Preface: There’s an announcement about the October Ho‘ohana at the very end of this post.
Every time I go to a brand new place I seem to return home with some feeling for that locale’s sense of place. It’s sort of an invisible, ever-present to-do list which must be checked off in some way before the visit ends. If not, it feels that my time is incomplete there. Dick Richards and Dave Rothacker very insightfully picked this out about me in their recent discussion after Dick’s review of my book Managing with Aloha. (Again Dick, my mahalo.) In far less complimentary words, my family will chide that’s “one of the things” that is strange about me.
Sometimes the experience is pretty profound, like the day I stepped outside the door of my flight to the Big Island in 1989 on what was to be a short visit, a temporary job to help open a new hotel there, the Ritz-Carlton, Mauna Lani. The last time I’d been to the Big Island had been 14 years before and I’d felt no connection: In fact, I got into a car accident and was med- evac’d off the island in a chopper. However this time, I felt it instantly as I stepped into the island air, and before I even made it down the stairs (Still today, there are no jetways at the Kona airport.) There was this feeling of warmth that had nothing to do with the sun, and this feeling of rightness with the unmistakable pull of belonging. Before I even went to baggage claim I called my husband and asked him how he’d feel about moving to the Big Island to raise our two children there. I had no idea of what would be involved in what I was asking him to do. It was simply the right place for us, the only place, and I knew it.
I do believe this silent language I can have with places is a big part of the reason I love to travel as much as I do; any inconvenience in the getting to and back from that place is fully worth it. I love traveling by myself because of it. Much as I love my family they are not good traveling companions for me because if questions are unanswered, I change the best-laid plans we’ve made without hesitation, preferring to go on history jaunts, or lurking in coffeehouses to get into “chance” conversations with local elders. I want to know what was in the place before what’s there now — I choose those words deliberately: ‘in the place’ and not just ‘at’ it. I have to figure out what I am feeling beyond what I am seeing, or it continues to divert all my attention. I’ll sleep well, but it’ll wake me up at ungodly hours of the morning: I can’t wait to lace up my shoes for my habitual morning run. This traveling in mom’s place-directed spirit does not always sit that well with my kids and a husband who normally feels his plane fare would have been better spent in a myriad of other ways in the first place.
Well, I’ve become very appreciative of my “weirdness.” It’s something I thank my spirit for and my ancestors for, however they managed to instill it in me. I’ve learned never to take “land voices” for granted. I’ve learned to wallow in them, and to learn from them. They never spook me because I don’t associate them with people. Place is different. Calming.
Most often it is the land itself that connects with me. Other times it comes from smaller places, but ones that are very distinctive to me in their character, and in their ability to nurture something within us.
It was this second kind of connection that resulted when I visited Prescott Arizona recently, first in June, and again in August.
Although it is a heritage-rich town, it wasn’t specifically Prescott. It wasn’t Arizona, as textured as her culture. It was the library at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where my son is now going to college.
What they have done there, is build that library in an environment for learning that goes beyond the books, the computers, the resources, the very high-tech models and simulators (you needn’t have old history to have sense of place) the walls, and yes, even beyond the people, as fascinating as the ERAU community is. When you are standing in that library — and it’s not a quiet library, it’s a very active and vibrant one — you know you have to learn something; you have to become a student again. Oddly, what you learn is not really important. You’ve just got to have the learning experience. You’ve got to let it happen to you. You’ve got to give in to learning.
When I first left Prescott in June I’d started to sense it, but I didn’t quite get it. I was distracted a bit in watching all the kids, and in seeing the concentration in their faces. Then I finally figured out that was part of it — it wasn’t concentration, it was the serenity of being in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason. Learning serenity.
In August part of the parent teacher orientation was held there in the library, and I could have sat there in that uncomfortable hard-backed wooden chair forever. I was quite rude to the speaker, the Dean of Students, for I ignored him completely, and wrote our September Ho‘ohana on the back of his handout. Maybe he thought I was taking a lot of notes ” that’s a nicer thought.
I didn’t tell you this story back then because it just had to play out. Or maybe I didn’t because I couldn’t have explained it well enough for it not to be too weird for you too. On September 1st, I just wanted to stoke the fire, knowing what kind of people we are in our Ho‘ohana Community: Learners. You have validated every feeling I got from my sense of place in the ERAU Library. Mahalo.
The journey we all took this month on Lifelong Learning was just meant to be. And how glorious it has been. The writing that has been shared here this month has touched me in so many different ways. Not only the authors, the comments too. Amazing. Community.
I’m not quite satisfied with the recap I’d promised you today, and I’ll post it tomorrow, okay? I must do more on it to shine the brightest possible light on what our guest authors have shared with us this month. Learning serenity has a way of being too content with softness, and I’m trying to get her to kick up her heels with me in this jubilation I’m feeling right now.
I must ask you another favor, your understanding. I’m not going to post our October Ho‘ohana until Monday, October 3rd. It’s been in drafts for quite some time now, for I’d kicked it to the back burner when I scribbled my September Ho‘ohana on the back of that ERAU Parent Orientation Program. It’ll wait just a couple more days just fine. My learning from all of you is not quite done. Lōkahi forum recap tomorrow, September monthend recap on the weekend, and October Ho‘ohana Monday.
Mahalo nui for your patience with me,