Friday, May 5, 2017

From Sand to Snow And The Lessons Learned

 Journeys are inherently adventures where part of the fun and the learning is in the not knowing of what is going to happen once you take that first step.  Now that first step can either be on a soft sandy beach or off the top of a snow covered cliff. Let’s just say that we should have brought some parachutes for the journey we started on last summer.

 My family and I moved off of Hawaii Island last July, after moving there in July 2010,  to seek exciting job opportunities, mainland travel, and better education for my kids and to get away from the heat and humidity of Kona. My kids were bored of the island after six years there and when we couldn’t sell our small condo that we purchased at the height of the housing market boom and where all four of us were living in 750 sq feet, we felt Pele, Goddess of the Volcano, was telling us it was time to leave and I agreed wholeheartedly with her. I had other things to do and places to explore on the mainland, so we moved to South Lake Tahoe to live in my father in law’s vacation home.

Fast-forward 10 months. We have survived the great winter, or commonly known as the “Snowpacalypse” of 2017 in Lake Tahoe with 25 feet of snow in our neighborhood and 50 feet in the mountains. We survived the rainiest October in 113 years, we have been through avalanches, mudslides and landslides which have damaged highways that shut off all traffic coming into the Tahoe Basin for days, flooding and wind storms. It feels as if Pele herself reached her hand out across the Pacific ocean to slap us for taking her beautiful island for granted.

Sitting on my 100th or so day in the biting cold, looking at another day of white in our front yard, I knew I had had enough. In January and February, the sun set by 4 pm and the dark came in each day with its freezing temperatures and usually more snow. Have you even considered snow as the ultimate four-letter word? We do! It lost whatever charm and appeal it ever had for us by the second week in February when
weather forecasters were warning of yet another “Pineapple Express” or atmospheric river event. As people in the SF Bay Area were being warned of flooding, we were getting two feet of snow each time one hit us. Sure we have loved skiing – but there is not much else to do when it’s 30 degrees outside and all the paths you love are 4 feet deep in snow. The boots, scarves, puffy jackets and mittens that we had longed to wear in Kona, were now uniforms of daily life.

   Longing for Hawaii really started in January and has now reached a fever pitch. Taking a solo trip back to Kona in late April was the extra kick in the ass I received by Pele. As I hugged my friends, I realized how important community is. I had taken it for granted.  In Kona, I had volunteered extensively for my children’s school and produced and promoted events for the island over seven years, which created a circle of hundreds of friends and an enviable network of community members.  In Tahoe, we have met very few people and have a few adult friends who are the parents of our children’s school friends, but they have not developed into close friends. Coming to Lake Tahoe, I thought we would create a new hub of community, but when it starts to snow in October and the weather does not get better until late May, opportunities to invite people for beach picnics and drinks on the patio for networking are slim.

When I lived in Kona, I had started taking everything for granted. I didn’t jump into the ocean anymore. Why? Because there would always be tomorrow. I spent more time raising money for my kids school than wandering through gardens and along beaches giving thanks to the universe, spirit and Pele herself for the bounty and beauty everywhere. I worried about how expensive the food was, and forgot that many things available on the island never show up at grocery stores on the mainland.

I went snorkeling in Ka’ahalu’u Bay during my time back on the island and I just was not just delighted to see Yellow Tang and Moorish Idol fish, I was elated to swim down and see the sand! In Lake Tahoe, the water is so cold that you can barely stand in it, let alone swim in its frigid water long enough to see what is floating along the bottom. The extra sensory opportunities in Kona are everywhere from the flowers to the food to the aquamarine ocean waters. Take for instance the fresh papaya with lime I enjoyed each morning for breakfast, savoring each bite like a death row inmate’s last meal. As you can imagine, fresh tropical fruit is not found in the Sierra. Each time I smelled a plumeria or gardenia, or left a friend’s house after talking story, I whispered to Pele to let her know how much I loved her island and to please let me come home. The lesson of the journey has been learned.

 My husband has decided the journey needs to end, as well. He is working on finding a job back on the island.  As of May, he has had three job interviews. Excited about the possibility of another job offer showing up soon, he has itemized everything in the house to either put on Craigslist or store for a quick escape back to Kona. Back to Kona where you don’t walk out of your house after putting layers of clothing on and wondering if your tires are going to hold today on the black ice, back to where Aloha is a way of life and people take the time to talk to strangers and share a laugh. Where you don’t flip off a another driver simply because they don’t have their right hand turn signal on when making the turn so ten seconds of life is lost. The new focus of our journey is finding a way back out of the cold; the cold that has had its grip on our lives for months. The cold that sucks the joy right out of us. The cold that makes it impossible to eat outside and enjoy the sun and nature with friends-if we had any.

 Do I regret all of this? No. I don’t because I have something invaluable. I have perspective now and I needed it. I have had perspective beaten into me like a sadistic circus master. When I sprawled out on the sand with warmth surrounding me on my April visit to Kona, I know I’ve changed. I love it there. I miss my friends, my ability to make a difference, the fresh food grown by happy local farmers, the spirit of the people, and the energy of the land.

   I feel blessed that I’ve had this horrific learning lesson-I mean soul-finding journey! Now, when I come back, I have gratitude in my heart and in my actions and the journey now is making it a reality.


  1. I am going to cry. So happy for you and the family. Hope to see you in June or July.

  2. Thank you Patty. It's been quite a LONG 10 months! Hope to see you on island, too!

  3. Best of luck in your Kona phase 2...Sorry we missed connecting when I was in SF in February.