Exactly a year ago, I was getting ready to move away from Waikiki and into a house at the edge of Manoa Valley. My room there was on the second floor and was big - big enough to share with my eccentric Hawaiian roommate Kai, and probably about the same size as my old 2-bedroom apartment (though about a third of the price) - and was enclosed on two sides by screens. No glass, not much in the way of walls, just screens. Outside our breezy, hole-y windows stood a magnificent mango tree that housed many-a-fighting squirrel. It was also a pit stop for small green parrots that would flit in and out when they were hungry, squawking and scaring the squirrels away for their chance to slurp up the sweet tropical nectar of the fruiting tree. Kai and I always joked about needing a hard hat whenever you needed to pass under the tree... throughout the day we would hear the squirrels squirreling around, running up and down and around the thick branches, then SMACK!!! a mango would plummet to the soft earth below. There were many mornings that I would be lying in bed, not wanting to get up and put my uniform on to go to work, so I would procrastinate by staring outside at whatever caught my attention. Somtimes it was the parrots. Others, the flowers on the moss-covered rocky hillside at the back of the house. And then there were the butterfly and gecko mornings. A soft little green gecko would be on the window's ledge, directly on the other side of the screen (and sometimes directly on the screen...). Its body would be rigid, it's feet suctioned to the wood or wire. Asleep? No. Dead? I think not. Praying? Nope. PrEying? Yessir. The cute little slithery gecko's eyes would be fixed on an innocent butterfly perched on the outside of the perpendicular bathroom wall. Slowly, carefully, stealthily, the gecko would move... POUNCE!!! Breakfast. The first couple of times I witnessed the exchange, I tapped on the screen to scare both the gecko and the butterfly. But then I realized that that's just what happens in the animal world, and after coming to terms with that fact it actually became a beautiful thing to watch in a way. The whole notion of witnessing nature take its course without any influence of your own or any other human lends itself to feeling pure and connected to the land. Riding my moped to the Manoa falls trail, and looking down to where the lush green valley met up with the staggering emerald mountains would leave me breathless. I would feel a little skip in my heart and a little lightness in my step. I could be completely alone but feel so comforted. I had never felt like that before in my life.
And then, I met Aaron. And my world went topsy turvy. I had always liked the topsy turvy nature of life, but MAN, this was topsy turvy at it's craziest. It felt like a combination of the Teacups from Disneyland, Drop Zone at Great America, Skydiving on North Shore, and being in the Shark Cage in the middle of a big black ocean. Dizzying, gut-wrenching, exhilirating, and straight up scary all at the same time. We found our own home on the second to highest floor of a high rise that gave us a thrilling view of the mountains. Every morning at about 5 or 6am we would wake up to a sparkling sun rising over the dewy mountains and valleys, and during the afternoons we would get sprinkled with random rain showers. The beauty still awed me, and although we didn't have parrots or geckos or butterflies or mango trees, we still had our view. And we had something better too - each other.
And now, here I am, in Riverside, California, torn away from the clutches of what was my home for almost a year, and all I can do is think about what I used to have and what I no longer have - animals, plants, blue skies, moody clouds, clean water, sandy beaches, malasadas, laulau, Sushi Man, and Macky's shrimp truck come to mind, but there is one thing I miss beyond all else, which needs not to be remembered since it is always on my mind... my one and only love. All I can do is think about the good times in the past and hope for good times in the future. The rest is up to time (see below...).
By the way, just like the stunning Hawaiian mountains would leave me breathless and give me a little flutter in my heart, there is something that leaves me breathless here in Riverside, but it's not quite as pretty. It's name is SMOG.