Thursday, June 20, 2013

Paradise Lost: An Ode to Oahu

I've put off writing this for so long. You see, I didn't want to write it.  It felt too hard and I didn't think I could.

When we first moved to Hawaii, there was quite an adjustment. Living in what felt like another country, trying to start over, find a home, a job, friends. It wasn't easy.  I know this sounds ridiculous, clique' even, but it's true. That first year was the hardest. I tried to acclimate, and struggled. It wasn't just the seclusion, being totally cut off from my old life, my old friends, it was more. I was just trying to find my place, a favorite restaurant, that always helps, a job, maybe someone to hang out with. But it was hard and I was unsuccessful.

But then I fell in love. With the sea.

I've always been a beach person, I've always loved laying on the sand with a good book and baking the day away.  But this was something new.  The ocean became my play ground, the sea life became my only friends.  At first I got an underwater camera and spent all my time photographing.  I would take photos of every new exciting creature I could find.  Every time we went out on a new snorkel, I'd try to find something I've never seen before.  And I always did.  Maybe it was the first encounter with a couple of squid, maybe a bat ray swimming in the distance, maybe an octopus hiding in the coral, maybe a school of barracuda hanging out at the end of the pipes at Electric Beach.  So I set about documenting it.  It consumed my time and I loved it. But soon documentation became less important, because just the act of being there was enough.  I can't even remember the first time I swam with a turtle. It was probably my first time out because they are so prolific on Oahu. But I was astonished at these beautiful majestic creatures. The way they swim, just not a care in the world, so serene... its impossible to be near them and not feel totally at peace. They go about their day, swimming around and foraging for sea lettuce, and they just are. The waves will come and crash all around them, and they'll just float back and forth, ebb and flow, totally undisturbed, totally oblivious to what is happening around them. It's beautiful. And I mimicked that as much as I could. Just swimming in those clear, deep waters, waters that go on and on, a sea of turquoise forever. Swimming there, floating there, I have never felt more at peace. One with Nature, one with God.

Time passed, and we were able to buy the big house on the beach. I couldn't believe it, a house on the beach. I immersed myself in renovation, gardening, and started to find my place. Work was still a challenge, I found a position with one school in Ewa and then was Riffed and then asked back and then Riffed again. But in the meantime, coworkers became less standoffish, started to welcome me. I made some good friends, started to feel like I belonged. Luckily after my second Riff, I found a permanent position in Makakilo. Once again, coworkers were standoffish, and once again I had to start all over again, trying to build friendships. I think in general Locals are standoffish to newcomers, I don't think they realize it, or would even acknowledge it, but I think its true. Trust and friendship are earned. But after many weeks I began to feel welcomed and made friendships with coworkers.  The more I got involved, the more I felt like one of them, and less like an outsider. I don't know what it is, I think it may have something to do with working in special education, the Stockholm Effect? We're all in sometimes the worst of situations, and we have to depend on each other to make it through.  I remember riding in the back of the float after the Kapolei Christmas Parade. It had been a great day.  All the kids had been picked up by their parents, and it was just us adults on our way back to our cars. It was a warm evening and the air had that floral scent that it often has, there were fireworks going off in the distance as we bounced and heaved.  I remember standing there, looking at all the passing cars, the ridiculous Christmas music still blaring out of the stereo system, strangers smiling and waving, and thinking, this is my home, this is my home. Anyway, I love and miss so many of my friends from Makakilo. I'll see something and be reminded of someone, and then realize I won't see them, I won't be able to share it with them. And I hate it.

I planted my dream garden. And I wont be able to see it grow. Will the new owners take care of it? Will my mango tree bloom?  Will the mandarin? Will the lilikoi ever again produce as much as it did last year? How tall will my foxtail palm get? Will it hit the power lines like I feared?

What will I miss the most? The sun dancing across the ocean. My turtles. Snorkeling with my husband. Beach combing for sea glass. Sitting on the beach with good friends and a bottle of wine. My garden, finally growing. Chili's after a long hard day at school. Shave ice on the North Shore. Half Swimmer at Paradise Cove. My backyard beach. Wine-downs with friends. The Gardens at Waimea Valley. The sand that feels like baby powder on the Windward side.

The feeling that I finally felt at home.