Offshore and On Reserve
The Hawaiian Islands and the New York Metro are both meeting places. They are well-established intersections of culture and commerce, and have been for several hundred years. As a result, their respective histories resemble rich mosaics of human experience, and for anyone who is of an otherworldly interest, there is much to see and explore. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks they are one in the same, and they diverge in some crucial ways. Having only recently made the transition, I’m less qualified to offer an explanation as to why that is. That being said, a key initial difference is striking.
Put simply, New York is dominated by itself and Hawaii exists in nature. There is, of course, a rich history to the natural environment of New York City, but to revisit it on a large-scale in modern times requires a significant degree of imagination or, at least, 3D-rendering. Patches of natural land are preserved here and there–many of the parks being impressive in scale–but they are nonetheless fragmented from each other, with the human-built environment filling in the gaps and taking center stage. The most revered places are the tallest buildings and the areas that are considered “central” to all the goings-ons.
In Hawaii, the inverse is true. Human settlements exist in patches here and there, and it is the natural land and sea that fills the space between, often with a dramatic effect. The fact that the islands themselves are the product of natural volcanism and plate tectonics was evident as recently as the eruptions in 2018. This natural process also serves as the basis of native Hawaiian mythology and culture, which recognized, long before European contact, that the islands going Westward were geologically older than those to the East. The peaks formed by volcanoes past and present are representative of gods, and they extend far further than what appears above the surface. Eventually the plate movements will submerge each peak into the earth’s mantel, where they will cease to exist. They live and die as we do.
And so now, as I think about the weeks and months to come, I cannot help but feel like I am being presented with a kind of choice. Which lifestyle do I want to buy into? I cannot help but feel like the “people in nature” place is healthier not just for me, but for everyone right now. No one’s car alarm is going off outside my window at 3am. However, that desire is probably being measured against both a sense of urgency regarding our understanding of the health of the planet, and a degree of cynicism in being “fresh off the boat” from New York. Having just competed with so many for a little space on the 4-train or in crowded Brooklyn parks and Manhattan bars, allow me for a moment to be candid and say: fuck all that noise. In seriousness, I do not want to completely discount people or the spaces we build for ourselves. I miss people, and bad karaoke, and sticky linoleum floors. But I’m just glad to have some time and space to figure it out. Mahalo!