My mother used to dig small pits in the sand of ‘Ewa Beach while I was still in her belly – the only way she could lie on her stomach during the last few months of her pregnancy. In this way, I was anchored like a sea turtle to both the ‘āina (land) of southwestern Oahu and the kai (ocean) of the Pacific. I couldn’t have predicted it then, but Hawai’i ended up being the center of my life in more ways than one. Launching my life from the middle, I grew up all around the Pacific Rim – in California, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and, finally, Oregon – but regular visits to my birthplace kept me grounded and well-watered.
During college, I met my wife while working summers at an alumni family camp on Fallen Leaf Lake, at the edge of Desolation Wilderness. She brought me back to her home state of Oregon while I wrote a nature guide to the southwest Tahoe Basin and she earned her master’s degree in environmental engineering. Soon after that, I began as field trip coordinator for a conservation group and she promptly picked up an accordion and joined a band which she was with for five albums and a couple decades.
However, during that time, we moved back to her hometown of Eugene to put down intertwined roots and raise our two children, who will both be adults this year. I know Hawai’i doesn’t have salmon and Oregon doesn’t (usually) have sea turtles, but somehow, I feel like my life has conflated aspects of these two disparate species. I’ve made my circuit of the world’s largest ocean, matured, and then literally returned to my wife’s home waters to breed. I feel a deep sense of belonging to both the world and our watersheds here in Kalapuya Ilihi and I am thankful for all the peoples who have stewarded these lands, waters and wildlife since time immemorial so that we may all continue to enjoy them.