Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On Roots

My littlest brother has moved back home to Hawai'i.  Yes, I'm a little envious, and no, it's not because of our short cloudy days here in the Pacific Northwest.  It's more than that. It seems that the place I was raised holds a certain kind of gravity for me.  I wonder if it's sort of like what the Pacific Golden Plover feels when she's drawn back to Hawaii after breeding and nesting way up in Alaska.  She has two homes, equally vital in her life.

It is curious to me that our modern American society prides itself in being in a constant state of upheaval and moving.  Historically, moving away from a homeland has not been seen as a positive thing.  I think of the Jewish diaspora, the African slave trade; the Native American Trail of tears.  I think of Cain, the fourth person spoken of in the Bible, whose punishment was to be unable to grow crops and to wander restlessly over the earth.

Today, most of our food is grown by very large farms, and the real estate statistics show that people tend to move every three to five years.  We came to the "new world" looking for something better, but we are finding it doesn't satisfy, and so we wander restlessly, following job leads, romance or adventure.  Often, though, there is a place that our heart remembers.   It's the place we see as home.  And so we are drawn to it, as a monarch butterfly to the place its ancestors lived.

Maybe it's why I don't mind the Pacific Northwest so much.  My fair, rosacea inflicted skin is much happier when a blanket of cloud is between it and the sun.  Last time I went to Hawai'i, it flared up, as if to scold me for daring expose it to actual, factual UV rays from direct semi-equatorial sunlight.  My heritage is Scottish and German, both northern and overcast climates. Washington has become home to me now.  Because I'm very stubborn, I thrive on the deadlines that the seasons give me.  If I fail at a fall garden, there's always spring.  If I've overextended myself in the summer, there's not much choice but to hang out indoors in the fall rains, and there's nothing like a short season to get you to plant some seeds on time.

My parents grew up in Indiana, then moving to Guam, American Samoa (where I was born), then Hawai'i, where they raised me and my brothers.  I remember always wishing that we could live in Indiana, if for at least a bit of the year, so that I could know my cousins and see my grandparents more.  I felt out of place in my pale skin when I tried to dance the hula, and couldn't form pidgin words the way my brothers did.

But likewise, Hawai'i was home to me.  Hawai'i has shaped who I am.  The foods I eat, the way I hug everyone all the time, the giant smile I can't manage to get off my face when I'm having a great conversation.  I'm a person who identifies with many cultures and doesn't quite have her own.  But isn't this the way the world is rapidly becoming?  We are a culture, that is, like Hawai'i, ever increasingly becoming a melting pot, and there is something lovely in that: being able to understand bits and pieces of the amazing diversity that makes up the traditions held dear from household to household.

It is important though, to remember the plover: to remember the butterfly, and the root reason for some of our restlessness.  It's a reflection of our faith journey.  Maybe we need to take the time to identify our heart's homes, to acknowledge them and to be thankful for the gift they are.  There is a hope that is found when diaspora is ended and people are reunited.  It looks a lot like Paradise.

We might not be able to remain in the same place; to cook old recipes with our grandmothers and mothers.  We can, however, carry on a few of the traditions we do remember, so that our children feel tied to something bigger than themselves, so that wandering doesn't feel aimless, but more like a walkabout away from home.


  1. Your words make my heart sigh. I will always feel tugged back towards Haiti, and if/when there, will feel tugged back to the PNW. (And really I should feel the tug heavenward.) I love how beautifully you put it all into words.


I love it when people comment! Thanks for taking the time to do so!