An Ocean Away

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Hello! I’m Lea, and I live on a grassy knoll overlooking the Yamhill/Carlton AVA in Oregon’s Wine Country.

Like my parents and grandparents, I was born and grew up in the islands of Hawaii.

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Did you know that all children born in Hawaii have a salty, aching call in their hearts that won’t keep quiet if they stray too far from home? The song of the sea is both a great roar and a whisper, and the crushing sound rushes in our ears when almost asleep, making us think we’re only a few steps from childhood, from vacant beaches and cold sand at dawn. An old bookmark of my grandmother’s falls out of a termite-eaten novel I delicately pluck off the shelf. The glass jalousies in the office have been left open so long that the handles have rusted to complete immobility, verdant naupaka leaves press through and into the house unfettered and bright green, clicking geckos chase one another in and out, in and out, through the day and more urgently at night.

The bookmark says: “Does the song of the sea end at the shore or in the hearts of those who listen to it?” It’s almost a silly question, one so obvious the effort to stitch the words on the laminated piece of cloth seems unjustified. Still, I slip it into my pocket. Any island girl can tell you. On the ocean, the sun flashes green just as it sets on the horizon.

After leaving my pacific haven for college on the mainland and then study abroad, what should have been a 3-week language program in France turned into 4 years of desperately dodging adulthood, living a life on the run from post-college responsibility while learning about love, friendship, and growing up in world completely different from the islands.

The grand finale of my life in Europe was marrying a handsome, French winemaker in a simple white dress at the city hall of Dijon, Burgundy. Only my dad, who had crossed the globe to attend, and my husband’s parents watched us sign the papers and leave the medieval city center as man and wife. The two of us have since made our home in Oregon, at one time thinking it was the appropriate middle ground and compromise between our two families, making wine and planting fruit trees like fish out of water in a world totally foreign to both of us, for strikingly different reasons.

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I grapple with seasonal change and the absence of the ocean, or shadow of a coconut tree, while my husband struggles with a lack of boulangeries, ‘proper’ butcher shops, and an old-world culture he longs for every day. With his family over the Atlantic and mine over the Pacific, we’re always trying to make this new world, between two oceans and a whole lot of America, where coyotes howl at night and bobcats prowl over our gravel driveway, yet where we still slip on our best shoes and evening-wear to pour wine, home.

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In September of 2018 we faced our next big hurdle into adulthood, becoming parents. We’re planning to meet our future son in June, 2019.

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Knowing that I’ll be bringing a new life into the world, the first generation of my family in 4, to not be born in the islands of Hawaii, is an emotional mixed bag for me. My husbands family has similarly been in France for longer than we can trace his family tree. Oregon is not yet home to either of us, yet we’re presently creating an Oregonian. How will he cope with his two, very different families being so far away and so culturally different? What will he teach us about embracing this new place and unifying our cultural roots? I hope you’ll stick around to find out with us. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

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