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Paradise Lost

Picking up the pieces of Hawaii

By Morgan Baker

When I moved to Hawaii, I knew I’d find palm trees and warm azure blue water. I didn’t know the water would be super salty and I’d be able to float in it for minutes at a time. It held me in a way that allowed me to look into the sunny skies and find myself.

But, my adventure in Hawaii came to a premature end. Despite the promise of an exciting job in Paradise, my husband and the new job didn’t mesh. He knew it and his employer knew it too. Suddenly, we were looking at returning to Boston unsure of what would be there when we returned. We didn’t know what jobs we’d get, our house was rented, and I was pissed. I wasn’t ready to end our adventure. I had fallen in love. With Hawaii.

I had just packed up one house, now I had to pack up another. But, I got with the program and filled the boxes I sent there about a year earlier. This time, some contained a vase or painting, clothes, and dishtowels (I collect them wherever I go), from Hawaii. These are the physical souvenirs I’m bringing back that will always remind me of my time on O‘ahu. 

Before Hawaii, I stayed close to home, afraid it would disappear if I left for a minute. Now I realize home is wherever I make it.

What couldn’t be put in a box are the things I learned there about myself, and the changes I underwent, that I hope to also carry with me wherever I land. I am a different person than I was a year ago, when this adventure started with my husband’s move.

Before Hawaii, I stayed close to home, afraid it would disappear if I left for a minute. Now I realize home is wherever I make it. It’s not necessarily a place, as it is a mindset. The house with the windows in Kailua became my home and I looked forward to hosting Christmas in Hawaii, to having a bustling home with my daughters and their significant others running in and out of the yards with the Mango and Monkey Pod trees. I looked forward to all the guests who were going to visit next year – I kept hearing about friends and family who had planned on it and are disappointed their plans will be thwarted, which makes me sad. But I loved exploring with the visitors who did come.

The change in me, however, makes me happy. I speak my mind more than I used to. I tell people, including my husband, when I’m annoyed or feel slighted, something I was afraid of before Hawaii. I discovered how resilient I am. I’m also more apt to take on other adventures now too.

I’m not going to climb the Grand Canyon, but I hiked Manoa Falls even though it was slippery and steep. I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined a university organization in order to meet people. My dog Mayzie passed her Good Citizen test so I could start her training to become a therapy dog for hospital visits on O‘ahu. I even rented a sewing machine and started making quilts again.

Every time the airplane bumped, Merle, our pilot, looked over at me in the co-pilot seat and said, “Normal. Normal.” He also said, “Anything fun is a little bit scary.”

I learned a lot about Hawaiian history and culture which I was unaware of before. The Hawaiian people are kind, hospitable (they greet you with a hug and a kiss) and have been through a lot, having their world taken from them and now they are reclaiming their culture and language. Whether of Hawaiian descent or someone who is lucky to call Hawaii their home, they made me feel welcome. Hawaii has my heart. I’ll be back.

Perhaps my swan song was flying in an antique single-engine plane above O‘ahu, over Honolulu and the Windward side, up over our house in Kailua and then through the Nu‘uanu Pali pass of the Ko‘olau mountain range connecting the leeward and windward sides of the island. Mountains rose up on either side of us.

Every time the airplane bumped, Merle, our pilot, looked over at me in the co-pilot seat and said, “Normal. Normal.” He also said, “Anything fun is a little bit scary.”

I did a “little bit scary” and am ready for more. It doesn’t have to be big like moving somewhere, it can be small – like when I visited my brother and his family in Vermont earlier this year and I jumped at the chance to try rock climbing with my 8-year-old niece. My brother wasn’t sure he heard me correctly, but he has photos to prove I did it – not well – but I did something I wouldn’t have done before my move. The scariest moment was the freefall I had to do and let the harness catch me. But after two terrifying falls, I caught on and letting go was fun.

I didn’t get to do all the adventures in Hawaii I wanted. Many of my plans were cut short. There are islands and waterfalls left to see, but when do we ever get to do everything we want? The point is to enjoy what we do get to do. I will miss the sun, the water, the trade winds, Kailua, the friends I made, and the ease with which I could get around. I will miss the voices of the two little girls next door playing in their back yard every afternoon. They always stopped to say “Hi Mayzie” when I went out for my dog walks.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to more change.

I don’t want to slip back into who I was before this life in my house surrounded by windows and sun. I don’t want to be afraid of change anymore. Change can bring new opportunities. I now have new friends and memories because I lived in Hawaii. For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to more change. My husband and I are even going to drive one of our cars across the country. Who knows who or what we’ll see.

I woke up early almost every day in Hawaii to walk Mayzie on the beach and to take photos of the sunrise, which was always different and always spectacular. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all my pictures, but it’s a project waiting to happen, just like getting Mayzie ready to go to Boston hospitals. I’ve also looked up where I can rock climb in Boston.


About the Writer

Morgan Baker, Bucket age 29, is the Managing Editor of The Bucket and has just returned from the better part of a year living in Hawaii, where she fell in love with adventures. She teaches at Emerson College and has been published in The Boston Globe Magazine, The Brevity Blog, The Cambridge Chronicle, Motherwell, The New York Times Magazine, and Cognoscenti among other places. She can be reached at mbaker@thebucket.com

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