Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in the Northwest and Other Unexpected Gifts... Or, a Love Song to my Family

The Beloved "Ex," Eldest Daughter, "Boyfriend," Youngest Daughter

It’s 7:30 on Christmas Eve morning and warm and cozy inside my daughter and her boyfriend’s home. The stockings are hung, brightly wrapped presents are piled beneath the tree, muffled voices and the aroma of coffee reach me down the short hall. Outside is a handsome Pacific Northwest mix: dry, cold and frosty, and in one direction looking out the window misty fog swirls in and around the tops of big, beautiful evergreens; in another, pink clouds hang delicately in the early morning sky. My dog Jasper is curled up next to me on the down-filled comforter, his small, round, warm, furry body next to mine a serious sensory comfort and pleasure. The rest of the family is spread out throughout the house, some awake, some still in peaceful slumber.

We would never have guessed - as we gathered last year for what we knew, on whatever level each of us was able to really take it in, was our final Christmas as a “traditional” family, the last in our family home; most likely, we imagined, the last where we would all wake up under the same roof and sit, bleary-eyed in PJs and sweats, drinking coffee and hot chocolate, emptying stockings, ripping into presents - that we would find ourselves in a position to be sharing Christmas so intimately once again this year.

Our eldest daughter relocating with her boyfriend to the Seattle area last spring was a last straw for me. It was another piece of the dream shattered, and felt, at the time, like one loss, one huge change too many in way too short a time. And coming on top of everything else, sent me tumbling into a well of serious depression. I have heard many times over the years that in written Chinese, the character for crisis is the same as for opportunity. I have no idea if it’s actually true, and yet I do know that life can often times work exactly that way. It was my “crisis” of her moving away that led directly to me going to Moloka’i. It has also paved the way for being together in a new and different and very pleasurable way; “visiting” for days at a time, waking up again in the same space, sharing quiet conversation over morning coffee and tea, walking, shopping, eating together. Like when they were little except with the added bonus of her now being a grown woman, and the wholly new and rich way of connecting that that offers.

And now, here we are for six days at Christmas. Waking up together. Being together in all that that entails: In our perfection and our imperfection, when it is smooth and effortless and sheer joy, when it is hard and challenging. In all the faces of being humans in a human family—when we are happy, when we are sad, when we are upbeat and grateful, grumpy and irritable, supportive and understanding; when we crave our own space, and can’t stand the sight of each other for another moment, when we erupt like Mount Vesuvius, when we share memories that tug at our hearts and bring tears to our eyes, or collapse us in fat, round giggles. In all of it, I am aware of the bottomless river that runs beneath us, that flows on and on with poignant love and caring, and the deepest connection carved only through the years of living, being, growing, and facing what’s come together.

We’ve been listening to a radio station that is playing all Christmas music. Every half hour or so, they interview and give different types of gifts to people who are facing challenges this holiday season. Loved ones ill or separated by thousands of miles; many away serving our country. In the news, the cold that is returning here to the Northwest and the concern for the homeless population, the volunteers that are assembling and getting out to help them find warmth and relative safety. The man reunited after five years with his son who has been in Brazil; the sudden death of a young and vibrant actress; heart-wrenching commercials asking that we give a child a chance through St. Jude's.

It is all so extraordinarily relative. And while I know that it’s really true that our pain is our pain, I don’t have to look far for perspective to change; to see that truly, there is so little to grumble about, so very much to be grateful about. So much to enjoy. And everything beyond being together, simply everything else, is gravy, or for those with more of a sweet tooth, lucious frosting on an otherwise sublime decadent chocolate cake.

I began this Christmas Eve morning, I finish it early on Christmas. Another beautiful morning in the Northwest. Annie's in the kitchen putting on the coffee. Greg is building a fire. Jasper's curled up once again against my leg. Katie sleeps on in the next room and Chris is somewhere beginning his morning downstairs. Outside it is still, everything covered in a beautiful coat of crystalline frost. A gorgeous "white" Christmas. Soon, we'll be tearing into stockings, ripping open presents, hot cups in our hands, cameras flashing, fire crackling.

Truly, what more could anyone ask for?

