Alfonso and I board our second plane on this American journey, to arrive in a state many long to see. I am nervous about the painting that is down in baggage, since we almost lost one on the flight that took us to Alaska. Knowing what we’ve been through, and encountered, I don’t take this final leg of our trek for granted. We call it the “icing on the cake,” and hope that everyone finds the opportunity to follow his or her dreams as we have. Of course, we have also learned that achieving your hearts desires doesn’t always come easy, and isn’t always exactly what you had imagined it to be. For us, the success of completing this goal is monumental. We have packed a lifetime of experiences into one year. Our greatest lesson learned is that we still have so very much to learn. We are well over budget and have often contemplated giving up, but we survived, and here we are . . . off to a land of rainbows, beauty and aloha. Who can complain about that?
It is only fitting that the last state we visit was also the last to be added to this country. Polynesians originally settled Hawai’i, and we learned back in New Jersey that the native’s still feel resentment about the overthrow of their monarchy. When we arrive, it is museum owner and artist, Ramsay, who explains to us that it was the sugar planters who encouraged annexation with the U.S. to secure trade markets. As she continues with her story, we silently realize that even this paradise has its torments. We absorb pieces of the state’s history to find that the influx of Europeans and Christians brought disease and conflict to natives while banning cultural activities such as hula dancing. In 1893, under Queen Lili’uokalani’s rule, Minister Stevens flew the American flag over Hawai’i. President Cleveland agreed that the overthrow was done by force, yet when the citizens revolted in 1895, Queen Lili’oukalani was arrested and retained in her own castle for about a year. 29,000 Hawaiian signatures opposed annexation to the U.S., but despite President Grover Cleveland’s sympathy to the Hawai’i Kingdom, his successor, William McKinley officially annexed the islands in 1898. It wasn’t until August 21st, 1959 that Hawai’i became the fiftieth state in America. In 2003, marking the 100th year anniversary of the overthrow, President Bill Clinton signed an official apology to the Hawaiian people.
On Oahu, we explore the waves of the North Shore, and sea turtles of Laniakea Beach. The Dole Plantation, Waimea Bay, Valley of the Temples, and Iolani Palace are also on the list. We even make a point of eating at, and signing, Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. Then, to our surprise, Ramsay, and her husband Dr. Norm, invite us to Maui where they live part time. Their home is on the slope of Haleakala Crater and they send us on a sailboat to get an up close view of the whales that frequent the islands. While walking around Lahaina, Ramsay points out the breadfruit tree that she met Harry Belefonte under, and explains how she has been using her art to help preserve Hawaii’s past. She leaves us with a lasting reminder that it is the duty of each generation to not only create the future, but also preserve the past.
Returning to Florida, we carry one last piece to this giant puzzle. We place the final painting for display in Miami, officially connecting all fifty states through art. After thirteen months, we are back in our “home state,” but this journey has taught me that our home has always been wherever the road takes us. To this inspiring nation, “Mahalo.”