There are a lot of cliche aspects to Hawaii life that I cherish and miss terribly. Right now I'm listening to John Cruz's Island Style in an attempt to trigger some sort of audio-teleportation. Although my physical body might be seated in front of a glowing computer screen, when I close my eyes I can see, for a brief moment, one of the many full moons I've experienced in Hawaii. I can feel my body swaying like a tall palm draped by a starry sky, moved by the sound of laughter, music and crashing waves.
When first asked to write about what I miss most about Hawaii, some of the usual suspects ran through my head. Of course I would give my left arm on most days to be at the beach, getting sand in my hair from swirling around under the waves at Ke Iki or cave diving with friends on a flat summer day. But a few of my most missed memories are more subtle - or maybe they're obvious for those of us lucky enough to call Hawaii home.
As a recent transplant to the Bay Area, the contrast between my life here and my life in Hawaii is sharpened daily. No longer do I ramble down a dirt road to the beach with my sweet little pup, whispering hello to the horses and admiring the golden light as it transforms both me and the California grass into something soft and magical. Now I rush to catch the bus, to take the train, to walk - to work. Heaven forbid I drive around these parts - it's probably the least efficient method of transportation when it comes to getting somewhere you have to be during working hours. And while Hawaii isn't all beach days and bonfire (as anyone who's been stuck on the H1 at 4pm or Lani's at 2pm can attest to), it still blesses your worst days with unexpected rainbows and inspiring views.
The Smell of the Air
I was sixteen when I took that initial memorable inhale of moist air. I landed on Maui for a week and was enchanted. Floral, sweet and delicate - simply breathing was intoxicating; a mighty addiction for a teenager to discover. After that first visit, I was hooked - I needed to smell it, I couldn't live without smelling it, or so my angsty teenage self said. So I returned as a seventeen year old, this time for the entire summer between junior and senior year. I soon moved there, grateful daily for my ability to breathe the essence of Hawaii deep into my lungs. I think the balmy air changes your perception of reality. Suddenly life takes on the sweet and encouraging scent of plumeria and warm rain - uplifting and forever hopeful.
When I was young, my grandmother couldn't understand why I would refer to my friends as my family when they weren't related by blood. After moving to Hawaii, I knew I wasn't alone in my love for community. I aligned quickly with the concepts of 'ohana, hanai family and a real community. Many of my best friends in Hawaii were transplants also. I am sure that it was, and is, this separation from blood relatives (and all that is familiar and comforting) that creates this loose, loving extended sense of family. In smaller towns in Hawaii, everyone is a part of the community - aunties, uncles, keiki, surfers, hippies, students, bartenders, farmers, yoga instructors, townies with real jobs, shopkeepers, homeless people, nurses, teachers, the independently wealthy, drunks, writers, photographers - everyone is connected. I may not have liked everyone in my town, but I always said hello and I often knew their names. Your walk of life doesn't matter. You could be nearly anybody, but if you love Hawai'i - if you choose to embody the aloha spirit and care for the 'aina - you are inherently a part of the whole. I desperately crave daily interactions with my friends and my community - there is nothing else like it. If you know, you know.
Sunset Pau Hanas
Making time to watch the sunset is a cultural habit that may not lead to a more productive life, but it certainly makes for a happier one. I couldn't help but smile with gratitude every time that I watched the sun dip below the horizon. Enjoying a cold beer at the beach with my dog after a long day of work always put me at peace. I thought of it as my way to honor the day. I also felt that it was an appropriate time to take a photo of both my toes and a beer nestled in the sand, with the pink sky and blue sea in the background - then send it to friends on the mainland.
Sweet, salty, slimy and saucy. Glistening on top of a bowl of warm rice with a cold beer to help it go down, I would give anything for some fresh Hawaiian poke. Nothing charms me more than pulling off to the side of the road (on my way home from work, and on my way to the beach for sunset) to pick up a container of fresh fish poke that some uncle or auntie is selling out of a cooler in the back of their pickup truck. When I can't get poke from fishermen, I happily turn to either Poke Stop in Mililani when heading home from Honolulu or the Superette in Kahuku. I miss all kine poke: ahi, tako, furikake salmon, spicy, creamy, with limu, straight shoyu. I can't keep writing about this, I'll go crazy... and hungry.
