Monday, January 26, 2015

On Growth,Change and Love of Place & People

Jean & I together on the Kona coast in 2002 near where she lived
My birthday is this week. Birthdays always make me nostalgic, and miss old friends and good times together.

One example is my friend Jean. She is leaving Hawaii  next week after living there for over 15 years.  I rediscovered Hawaii again after Jean and her husband Kawika (David) moved there.  It had been 30 years since I had returned to the state which held such fond childhood memories for me.   

Rediscovering Hawaii and learning about Hawaiian history and culture from Jean and Kawika in a way I never knew before has been like rediscovering a childhood friend and engaging in a long languid love affair.  It is an affair that I've greatly enjoyed.

Hawaii Island has provided years of beauty to all my physical and spiritual senses. I've sketched and painted her landscapes, beaches, people, flowers and moods for many years.  I've had dozens of magical mystical moments on that island. To this day if I feel unsettled about things I only have to envision myself floating in Honaunau bay, smelling fresh plumeria, or breathing in that lovely Kona air as I first step off the plane. It calms me right down.

Unexpectedly in April 2013, we lost Kawika to a stroke.  My beloved Hawaiian brother and friend
A photo I took of Kawika in 2007 at Punalu'u
of  almost 30 years was gone. Kawika was such a huge force and large presence for those who knew him.  As a couple, Jean and Kawika were one of those pairs that my husband and I have known for decades.  These are the type of friends that you can go years without seeing, then pick right up again as though it was last week.  The type of friends that you don’t have to re-explain yourself to, or recite your history to, because they know it already, they've been part of it, and even when they disagree with you, they love you and you love them. There is something about losing a friend of long duration. It makes you feel that a part of yourself is gone, because that person’s view, that long historical view they’ve had of your own life and existence is suddenly gone.   So, yes, when Kawika left, it was as if a big chunk of my own life disappeared. There was one less person  on this earth who knows  my story, the story of my years.
My husband Bob & Kawika  near Hilo in 2007
Jean is now returning to her native California to start a new phase of her life. A brave and exciting move. California is where we all met in the first place all those years ago. She will have many old friends and family to welcome her there. This is good to have as one gets older.  

When I first heard of Jean’s decision to leave Hawaii, I was very sad.  I was sad for her as I know how  much she loves Hawaii Island and her wonderful friends there. Part of my sadness was also selfish since I've enjoyed many visits to the island while she’s lived there.  But mostly I enjoyed my visits with my friend Jean.  So was it the place or the person?

I moped and mourned for a few days, and it dawned on me that although I love Hawaii passionately, it will not be quite the same for me without my friend Jean there to share it with.  That combination of good friends in a beautiful place with a mutual love for that place is so intoxicating. Because of Jean and Kawika I never stayed in a hotel, but stayed with them.  I cooked with and broke bread with them and their friends. I sipped wine and talked late into the night with them. They welcomed my husband and grown children into their home.  Because of them  I got to be with and know local people and places, and to feel the core of the islands, underbelly and all,  their history, their sorrows and joys and the real culture. I went to political rally’s, local luaus, concerts and art events, “talked story”, and got to know people both white and Polynesian whose families have lived in the islands for generations.  Not something every visiting  blue eyed “haoli” girl gets to do very often. And it certainly was not the history I was taught at Hale Kula elementary school on Oahu back in the day. 
An oil painting I did after my 2005 trip to Hawaii Island

I guess my point is, that it’s the people that make the place. There are many people still there that I love or admire, but, my friends Jean and Kawika have been the core of my Hawaiian experience integral to the place itself. Our shared love and admiration for Hawaii Island has been the main fabric of my own passion for it in the last 15 years.  Who else will so readily celebrate my simple daily joys in dipping myself in Hawaiianess when I visit? Who else there knows my story well enough to understand those joys fully? I’m not sure.  

I hope to create new traditions with my friend Jean and share experiences together in a new meeting place. For it is my love for her that won out over my love for Hawaii when all is said and done.  I am sure I will visit my old lover the place called Hawaii again, but for now I say,

Aloha O’e Hawai’i nei . Mahalo for your many gifts.  A hui hou. 
My watercolor of a fisherman on the reef in Hawaii

(Farewell to Thee my dearest, Thank you, till we meet again)

And to my friend Jean, I say, “Hello my friend, I cannot wait to see you again, it will be so nice to have you nearer.”


Michele Ross is an entrepreneur and artist living in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

No comments:

Post a Comment