When you’re raised on an island, you are constantly interacting with nature. The tradewinds swirl through the ti leaves and breeze through your screened windows, the mosquitoes buzz around the sitting water around your father’s potted plants, and the plumerias gracefully lay on the poky grass.
In the mornings, the sun beams past through the rolling clouds and then suddenly, the rain pours down in your garden for 10 minutes. And as if it never happened, the sun peers back out again, shining brighter than the last. Walking from my home in Hawaii, the beach was only a 30-minute walk away, the closest hike from my house was 15 minutes away by car, 30 minutes by walking. As a young kid, my parents would take us on long hikes around the island like Aiea Loop Trail or up to the Pill boxes at Lanikai. We would enjoy the beach together, but, to be quite honest though, we never really like how the sand got stuck everywhere. I never knew how much I needed sun or nature in my life until I moved away. Like Moana, I wanted to see how far I could go. So I decided to move 5,000 miles away from home to live and learn in New York City.
In the 4 years that I lived in New York, I experienced a lot of different environmental changes that I was not used to–snow, cold, seasons changing, water that is not warm to swim in. The most “hiking” that I did in my four years was going up several flights of stairs to get to a class I was late for or walking 40 blocks from the Upper East Side down to Madison Square Park with my friends. Although, when the season changed–the leaves started to fall, snow piled on the ground, tulips started to blossom–I always took my butt over to Central Park to embrace everything that mother nature could offer. It was always a serene and meditative moment for me. Escaping from the sounds and bustles of people was always the happiest place that I found. My first experience of snowfall was in New York. My first experience of the fall season was in New York. My first experience of squirrels and chipmunks weren’t in New York, but they replaced the usual mongoose and myna bird encounters that I had at home. Someone online once made a comment that people in Hawaii know when the seasons are changing when their Starbucks cup design changes, and it’s absolutely true.
I think the stigma in cities is that people think that you can’t escape the buildings and the people and take time to be in nature. In reality, I think people just forget that nature is all around us. Sometimes it’s just a little harder to find. Just find those pockets of greenery, and enjoy!
BY SHANNON URABE