Tag: Jungle

Notes on nostalgia and loss

I am in a radically different place than I was a year ago.

A year ago I was living in a tent in the rainforest under an avocado tree in Hawaii. I was hitch hiking barefoot with strangers. I was having the time of my life.

My heart BURNS with nostalgia for those times. That crazy jungle. Those crazy fools I shared my experiences with. As I sit here and blog from my studio in Chicago, I am fiery with red, hot desire.

I want nothing more to be sitting with my crazy friends, drinking wine, or maybe a kava smoothie, passing the herb and listening to Beats Antique. Someone is probably cooking an amazing curry and conversations about traveling the world abound. Wild pigs scurry about in the night, cats lurk, and night blooming Jasmine floats in the air.

Hawaii, the amazing place where cats eat coconuts
Hawaii, the amazing place where cats eat coconuts

I’m intoxicated with memories of this place. It cripples me sometimes how much I want to relive these moments, some of my very truest glory days. One day I’m harvesting a sacred root plant, the next day I’m swimming in a natural hot pond, and that night I’m dancing under the stars and moon at a Full Moon Party. I could die and go to Heaven, and all the people I met on the road would be there in one room.

We would laugh about the time I posed nude for my artist friend, or lament simultaneously about our collective mosquito bites. We’d sing that one verse of that one song we loved so much. We’d imitate each other, tell each other secrets, speak in foreign tongues. We would share recipes, read aloud, perform, write poetry, bathe in the mud. Whatever it is we decide to do, it will be fun and soul-enriching.

We would forage for wild orchids in the rainbow eucalyptus
We would forage for wild orchids in the rainbow eucalyptus forest

How do I let these memories “go”? Does anyone else suffer from missing the road and the crazy shenanigans as much as I do?

I try to connect with my friends on Facebook but it’s not the same. I can’t give my friend Adrianna a haircut with kids scissors on the beach via the internet. Something’s lost there. Everything’s lost there.

In my dreams I am in the waves again. I’m having those endless conversations with my travel soul mates about the infinite future. The sky is the limit. We swim with dolphins and return to shore.

I wake up in my studio in Chicago. Sometimes it’s painful to relive even your fondest memories.

How do I cope with saying goodbye? How do I put these memories that somehow still feel very alive into a sealed box and shove it to the back of my mind? I want to taste that curry. I want to hoola-hoop. I want to swing in the hammock while people shuck coconuts, smoke weed and laugh maniacally at nothing.

Dancers in the night
Dancers in the night

I miss these things. I tend to over romanticize moments of my life, usually when it comes to relationships. Travel memories are forever burned into my brain in a different way though.

I know there were difficult times in the jungle. There were scary nights when I felt so alone, so isolated, afraid. I was left to lie there and overcome my fears of being somewhere so far away, completely by myself (albeit amongst friends), strange sounds in the night, volcanic energy haunting my dreams. There were sick days, days of jungle fever, drama, confusion, fighting. But somehow all of this is lost when I reminisce.

I can only recall soul music and Sunday brunches under the papaya trees. Lazy morning, yoga stretches, endless dance parties and great beer. I think about the jokes, how hard I truly laughed, the kind souls I met every day.

I realize how painful it is to sometimes recount good memories. I do this when I suffer through a breakup. It’s like mental torture.

Though, I must say I have learned to incorporate my past experiences into the present so they don’t feel so far away.

I cook those recipes. I dance to the music. I practice my yoga. I talk about Hawaii fondly, but some days I feel like Rose in Titanic. My heart’s a deep ocean of secrets. Many of my best experiences cannot even be recounted in words. They are too precious, too private and too uniquely “mine.”

To say that I’m suffering through loss is wrong. What I’m really doing is suffering through gain. I am growing from one place to the other, and sometimes that is painful.

If I learned anything from living in a hostel with my friends constantly coming and going, it was learning the practice of loving non-attachment. I am confident that I can love those moments for what they were, look back on the fondly, and release them. I know I will catch up to them again if I need a friendly place to return to, maybe a warm bowl of curry and an hours-long conversation over a bottle of wine. That place was and still is. That is my comfort.

I am still here
I am still here

A Hawaiian Hui Hou

I left the Big Island to travel to the mainland to see my sister who just had a baby. I am an auntie for the first time! It’s a boy: Thorston Sanderson Kozak Grosse, 9 lbs, 5 oz., given life the au natural way.

I had to say goodbye to the Big Island and the jungle for many reasons. The biggest of them all was money. While traveling full-time this year, I had to keep a keen eye on my budget and plan for when it would be time to get back to work and make more money. That time is rapidly approaching, but like I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been given the INCREDIBLE opportunity to travel the world and pick somewhere to make my home.

Another reason I left the jungle is because it was time for me to re-integrate myself into society. Though I loved my kooky little jungle family, it was becoming a drag to hitch-hike to the nearest store (while my perfectly good VW Beetle lay dormant in my parents’ driveway some 4,000 miles away) that was five miles away. The mosquitoes became ALMOST too much to bare, and I was in desperate need of my belongings de-molding.

A bamboo hut I called home for a few months

In any case, Hawaii is my home and I will be returning in a month when I’ve settle my affairs back on the mainland.

I dream of a life in Hawaii: learning more about organic farming, sustainability, getting into my body and becoming more acquainted with mother ocean.

My last day on Big Island was emotional. I spent my last afternoon basking in the Hawaiian sun at my local beach, Isaac Hale State Park, affectionately dubbed “Pohoiki” by locals because it’s right at the end of Pohoiki Road. It was almost like any other Saturday down at the beach: families having picnics together, surfers catching waves, dogs and keiki (children) running about. But then something special caught my eye.

I saw the most beautiful bamboo canoe. I was so enthralled by its size. Never had I seen such a gigantic canoe that stunned me where I stood. Usually I only see battered fishing boats and some kayaks going into the boat ramp at the beach, but this day was different.

Traditional Hawaiian canoe

I noticed there was a sea burial ceremony going on in the midst of the burrito guy selling his fish tacos and the families enjoying some fun in the sun. The services were taking place under a small tent in the middle of all the action, and after the Hawaiian priest said his blessings, it was time for the canoe to set sail and release the ashes into the mighty Pacific.

If there’s one thing I learned about Hawaiians, it’s their celebration of life. A burial service, instead of being a solemn event, its na ho‘ohiwahiwa o ho‘öla, which means celebrating life. As the canoe glided into the ocean, I watched the family members gather around the shore to say goodbye to their loved ones. They were dressed in casual but tasteful island ware and looked serene and happy.

A woman from shore says goodbye

I sat on the shore and watched 8 Hawaiian men row the canoe with the ashes out to sea. Those at the beach that day swimming and surfing took a moment to respect the life of the departed. As the canoe rowed further into the distance, people from the party let loose red roses into the water, carefully placing them down, watching the canoe row further on still.

I sat there floored. It was the most beautiful ceremony I’ve ever witnessed. Not only was it traditional with the canoe and ashes being scattered into the ocean, but the deceased was being honored amongst the living, the Hawaiians, locals and visitors all enjoying life and their Saturday together. It was such a proper last afternoon in the Big Island.

A red rose memory

I struggled leaving that day, but was an appropriate goodbye filled with much aloha. Aloha is technically a word to mean hello, goodbye and express sentiments of love, but I felt that it wasn’t goodbye, just see you later. I know many of the family members had to have felt the same way as they celebrated their loved one’s life. In Hawaiian Hui Hou means see you later. I know I will call Hawaii my home in the near future, and I hope that one day those at Pohoiki will be reunited with their beloved family member. We will all come together again later.