Molokai on My Mind

It has been a week since I left Molokai, and the two-week residency I attended through Molokai Arts Center. Slowly, I have weaned myself off streaming Hawaiian 105 KINE. I am back to wearing sweaters and jeans and long-sleeved shirts to warm me against the Bay Area’s fog and chill. But as nice as it is to be in the comfort of my own home again, I feel that a part of myself did not leave Molokai.

Growing up, my mother and I spent two weeks of every summer visiting family on Oahu. I am Kanaka Maoli and Chinese, and ever since I was a child, I’ve felt most like myself when going back to the islands. We chatted with my grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins. We shared meals. We took flowers to the graves. Hawaii was home, even if it was thousands of miles away most of the time.

But I wasn’t sure what I would feel on Molokai. I need consecutive hours of solitude to write, and this is how I spent much of my time there. My favorite moments, though, were when I was in community with local folks — going out to eat, sightseeing, teaching workshops at MAC, talking story, sharing spam musubi on the beach with new friends. I miss the gold dust day geckos, the hot-bread, the coffee beans roasted on-island. I miss the red dirt and the signs reminding me to slow down. I miss the main street of Kaunakakai, where I could find everything I needed.

When I learned the term “aloha ‘aina” a few years ago, I felt electrified. Here was a phrase that seemed to describe my very being, a phrase that encapsulated how important Hawaii is to me. It is more than just where my family resides. It is my homeland. It is the land and its people, my people, that draw me back, that make me feel at ease. Oahu will always be the place I return to, the place I love most, and now I feel lucky to have such a deep love for Molokai too.


Noelani Piters


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