On the second plane ride there is a distinguished passenger, a WWII veteran who is celebrating his 90th birthday. He was in Pearl Harbor all those years ago and now he returns for the first time with his wife.
Our hotel room has two little, clean twin beds on wood platforms, a closet that smells so strange (maybe like dog food?), and the best water pressure. My sister says it is the “spring break” hotel she never got. Most nights, she showers first because she needs more time to get ready. I try to rest as I wait, listening to the Pandora 90s Summer Mix on her phone. My favorite, secret love song comes on.
Our first day trip
The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. The black and white footage of the tropical harbor on fire, the feeling that this place was so helpless in its waiting. An audio guide allowed me to experience in solitude. Looking through the water to the rusty, fuzzy ship below, so little to separate and yet left forever. The stains of oil on the surface, the urns of men being returned to their comrades.
A little rain cloud has begun to follow us, sometimes refreshing, sometimes irritating like another little sibling throwing small tantrums in public. It pours, then its sunny, then it sprinkles and the sun still shines. It feels like a reference to Winnie the Pooh.
The dinners with men and women I have known my whole life. On this trip a lot of people remember my Papa, my big Irish Grandfather. They miss him here, and even though I never came to this place with him, I can imagine how he must have enjoyed it. I miss him too and the memories make me proud.
Not everything here is paradise. A stranger asks “Can I rape you?” The spray on sun screen, mixed with sweat turns my clothes neon yellow, I think at first that I am sick. Tired from the drinking and time change. Arguments. Silence. I fail at surfing.
Another hike to a hike of old volcanoes and dry grass overlooking the blue Pacific. I wanted to take more time, but my sister moves fast and so we follow. I notice how skilled I have gotten at taking photos on the move, a theme of our family vacations (and lit in New York). Movement. On the go. Touching many rocks, leaves, grass, metal. Smelling the hike. Using all my senses as I focus on breathing and climbing past other hikers up stairs, through tunnels, on slanted stone and mud.
The Iolani Palace is a reminder of the vibrant culture these islands hold on to, being confronted with the western cultures that conquer. There is a quote on the audio guide about Hawaii gaining her sovereignty, meaning now or in the future? I want to know this history and these beliefs and desires. To understand better this place as more than just a land to sun and swim, that those who matter most are not the tourists, but those who call life, here.
There is much positive. Walking the beach. Morning yoga. High Tea at the old hotel. Catching up with a mentor I have missed. All the weddings to watch. A supportive talk with my Aunt who is proud of who I am. Touched.
We hike to Manoa Falls. It is pouring rain and a slippery adventure that gets my adrenaline pumping as I hop up the path. There is something liberating about being so drenched that staying dry is no longer a thought or option.
Zipping through the Land
I have always wanted more speed and could cruise those zip lines all day if allowed. Our guides are upbeat and their energy contagious. But I am surprised to find that this place and company are more than that. Situated on a farm that grows all kinds of produce, we are treated to tomatoes, apple bananas, nuts. We are taught that native Oahu used to be split up into self sustaining sections that stretched from mountain to sea and that the lines would be drawn to make each section as equal as possible in its resources. There was an old saying “if we take care of the land, the land will take care of us.” What could be more true and yet more ignored in todays world. According to our guides, with the modern consumer culture, if Oahu were to be cut off from the rest of the world, they could only supply essentials for 8 days. A bleak statistic in this world of natural and human disaster.
I find so much while others drive. Observing and taking my on the go photos (this means taking hundreds and keeping a dozen.)
A final sunset before saying goodbye. I meditate on the beach alone, while watching it. Should I ask with my hands to be grounded or to communicate? I know what I need and choose the ground of this land.