Living in Hawaii for most of my adult life made it easy to escape onto the trail by myself or with friends at any time. In a few hours, I've climbed to the top of a 2,000 foot ridge jutting out over the sea. In barely a full day, I have had my entire life challenged by the natural forces in Hawaii - and come out of it relatively unscathed and somehow still surrounded by loving friends under a full moon. No matter where you live in Hawaii, there is a mountain behind you that wants to be climbed. There's a trail for everyone all the time - I only wish I had taken advantage of them more often.
Flowers in my Hair
When I moved to the Bay Area, I was sure that the lyrics 'If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair' would ring true. I was wrong. Nobody wears flowers in their hair - except for me, when I can find them. Back home, I wore a flower in my hair more often than not - and I was not considered strange, eccentric, trendy or a pseudo hippie because of it (but I may have been considered some of those things for other reasons). Granted, I always switched the sides on purpose. I never really liked the flirty eyes that guys would give a girl if she happened to be wearing a flower in her right ear at the Pupukea Foodland around 7 PM.
Local Grinds, (like 7-11 & Zippy's)
Let's get one thing straight; I don't think that eating food from 7-11 and Zippy's is beneficial to anybody's health or wellbeing, but it has it's moments. My secret vices always included a teri chicken manapua after a day of classes at UH Manoa, a spam musubi if I drank a little too much on a Friday night, or a cup of Zippy's portuguese bean soup with a side of mac salad at 2:30am after going out in town (We've all done it; no shame). While I don't miss actually eating local style fast food, I do miss knowing that I can buy canned tuna sushi when I'm filling up my Corolla at the gas station.
Small Shows, Big Music
Hawaii isn't known for it's music scene and I think most of us would like to keep it that way. We have great shows. BAMP Project has played a huge part, over the past 8 years or so, in expanding the music scene on Oahu. I've seen some of my favorite artists with less than two hundred other people. And musical acts are always happy to be in Hawaii - and when they're stoked, they play killer shows. And how can they not be happy to be playing in Hawaii? They get a supportive, enthusiastic crowd and a vacation, c'mon. Although I do get to see more music now that I'm on the mainland, I'll never forget some of the shows that I've seen at Pipeline Cafe, LOFT, Next Door and the Waikiki Shell (don't forget Volcano's Nightclub; so old school). The combination of great mainland acts, awesome local acts (Paula Fuga, you know we love you), small(ish) crowds, great friends and killer tailgating still makes Hawaii my favorite place to see music, even if the sound is just ok and the shows are far and few between.
A Healthy Lifestyle
Yoga, surfing, hiking, beach walks, farm life, snorkeling, swimming, diving, fishing, bike rides, beach days. Healthy living comes easily, even to the most party addled surf bums. While there are a lot of unhealthy life choices to be made in Hawaii, I really miss how easy it was to lead a healthy lifestyle. My yoga practice, meditation practice, activity levels and veggie-laden diet didn't feel like work at all. My body was fit without even trying. Sometimes I imagine what my body in Hawaii would have been like if I had tried - total babe. You can't help but look good in your own skin when it is glowing perpetually from the humidity and your hair gets a saltwater rinse nearly every day. Living in Hawaii, if you take advantage of all the beauty around you, is the perfect health and wellness routine. Yes, sunscreen is important, but soaking up good vibes, sunshine and aloha spirit is paramount.
Hawaii is supremely special. Be grateful. Say thank you in anyway you can - through yoga and meditation, surfing, getting your hands in the dirt, watching the sunset or talking to your neighbor at the bank/store/beach. Pay attention to what is happening around you. Hawaii is small and the actions that are taken upon it create lasting change. Make sure that change is good and healing. Many things that are happening cannot be undone. Pay attention to local politics, GMO debates, and the educational system. If you've ever felt the blessing of Hawaii - that moment where your heart feels like it's going to pop out of your chest because you are so in love with these islands, know that it is a call. It is a call to ensure that the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. Eat local, don't litter, live aloha, use your brain, use your heart and know that you are living a blessed life.