Yes, There Are Problems in Paradise.
People always seem to be interested in hearing about Hawaii … what it’s like to have lived here for 55 years, as opposed to flying here from the mainland to spend a week or ten days at one of our resorts. Yes, this is a wonderful place to live and, yes, of course we have our own unique set of problems. Some, like rising sea levels, may be more for the next couple of generations to deal with. But others are more immediate.
For instance, there’s a disease that’s killing our eucalyptus trees. A lot of “upcountry” roads on Maui are lined with these giant trees and when they give it up and fall over, the hope is that no cars are passing by at that moment. There have been a few close calls.
Our property was raw land when we bought it fifteen years ago. We cleared most of it, but left all the wonderful big eucalyptus trees. In fact, we threaded our driveway through them for some 800 feet to our house at the back of the property. We’ve had to tale one down already and I hate to think of losing the rest of them.
As you may know, Hawaii is the only state where coffee is grown and, in fact, Hawaiian coffee is considered to be among the very best in the entire world. Several years ago, my wife staked out an area at the rear of our property and planted almost 60 coffee trees. These days, each morning, I get to savor one and sometimes two cups of truly excellent coffee.
But the Coffee Berry Borer is the latest plague to descend upon us. It not only threatens a major industry in our state, but any day now it could hit me where I’d feel it the most: in my morning cup of coffee.
A few days ago, my wife came in from the backyard with a stricken expression on her face. She held out her hand which held a coffee “cherry” she had split open. Inside the bean was what appeared to be one of these dreaded insects. Yesterday she went for a conference with the experts in the State Agriculture Department to see if there is anything that can be done short of cutting down and burning all of our coffee trees. Two hours later, back she came with the good news: It was not the coffee berry borer!
All right! Let’s put another pot on!
As one who worked on Oahu, Hawaii for 5 years (2005-2010), attached to Pacific Air Command HQ at Hickam, AFB, I always tell people that they shouldn’t sell their place on the mainland and buy the farm in Hawaii. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but I couldn’t live there; at least at peace. Especially if you are from a place on the mainland where there is Fall and Winter. My parents lived on Oahu for 13 years and after my father retired he couldn’t wait to move back to the mainland. At the time (1982) I never understood why they wanted to leave their beautiful place in Hawaii Kai. After being stationed there with the AF, I now understand it. It’s called ISLAND FEVER and it’s for real.
Where you are from is more in your bones than you know, and I could never make peace, emotionally or spiritually, with no Fall or Winter. Yes, there is a Fall in Hawaii, but it’s a change in what’s flowering. In North Dakota, I have to have a time to “cut wood”. Remember the movie ‘Ground Hog Day’ that featured the actor Bill Murray. In the movie, everyday is a repeat of the day before, and that’s how I felt in Hawaii. For me, the weather was BORING. I discovered I needed a good storm, even a blizzard, to feel “right”. I also needed the knowledge that I could get in my car and drive hundreds of miles if I wanted to. It’s JUST 35 miles around Oahu. You are in the middle of the largest ocean in the world. You better be damn sure you can live on an island before you plant your mail box there!
When I was home in North Dakota and people learned I worked in Hawaii they would fawn and ask about paradise. I would tell them “it’s not a paradise. They have there share of problems”, as Jim alludes to. Then I would add, “If there is a paradise, it’s a spiritual place inside you, not a place out there (pointing toward Hawaii)”. Some could not stand hearing that, which speaks to the profitability of those who sell utopias.
I find it fascinating what people project on the cosmic screen and you better exam those projections before you stake your reality on them. This is why people who travel have deeper insights into the culture out of which they come. And that culture – in my case the upper Mid-West – is a deeper part of who I am than I knew or understood before I was stationed in Hawaii.
Colonel William Ziegler (USAF Ret.)
As I have said here on many previous occasions, Hawaii isn’t for everyone.