Blessings & Peace

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ramblings on Re-entry


Since coming "home" three long weeks ago, I've wondered about so many things. I've wondered how it is possible for the kind of joy that I experienced during my last weeks on Moloka’i to vanish so instantaneously, so effortlessly and thoroughly that I’m left wondering if it actually existed at all. I've wondered how it is possible that I could spend three months alone and isolated on a small island in the middle of the biggest ocean on the planet, never experience one moment of loneliness, then return home and with the first breath of still, crisp late-afternoon air, the first sight of the lazy, hazy, glow of a bay area sunset in fall, I am overwhelmed with it? And I've wondered how it is that I didn’t think to “prepare” myself for my first major holiday since my separation (as if that were possible), for waking up alone for the first time ever on a Thanksgiving morning; no warm, cozy house prepared and waiting for company, no mouth-watering aroma of turkey and cinnamon-scented candles, no stressed-out husband in the kitchen, no jostling the “kids” awake for breakfast before the hungry hoards descend.

I can’t help but wonder, in hindsight, if my “re-entry” experience wouldn’t have been completely different had I chosen a different season. Though I love fall on one hand, the transition of it, the cooler air and beautiful leaves, for as long as I can remember, late autumn and early winter have been synonymous with loss, and during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season especially, I’ve danced that razor’s edge between being overcome with anxiety and depression to craving the joy that I could sense lay just beyond my reach. I was shocked my first day back, sitting in my “Ex’s” new house, the sun stretching long toward the west, that uniquely fall texture in the air, knowing it was time to go “home” to my little apartment, and feeling every cell in my body deflate and my spirit empty, remembering not with my mind, but with my physical being, my sensory awareness, not just the times of loneliness, but how they had disappeared completely in the warmth, safety, and security of partnership, family and home.

I’ve long thought it amazing, not to mention contrary to everything that is, that we light up our houses, streets, and cities the brightest when earth experiences her dimmest time. When the elements, by their very nature, draw us into the warmth and safety of the “cave,” when leaves turn and fall, perennials die back, and earth rests in moist darkness, we are lighting the tree, decking the halls, crowding the falsely lit stores and malls for ever bigger and grander presents; running from one festivity to the next.

It seems as though we’ve lost our connection with nature and the cycle of life; our own ability to go inward, to be quiet and rest, to let earth be our guide allowing whatever is no longer necessary die off and be let go of.

On Moloka'i, my very purpose was being alone, and I reveled in it. Back home, to my surprise, I am still, more often than not, shocked to find myself existing by myself; wandering my little apartment alone; eating alone; being alone, with no one to say goodbye to when I leave, hello to when I return, no one to check in with if I'm running late or have a problem, no one to even know if I make it home or not.

No one to help pull of my boots after a long and tiring day.

On Moloka'i, I lived life free of the filters of history, expectation, experience. It was a blank canvas upon which everything was painted, all new, all unexpected. Once home, I see that here in the Bay Area, where I grew up and have lived my entire life, where I got married, lived over three decades with my husband, raised our daughters, everything is seen and experienced through the lens of what was and is no longer. The canvas is full... and not just with history, but with ideas and visions about what life was supposed to look like, what it would look like, what I believed I wanted it to look like.

Had I stayed on Moloka'i (which believe me, I was sorely tempted to do...), I'm pretty sure I could have skipped all these less than glorious feelings tied so intimately to the cold and darkness of fall. Yet I would also have missed the enjoyment on the other side... the beauty of yellow, gold, and red leaves (sometimes all in one leaf!!); watching the storm clouds move in over the bay; snuggling under thick and cozy blankets and comforters; the crackle of a fire; the simple yet enormous pleasure of a warm cup of tea. Most importantly, I would also have missed the opportunity for fall and winter to do their work, as unpleasant as it sometimes feels, as necessary as it absolutely is.

I hope to get back to writing regularly again. Thanks for your patience, as I stumbled back to the mainland, and these weeks of just allowing the equilibrium to right itself as much as possible; as I get used to living and breathing again among so many people, as I re-enter my life here, and get it that that's exactly what it is... my life here, in my for now anyway home.

