I am certain some of you are saying, “how can living in paradise be a problem?” That is a most reasonable question, however it depends upon your definition of paradise. Milton spoke of “Paradise Lost” but his was of a religious philosophical gist. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel was “This Side of Paradise” but his paradise was a Fitzgerald commentary on wealth and society in the early 1920s. Most people think of paradise as being a tropical resort where it is sunny and 80 all day.
One such “paradise” is, of course, Hawaii. I lived in Hawaii from 1978 – 1979. The day I arrived in Hawaii I remember the scent of gardenia’s filling the air. I had had no previous experience which said to me I was in a tropical paradise to be sure. I was there to join the 25th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, my last stop in my army career. I was definitely not there for a vacation but I was there for an extended period which allowed me to gain a good feel for living there.
If there was something to be seen on Oahu, I saw it. I went everywhere. I also enjoyed days on end at Waikiki, sunning myself to a darkness I have had neither both nor since. I have always loved the beach and took full advantage of the beaches during my time there. There are a lot more beaches in Hawaii than Waikiki and I went to many of them. I did have one mishap however. I went to the beach at Makaha one day and there was a particularly severe undertow that day. The beach did not, and still does not, have a life guard or anyone who monitor’s the conditions there. You find out what is going on by going into the water. I went into the water and was only a few feet out before I found just how bad the undertow was. I could not have been more than 15 feet from shore but it took all my strength to return to shore.
I also had the good fortune to visit the “Big Island” of Hawaii while I was there. This island surprises the uninformed. It literally has three different climates on this one island. The volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea each rise close to 14,000 feet above sea level. If you leave Kona and head up the mountains you go from the tropics to the temperate climate to a cold climate en route. If you visit the mountains during the winter season you will actually find them snow-covered. Mona Loa has a ski tow to its peak. And of course being there you get to see one of the world’s most active volcanos, Kilauea.
Those are many, but not all, of Hawaii’s wonderful parts. But I am from a place that is over 5000 miles removed from Hawaii and has lots of cold weather and only about 2 months of hot weather. Two years in Hawaii and I was ready to get back to the “mainland.” I had, what is euphemistically called over there, “rock fever.” The island of Oahu, like any island is limited in how far you can go north to south and east to west. Oahu is 44 miles long and 30 miles wide at its extremes. LA County is 4083 square miles and Oahu is 1320 square miles, or about 1/3 the size of LA County. For those of us who are used to being able to go more than 40 miles in any one direction, Hawaii leaves us a bit wanting.
Honolulu is a wonderful city. There is much to do there, of course. But Honolulu is a city of 905,000 inhabitants. Boston, where I am from, has over 2.5 million in its metro area. But even more, it offers more educational institutions, more libraries, more museums, among many other things.
What I am getting at is, Boston is my paradise. I was born here, grew up here, as did my parents and many generations of my family before. This is home and I love it, even if I do want to trade in some of its winter weather for some of Hawaii’s winter weather. I think for most of us, paradise is what we call home, where we have our loved ones, where we are most comfortable. Paradise is truly a state of mind and not a place. I enjoy paradise whenever I see my daughters, or enjoy a day out with my grandson, or hold my granddaughter. Paradise is the company of my friends. Paradise is being able to put a smile on someone’s face.
Let me assure you, Hawaii is a paradise in its own rite. It is a paradise you can visit but not live in for most of us. But even being in Hawaii and calling it paradise is just a momentary reflection on what is going on around us and how we feel. Trust me, I have had many a good meal with good friends or family, and thought I was in paradise.