Island, mostly diving, snorkeling and meeting up with some friends.  Though I couldn’t for the life of me commit to any particular action.  Nothing felt quite right. In each instant, I would change my mind and decide that, yes, I should go do this or that instead.  Or wait, maybe not.  Maybe I should do this other thing.

I started the 2-hour drive toward a friend’s house from Kona, though ended up stopping to snorkel for a while and then later ended up at a black sand beach.  As I drove by a Bed & Breakfast I contemplated staying the night there.  But wait, I was supposed to stay at my friends house on the other side of the island.  So I drove on.  When I arrived, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself and decided going to bed was the best option.

The next day, I planned go to a birthday party and camp on the volcano but instead took off in my rental car and drove to the other side of the island without knowing where I was going or where I was staying.  It eventually became dark and I figured I needed to sleep somewhere.  I ended up Continue reading

Beautiful underworld

I long to be in the ocean, feeling the water swirl up around me as I descend.  Diving and snorkeling have been a soothing distraction these days.  When I enter the underworld of the ocean I am immediately in awe.  How could I not be distracted by the beauty?  And the silence. I love it.

As a child, many of my drawings were of mermaids.  I was obsessed with them.  I wanted to be a mermaid or at least be able to breathe underwater.  Sometimes I still daydream of being a mermaid.

From the surface, you would never know what lay beneath the water.  Once you enter, it’s a completely different realm.  I want to live there.

 

Mind numbing cold

Pali lookout on a rainy day

I went to the Pali lookout today, though not on purpose.  I was in the area and somehow ended up there.  As I looked into the horizon it was chilly and raining, but I didn’t care.  I wanted to feel cold. I stood there and shivered as the rain poured down on me and I hoped the rain would come down even harder.  I needed to know I could feel something besides sadness.  And hot; it’s been really hot lately.

I cannot believe these words are my own, but I miss the seasons.  I want to see the leaves dropping around me with brilliant colors; the smell of the leaves decaying as you walk through the park.  I want winter.  A cold and bitter winter that reminds me I am alive.  Seeing life go dormant around me sounds comforting.  I want to lie in the snow and feel my skin burn from the cold.  I want to see my breath fog up around me.

Friends of mine would say fall and winter were wonderful because nature would drift to sleep for a while and then come back alive in the spring.  I always saw it as everything just dies.  There was nothing I found particularly beautiful about it. Fall was the beginning of the end, as I dreaded the dark winters.  But I think I understand it now.   There is a predictable and soothing rhythm to it.  Even the most treacherous of winters will eventually birth forward a beautiful spring.

Learning a new way to be

When it’s hot, I like to jump in the pool for a quick swim before I go to bed. I swim the modified backstroke, looking up toward the stars as I glide over the water.  I feel like a water bug that juts across streams and ponds, practically walking on water.  Blooming plumeria trees fill the air with a wonderful aroma – one of my favorites.  I see heads peaking outside their windows: who is in the pool this late?

I was swimming on Sunday at Kamainas, thinking of my mother and hoping to see a honu (sea turtle).  That if I saw one, it would somehow be a sign.  Of what? I don’t know.  But I love sea turtles and without sounding too corny, I think they are very special.  Shortly after, I looked down as I swam and there is the biggest honu I’ve seen at Kamainas directly below me.  It was feeding on some of the algae growing on a large rock.  Most of the time, they swim away once a human is hovering above them.  But this one just stayed there, floating around the rock as I ducked down below to get a closer look. Perhaps it was older, wiser and understood it was a protected species.  As if it knew we weren’t supposed to touch or harm it.  Or maybe Continue reading

Name change

Ka'ena Point, Wai'nae side Oahu

One of my new favorite past times is walking down to the beach and floating in the sea. Stretching my legs and arms into a T, closing my eyes, and feeling the hot sun on my face.  The world around me is silent.  I can hear myself breathe.  Suddenly, my mind goes blank, worries dissolve and I imagine myself drifting out in the middle of the ocean, the only person in the world.

So decided to change the name of my blog.  I didn’t really like the previous name and figured it would be temporary.  I am not sure I like this name either, but I do like to float on the surface of water.  It works best in the ocean because of the salt water of course, but if you hold your breath, it works in a pool or lake too.  I also am unsure I can say I’m a humanist.  It sounds a little pretentious to me (as does do-gooder).

I believe it’s very much possible to be a humanist and hedonist.  I’m not even sure what that means but I like to think it’s caring about the well-being of “humanity” (including human dignity) and enjoying (and prioritizing) life’s pleasures.  I hope to grow in balancing both.

Maybe a future blog name can have ‘humanistic hedonist’ in the title.  Or ‘hedonistic humanitarian’.  Nice.

If Pahoehoe were a man, I’d marry it

This is just one of many odd conversations I had with Mallory on the way down from the Mauna Loa volcano summit:  “If Pahoehoe were a man, I’d marry it”.  I was delirious from altitude sickness, lack of sleep and exhaustion.  To explain, pahoehoe is a type of Hawaiian lava with a “smooth and ropy surface”, in contrast with ‘a’a, which is “jagged and clinkery”.  You can imagine which one is easier to walk on.  We literally clocked about 1 mile per hour walking through ‘a’a, whereas pahoehoe was like walking on a paved sidewalk, but fun.

The 4-day hike to the Mauna Loa summit was absolutely amazing to say the least.  Surrounded by nothing but miles of miles of lava with no humans in sight for four days was epic.  I never knew how colorful and gorgeous different types, shades, and shapes of lava could be.  I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland, but instead of Wonderland it was the planet Mars on acid.  Throughout the hike, I would pause and take in the scenery around me, amazed by the vast and beautiful fields of diverse lava.

It sounds dramatic to say I came down the volcano changed person. I didn’t expect to feel this way.  I actually didn’t know what to expect.  I’ve always prided  myself in being Continue reading