For a little over a year, I've been writing something I'm calling the Hawaii Project. I've actually been drafting this book for over a decade, producing a decent essay that's garnered some recognition. I've felt all along, though, that the story is a much longer one, taking on the breadth and depth I hope will make a good long memoir.
I've chugged along some 80 pages now, with another 20-30 pages in the wings waiting for development. My sense is that I've close to 1/3 of the book 'done' and that soon I'll transition from writing the first third to the second third. Like all my writing projects, the Hawaii Project has taught me more about myself, what I've fear and hope for, what I've dreamed and failed at.
It's a story that has endured like few in my life stories have, at times haunting me like a nearly forgotten song, at other times, a piercing memory. But always, always tinged with a feeling of great regret.
I lived for a year in Honolulu and it nearly destroyed me. That I survived is a testament to one man's love and my stubborn belief that to be a writer, I had to write. Writing, or even speaking, in such epic terms often solicits disbelief, questions that probe. Countless friends and family are amazed I dare to speak of Paradise in such dire terms. And sometimes their narrative of white sand beaches, palm trees, and sweet cocktails nearly overwhelms my narrative of sleepless nights with a colicky baby, persistent self-doubt about parenting skills, and bodily pains not covered in maternity books. And I feel guilty for suggesting that Hawaii could be anything else but Paradise, for clouding their dreams yet unfulfilled. Sometimes it's easier to be silent rather than risk feeling all those conflicting feelings again and again.
But writing memoir is about telling the truth and making art from experience even when that truth doesn't seem logical or when the art is shaded dark and forbidding.
I'm often asked what my book is about.
It's about moving from Moscow, Idaho to Honolulu, Hawaii. It's about my first child being born 8 weeks premature 8 days after we moved. It's about trying to hold all the shock and grief at bay, and doing all the things a new mom does to keep a baby alive, well-fed, and growing. It's about the slow madness of postpartum depression and the power of self-expression to heal. It's about leaving everything that kept me grounded, and thereby stagnant, and plunging into Pele's fire.
No wonder I came back singed.