With aloha...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mahalo Moloka'i

I love finding unexpected gifts.... this one when I walked over to Make (maw-kee) Horse Beach for sunset.

It's no secret that I do love Moloka'i. I love looking out the big window right now, seeing the pink and purple clouds floating by, and watching how the sun's morning rays are lighting up the sculpted limbs of the Kiawe trees. I'm loving how fall rain is turning the dry landscape of the central and west portions of the island green again, starting with a lazy strip down each side of the road, then a few days later, as the strips widen, the fields and hills themselves taking on the subtle color, like a soft sage peach fuzz covering the ground. And I love the break we're having this morning from the fierce trade winds of the last few days, that have hurled sand like little stingers against my legs, and send my car bouncing to and fro; the great quiet that is only truly appreciated because of the contrast.

But even more than her vast physical beauty, I have come to love her people, their fiery spirit, their sense of community, their embrace. It is like a small town but spread out over the miles of the island. (Well... let's be honest here... spread out over the entire island except the west end, which seems to be a country unto its own, filled pretty much with moneyed white folks who venture into town only when they need gas or food or beverage.)

Four times in these months I've been here, I've experienced car trouble, once way out around mile marker 23 on the east end, where it is very remote, and the road is one very small lane, often with a sheer dropoff straight into the ocean (though a pretty stunning place to be stuck!). That was the third time I'd been stranded by the side of the road, but even way out there, I was not concerned, because I knew from experience by then that someone would always stop and ask if they could help. That day, many someones stopped, one giving me water for my radiator once the car cooled down enough to put it in, another telling me that on his way back, if I was still there, he'd give me a ride into town. I couldn't help but think, marveling at the beauty of the blue, blue water against the stark black lava rock, as each car that approached slowed to a stop, how different it would have been in the hustling, bustling bay area, thousands of cars speeding by not even noticing me, much less stopping to offer aid.

There is so much to love here in addition to others caring enough to help out when help is needed. I love the sweet, "rough-around-the-edges" (thank you, Lindsay!) uniqueness of this place. I love the passionate spirit of the people, and how you can't drive a block without seeing a homemade protest sign of one kind or another. I love the colorful signs that greet you when you leave the airport. The way everyone kisses hello and goodbye, be they strangers or best friends. How the elders, the kupuna, are all "aunties" and "uncles," a title of respect, how family, ohana, extends far beyond mere blood ties. On a personal level, I love how generously I have been embraced by those whose company I have been priviledged to share; made to feel not just welcome, but that I belong, that I have something to offer Moloka'i, that in fact, I really must, return (music to my ears!). I have come to love town, anything east of town, as well as "upcountry," where the wind sings its beautiful melodies as it whips through the tops of the ironwood trees. I have been told by people who "know," that my experiences here on Moloka'i are only beginning. I believe I will return, and have come to know with certainty that when I do, it will be there, to central island or east, and not the west end, which provided its own staggering beauty as well as desperately needed solitude and retreat for the first two months, but not the people (some of whom feel like old, old friends suddenly re-found) and community that have magically appeared and received and embraced me in my last month here. Perhaps more than anything, I love the everyday miracles I have begun to experience here, that have blown me away, that have humbled the hell out of me, that have confirmed and affirmed what I only "believed" in the beginning to be true - that there truly is magic afloat here, that this truly is one of the strongest, most spiritual places on earth.

After much resistance, I've hauled my suitcase from the closet and begun to fill it. I'm doing laundry, cleaning out the fridge, organizing. I've been to the beach to ask if there might be a rock, or shell, or piece of driftwood that might want to venture back to the mainland with me, keep me company, and return with me again when I return. (Always ask, I am learning. Never so much as move a rock or pick a flower without asking its consent. For all things are filled with mana, life force energy, and must be loved and respected). I have two important dates on my calendar these last two days. I'll give you a hint: both involve hearing and experiencing the lovely spirit and outrageously moving music of Lono live... :)

It is fitting that I return home the week of Thanksgiving. Never in my life have I been more aware of all that there is to be thankful for. What an enormous, earth-shattering, amazing turn around. What an enormous, earth-shattering, amazing gift.

