It’s February, and as my Facebook memories are reminding me, I’m supposed to be in Hawai’i right now, or at least counting down the days until I’m there. For the past 12 years, I have spent 2-3 weeks on either Maui or the Big Island every winter. It’s not just the warm weather and beaches that draw me there; it’s an indescribable ‘something’ that makes me feel connected to myself and the surroundings.
Hawaiians talk about, and demonstrate, “Aloha Spirit”. “Aloha”, while often associated with being the word for “Hello”, actually refers to “the presence of breath”. It is the “coordination of mind and heart within each person.” (Chapter 5, Hawai’i Revised Statutes) It is a way of life on the islands, where goodwill and kindness are extended to others.
I felt it on my first trip. As soon as the aircraft door opened and I could smell the air, I felt at home. It doesn’t matter which island I’m on, it’s the same. There is something about being there that makes me feel completely connected – physically, mentally, emotionally.
At first, I thought it was being near water. I can sit near the ocean for hours – watching and listening to the waves crash on shore. I get a similar feeling sitting near the lake at home, so I knew it was more than that. Is it the humidity in the air? The scent of the plumeria flowers wafting on the breezes? Being surrounded by so much natural beauty?
I remember the feeling I had when hiking into “The Bamboo Forest” (Pipiwai Trail) on Maui on the way to Waimoku Falls. As far, and tall, as the eye could see – it was bamboo. Greenery everywhere. A slight breeze added subtle percussion sounds as the bamboo swayed. A gentle rain started to fall. All I wanted to do was sit on the forest floor and experience it.
Whenever I am on the islands, the urge to be creative is overpowering. I want to write, draw, paint (and I’m not a visual artist!). Something about the Aloha spirit connects me in a primal way to myself. I feel things more deeply. I feel a profound sense of peace. I feel whole in a way that’s completely different from how I feel anywhere else.
Connections are interesting things. It’s not just the connections between people, but also things, feelings, places, experiences – everything it means to be human. Some connections can be explained, others cannot – yet they exist for a reason. How a girl who grew up in a land-locked Canadian province found such a profound connection to her being on the tiny islands in the Pacific, I’ll never know. But, I’m grateful.
Since that first trip (and there have been seventeen, to date, in total), I feel I leave a small piece of my soul behind when I leave the islands. Maybe I’m called to return in order to connect all the parts of my being.