Fifteen years ago, I was a single mom raising my teenage daughters, trying to make a way in a midwestern city as a glass artist. At the time, ipods were new, and to save money instead of buying songs to load, I checked out random cds from the library, searching for new tunes. I thought to check out some Hawaiian music, even though all I had known of it was a stereotype, thinking Hawaiian music was “kitchy,” like plastic grass hula skirts and doing the “limbo” at a Luau class party. But a track by Justin Young caught my attention, “one foot here” and “one foot there,” where here (reality) was an endless snowy cleveland winter listening to an iPod on the basement cycling trainer, and there became …. listening to this song.
I was captivated by its peace, and it became one of my favorites, one foot there, even though I had never been there…
Five years later I met my soulmate, and when he first told me his Hawaiian name, forty letters long, (….kawehiwehiokekuwahiwionauaioku’uhome… I was just sent….
I went to my backpack and got my iPod, and put an earbud in his ear. He patiently listened to it with an uncomplicated affection, without a comment, but I realized he was from there, already accustomed to the glimpse of what I heard. I saw it in his eyes.
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
A few months after we married, we visited his mother in Honolulu. I told him I was looking forward to trying Hawaiian Cuisine. He chuckled that mayonnaise and spam would qualify as “cuisine.” so the first place he brought me after the airport was lunch at an L & L bbq.
Her apartment was compact, with a small set of dishes efficiently arranged in the tiny kitchen and a small folding table in the hall leading to a tidy living room. Her favorite Japanese TV shows were on, in the background like Americans do with daytime soap operas. Family photos cover the walls or in free-standing frames, along with mementos and souvenirs that occupied every spare flat surface, dusted and cared for. I was surprised to see sushi sitting out on the table, room temperature, but that’s how its supposed to be.
Being mid-day, it was no time before she offered more food as well, setting a small bowl of poi in front of me and him. With a smile, he studied me carefully as I tasted the mashed kalo for the first time, a thin pudding that adhered to the spoon a little like Elmer’s glue. Apparently it’s an acquired taste, but he didn’t know yet how much I love unusual food, the chance for a small unexpected adventure. (That would be another post entirely) Getting past the gooiness was ok, and the taste was, well, not quite bland, but unexplainable… starchy, with a hint of … that taste on an ice cube sitting in the freezer for a week? But, “Yes, I like this. May I have some more?” I asked her. They laughed that I would ask for seconds.
Back home in Seattle, he bought a bag of fresh poi from a grocery store called Uwajimaya, who has enough Hawaiian customers to fly it in fresh. It comes condensed, and so you have to mix it in a bowl with water. My newlywed husband was highly entertained by making sure I learned how the right way, no sugar and with your hands. He got a camera ready anticipating the look on my face as dipped my hand in the goo for the first time, squishing it between my fingers.
When we visited Maui for our delayed honeymoon a few months later, his idea of R&R went like this: “Let’s rent some bikes and ride UP Haleakala.” (it’s the longest continuous road climb in the world, sea level to 10,000 ft in 39 miles.)
Ok, lets go, but I gotta pace myself, ok? …
But he did make sure to schedule a couple’s massage the next day, with a quality luau afterwards for us even though he’s not entirely comfortable at scenes with a lot of tourists. I ended up with massage hair thick with coconut oil at the dressed up dinner, and was grateful for the open bar. Food was served buffet style, and at the end of the spread was a small bowl of poi. He was shocked to think that a few handfuls would feed over a hundred people. After we went back for seconds, I mean we can really pack away some calories and I love laulau, we saw that the poi had hardly been touched. He was seriously considering asking if he could bring the rest home. I guess they know their customers after all, not offering what wouldn’t be appreciated.
On the way back to our place on the south shore, moonlight sparkled on the water, and the air was warm as I played airplane with my hand out the rental car window. “There is no such thing as time,” I mentioned, feeling the most content peace…
A couple years ago, Hubster put a sticker on his climbing helmet working for a rappelling company, which said Raised on Poi. A surprised teenage customer once asked, “you were raised on POT ?”
No, P O I …
The next time I heard One Foot on Sand was hearing Justin sing it live on a street stage. It was at Wailuku First Friday, by chance, when we lived down the street and we had stopped to pick up some Pastele at a food booth.
In my life and experience, (God, have you any idea how difficult it was?)
from there, when I yearned for this exactly,
to here in reality,
the significance of my heart’s guidance was an epiphany.
Make your decisions based on love instead of fear.
“Hey,” I said, pulling him to a stop on the crowded Wailuku street, “Listen. They’re singing it live … we are here.”
– – – – – – – – – –
Before we left Maui for this extended adventure on the mainland, we sold all our bikes down to one each. My man was faster on his road bike while I motored along on the old homegrown. We would leave the house at the same time, then meet again after he turned around, then I would turn around as well. “This is one of the most beautiful rides in the world,” he said, before we set off again, on our own solitary rides home. I stopped at Braddah Chics stand for the most delicious mango smoothie ever, a thick orange slushy peaked like the matterhorm out of the cup . I asked Braddah whats in it, and he said just mango and ice.
Simple is best.