How to you retain that lightness, freshness and calm that comes wrapped up in the spirit of Aloha? Can you really pack it all into your carry-on and unfold it at home to keep the positive parts of your paradise with you ‘back in the world’ of over-scheduled, all too real life?
If I lived somewhere with horrid winters of ice and blizzards, this longing for the moist air and sun might be expected. It might be obvious.
The allure of sun and salt water, warm breezes [and in the islands, welcome showers thru the night], are longings that I didn’t understand when I first met northern Europeans and New Yorkers baking to a leathery pride when vacationing in Tangiers a lifetime of travel ago. But I have lived most of my life within little more than 30 minutes of the Pacific ocean, and other than deluges of winter rain that didn’t seem to end, my climate experience is mildly like some folks’ fantasies. Of course this year, with no rain and endless fire season hyper-awareness, coastal California seems less charmed. Even as I cross the San Francisco Bay several times a month, astounded at how lucky we are to live in such a very beautiful place, my longing more than ever is to run away to Hawaii. To the Big Island. To Oahu. To Kauai. To a green island in a blue sea — to stay there the rest of my days. My skin would feel softened and perhaps my brittle edges of worry might also be rounded.
I am trying to bring a little more back each visit. My personal paradise is mostly Hawaii, but there are pieces of wonder and freedom from many places, and for many people, an island is just a part of that. Maybe you just need the water near, or an open horizon with little that is manmade in sight. Maybe it is a view from the top of a mountain looking over a sea of clouds.
The trailhead to a rugged trail or a gentle moorland may be what makes your heart feel free, and what you long for or miss. A northern passage that connects to the sea yet has views of snow-capped mountains, and where the whales, kayaks and submarines pass.
Sometimes it is the mixture of excitement, anticipation and leaving behind your routine encumbrances as you enter the departures lounge or pass thru the past security checkpoint. You have turned off the lights, taken out the garbage and turned over your keys and projects. Often it is a familiar airport routine, or a train trip we repeat along a beautiful stretch of the coast that is mostly only seen by rail or by paddle, a special zone or tunnel to pass thru and come out a little changed on the other side. I actually quite LIKE long haul flights mostly because they give me the time to effectively separate from my daily life. I want that experience. I am not ready for the transporter to beam me off to a new locale with no apparent journey.
I think I approach some of my daily life in the same vein. A bit like wanting to live a manual life, shifting my own gears, experiencing the downshift deliberately.
One of the things I find most lovely when I do come home, and am back in my own kitchen, is the handwork of cutting, mixing, pouring, shaping. Not all uniform, not all pre-made or speedily efficient. Taking time, maybe to recreate some of the place far away.
If it was a tropical sojourn, slicing fruit and sprinkling the raw macadamia nuts across the top will remind me of the visit with the farmer at the Waimea market near the Parker School, at the Saturday market, buying a pound of his nuts and talking to the growers.
While my breakfast bowl may lack the lovely lilikoi (passionfruit) that makes me so cheerful each day on the islands, I can make do nicely with mango, fresh limes, toasted coconut and yougurt. And since my yougurt is fairly local here, it may be a bit less dear in cost!
When we are in Hawaii we almost always have a place with a kitchen, so we can cook as much or as little as the whims of each day schedule. It does not have to be elaborate tho we are so grateful when a kitchen has been outfitted with the things that cooks really need. Those places get our gratitude and appreciation.
We have learned where to buy fresh fish, and where we can find good vegetables at the farmers markets with a little planning. Once in a while we want a specific ingredient that we did not plan for. We improvise, or maybe try to find it and are disappointed. That is not specific to the islands. I can face the same challenge trying to find good filo or chilies in England, or Thai basil at home (that is solved by growing it or remembering that there is one place you ALWAYS can find it and putting it on your route). Only be returning over and over have we sussed out the places that come thru, that never disappoint, and realizing that there are just a couple of things to remember to pack. A box of mochiko comes in handy for an impromptu batch of coconut mochi. And we learn to adapt — a useful skill. What can you do without. What do you make sure to plan for. What matters. What doesn’t. If you did it all perfectly this trip you would have nothing left to do next trip and nothing left to explore.
Since our trips are so low-key and designed around the calm that we seek, there isn’t a huge punch list. Just a wish list that has options. Things we want to try. Maybe that bakery we visited before is worth trying and will turn out the have the best Malassadas ever!
And I find myself smiling when a little bit of Aloha sneaks in unexpected:
This was actually a proper mirepoix – the beautiful carrots have just started showing up, and the celeriac is tender now.
Aloha! Where are you finding it?
note: if you desperately seek the tart passionfruit antidote to winter’s chill, these folks will fix you right up.