What is as sad as leaving Hawaii? A few places in the world, they call to you, they crawl up your sleeve and slip right between your ribs close to your heart. For me, Hawaii is one of those places. And when I must pack to leave, the weight of that is impossible.
This evening, after a lovely show at the Royal Hawaiian — that’s the grand pink place on the beach at Waikiki — I slipped out without saying a lot of goodbyes because I didn’t want to break the spell. I wanted to walk down Kalakaua Avenue behind the Japanese girls who shop for sport. I wanted to look at the glitzy shop windows and to hear the music overflowing from the upper balconies of the hotels. I wanted to breath in the sweet air of the trade winds and say hello to the statues of the Duke and Princess Ka’iulani.
Waikiki is, of course, a packaged Hawaii, cleaned up and peppered with shopping malls and convenience stores for people like me, mainlanders seeking a vacation paradise. But the feeling I had these evening as I wandered out under the palm trees, buzzed from the cocktails, admittedly, is not a Waikiki feeling, it’s a Hawaii one.
I’ve had it before, without the fruity drinks, while chatting with guys fishing on Moloka’i. While sitting with local T. on the seawall as a ten year old girl gave us the current count on the number of cousins she’s got — 46, was it? I’ve had in the music store in Kauai where I bought my last uke, when the guy behind the counter told me about his surfing trips around the world instead of pushing me to drop 800 dollars I didn’t really have right them. I had it sitting in the mochi house, and in Huloaloa on the Big Island and washing lettuce in the big work sinks at Ma’o Farm where I spent a morning volunteering.
It’s that sense of no hurry, of absolute mellow, it’s that same feeling of floating in the ocean where really, time doesn’t matter because it’s marked by the tide — what could we know about time that the ocean does not already know? I am wrapped in this feeling, in the sound of shiny Hawaiian guitars, in the falsetto voice of that big guy singing along with the radio. I am so utterly enchanted with this place that I ignore the long lines of traffic, the absurdly priced groceries, the messy politics.
I know, I know, it is different to live here, I would be naive to think otherwise. There is no way my daily life would stack up to my experience as a visitor. But every time I come back to Hawaii I am, well, called, it feels like she is calling me.
There is nothing romantic about the Burger King I walk past as I return to my hotel. There is nothing so appealing about the adult video stores or the cheap souvenir shops. There are homeless people in Kuhio Beach Park, a guy is sacked out on a bench on top of his belongings while beside him, a vacationing couple eat snacks out of plastic bags from the ABC store. But I spread my bare arms wide in the evening breeze and think, perhaps if I sold everything, I mean EVERYTHING I own…
What is as sad as leaving Hawaii? Queen Liliuokalani wrote Aloha Oe, a song about the parting between two lovers, but it’s become an all purpose goodbye song. “One fond embrace before I depart, until we meet again.” Tomorrow morning, I will get up early and swim in the Pacific one last time before I head to the airport. I can wrap myself in the waters of the ocean and breath deep of this air.
Aloha Oe. Until we meet again.
Disclaimer: Travel, accommodation, and some activities portions of my trip were sponsored by the Oahu Visitor’s Bureau in exchange for my blogging about my experiences in Hawaii.