When I think of my time living in Hawaiʻi, I simply think of “aloha.” “Aloha” means more than “hello” or “goodbye,” it’s a way of life. To embody the aloha spirit is to embody kindness, humility, harmony, patience and sincerity. And if there were a soundtrack to this idea, it would be the music of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, whom we’re celebrating in today’s Google Doodle. Of course, Israel was incredibly proud of his Hawaiian roots, which is why it’s perfect that today’s Doodle is also a larger celebration of Asian American Pacific Heritage Month.
Best known for his beloved cover of “Over the Rainbow” (which I walked down the aisle to at my wedding), Israel’s music and his voice have always felt so welcoming to me. But it’s also the little details about Israel that I identify with. His wife, Marlene, told us one of his favorite flowers was the plumeria. These flowers are all over Oʻahu, where Israel and I both lived, and remind me of backyard barbecues with my Lōkahi Canoe Club teammates or friends being piled high in floral birthday leis. Most often, I think of simply plucking a plumeria and tucking it behind my ear, as so many people in Hawaii do—behind your right if you’re looking for love and behind your left (the same side as your heart) if you’re taken.
A photograph of the author surfing in front of Diamond Head, and some memorabilia from the Lōkahi Canoe Club.
I also loved learning that one of Israel’s favorite places in Oʻahu was the Waikiki Shell, where he often played. It sits in the shadow of Diamond Head, an iconic landmark of great significance to Israel and many others. Seeing the profile of Diamond Head depicted in the first few seconds of today’s Doodle video brings back many warm memories for me of concerts, movies on the beach, surf sessions off its coast and afternoon jogs around the crater.
But perhaps the thing that resonated with me most is something Israel’s former producer, Jon de Mello, said about him, which is that he got along with anyone he met, and that he only had love for people. Today, this kind of love and hopefulness Israel shared are turning up in an unexpected, but fitting way: People all over the world are displaying photos of rainbows, which Israel loved, in their windows and on sidewalks to uplift their neighbors and give people passing by a smile. We feel like this Doodle is a way for us to do the same.
No matter where you are, or what your circumstances, like a rainbow after the rain—and like Israel’s voice always does for me—we hope that this Doodle brings a smile to your face.