It is impossible to travel as ‘Iokepa and I do – from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, from Washington State to Washington, D.C. – and not notice the differences. I am not speaking about mountains, oceans, rivers, lakes, prairies, and deserts. It’s the human differences – the face of a place. I’m speaking of the angles and planes of the human face – and I am speaking of the human temperament of a place. They are different. We are at this moment among the cool, reserved New England faces. They are lovely and angular and they are comforting to me.
The cerebral greets me well. These people do not often wave from car windows at strangers walking along the lanes. They don’t speak randomly to one another in urban elevators. They seem, to both this Hawaiian man and his Jewish wife, contained.
These are not people who are in your face, invading your privacy, or emoting publicly. I speak this with absolutely no judgment. The spaces are soothing for me. For ‘Iokepa, I suspect, they are a bit perplexing.
We came to Massachusetts almost directly from Southwest Virginia, where it is virtually impossible to pass a stranger on the street without a conversation that exceeds, by far, a simple greeting. It is ‘Iokepa’s comfort zone. There is, in the south, the assumption that humans welcome warmth. The faces are rounder.
I can find no over-arching ethnic reason for the difference. There seems to be an original Scotch-Irish and English blend in both places.
The climates are different, of course. Here, it’s cold most months of the year. Caskets sit unburied until spring because the earth won’t accept them. There, the growing season allows ample time for pumpkins and cantaloupe; the winters are short of excess; summer humidity is over-the-top.
I realize that I’m describing stereotypical Yankee-Dixie differences. We’ve traveled many car miles and we can (and do) speak with some feeling about the faces and mannerisms of Idaho or Utah, Missouri or Wisconsin.
‘Iokepa, himself, carries a billboard of the Hawaiian Islands on his face and in his body; it permeates his emotions. He has wide-spaced eyes in a full, but not fleshy face, cheekbones that cannot be ignored, kanaka maoli splayed feet, enormous calves, and brown skin.
But for all the enormous calf and shoulder muscle, these Native Hawaiians are soft. It is how they meet the world: welcoming. Only those natives who’ve been colored by the occupying peoples on their Islands behave otherwise.
In truth, both ‘Iokepa and I savor all these distinctions. In more intimate and penetrating climes, I’m in hiding and ‘Iokepa is well-met. In more cerebral and reserved places, he is scratching his head and I’m happily doing what I do – writing alone.
We treasure these differences. We are excited by the adventure of the next unknown place and face. We share with one another an appreciation for diversity of every stripe and wrinkle. And we find ourselves – both of us – in confused opposition to the “all is one” version of reality.
I think we’re closer to, “How boring is that?”
We agree to celebrate the excitement of the unexpected dissimilarity. We’re forced each day to do that within our own marriage – and so far it’s worked out just fine.