What can I possibly say other than thank you...

The journey continues. To those of you who have come on board for this portion only, these months in Moloka'i, big mahalo. I hope my words have done her well, have brought her to life for you a little, maybe even a lot. I wish you safe and blessed passages on your own journeys. To those who will continue to follow as the journey into the unknown continues to unfold, big mahalo as well... and many, many blessings. The next Musings will be from the mainland.

From the core of my being, fat salty tears streaming down my cheeks, I say mahalo, mahalo; for her spirit, for the fire that formed her, for the land, the water, the pristine air; for Teri and the wonderful dream and space of Kalele Bookstore, to Auntie Snookie, to sweet, sweet Nan (sister re-found), Auntie Cathy; to Lono for moving me more than I ever knew music could move me, blasting my heart wide open; to Lawrence and Kawika, for one of the most amazing days of my life, in the most beautiful, most sacred place I've ever had the privilege of being (bug bites and all!).

To Isaac, beloved kumu, who wouldn't give up on me, who had the audacity to wish me joyful reentry, and which changed everything.

And to my cherished ohana stateside, Chris, Annie, Katie, Cindy, for loving me enough, for showing by example, for setting me free, for unselfishly and unconditionally supporting me and helping me grow, spread my wings, and fly. I love you more than you can ever know.

With great aloha, aloha nui loa, from beautiful, staggering, loving, challenging, magical, mystical, life-giving, healing, treasured Moloka'i...

and p.s... I finally found out yesterday that it is the shama bird that has the beautiful, haunting song that will forever be Moloka'i for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Halo'i Nui

Beautiful sculpture "Pu' ino Kulo o Hina," of the goddess Hina, mother of Moloka'i. Sculpted by artist Alapa'i Hanapi, and dedicated in a blessing ceremony last week, she rests in Kaunakakai, in the courtyard between state buildings and the Moloka'i Library.

Wow. I can’t believe it’s been eleven days since my last post. It’s the longest I think I’ve gone, except when my sister was here visiting. Once again words elude me, this time because what is happening feels unnamable.

The owaka that I wrote about last time, the opening of my eyes (and trust me, this is not something I did, but something that happened), resulted in some huge shifting. From one minute to the next, my reality altered, as if before my very eyes, a magic wand was waved and suddenly so much was different. Not just a shift internally about going “home,” but outwardly as well, with new people, places, opportunities, and experiences entering my life that feel so substantial, so extraordinary, so unexpectedly expected, they are literally like gifts being showered upon me.

This much I can say. Moloka’i has become my home; her people, the ones I am beginning to know now, my ohana, family. It may sound crazy, it might even BE crazy, but that is the magnitude of what I feel happening right now. I have come home, or returned home, on some deep and intangible level.

The English translation of one of Old Style Hawaiian singer/song writer Lono’s songs goes:

If you could only see the beauty
The kukui leaf that glitters as it turns
May the healing be granted Moloka’i
By the utterance of prayers, rain falls
You are in the forest of Lanikaula
Let the healing be granted Moloka’i
How can I travel on
The bird is singing
Let the healing be granted Moloka’i

Last night I got to talk to Lono for quite a while after he sang. (Lucky me...!) He is so animated, so full of the spirit of this island, and such a fun and natural storyteller. He told me about how Moloka’i heals on every level, body, mind, emotion, and spirit, that she wipes clean anything and everything that is no longer needed. I thought about his words on my way back from Hotel Moloka’i, where he sings and talks story every Saturday night; how it was true, that the sadness and fear that had consumed me before I left the mainland had vanished the moment I stepped foot on island; the grief, the trauma of suddenly facing the world “alone,” the shattered dream about nuclear family, none of it had accompanied me off the plane. I'd seen it, but not nearly as clearly as I did remembering his words on the long, dark drive back to the west end.

That shedding was a completely unexpected gift. Also unexpected, the way she (Moloka'i) graciously (and sometimes not so graciously!) gives daily opportunities to grow on so many other levels; trust, gratitude, balance, forgiveness; living and eating simply; joy, love, discernment, reverence, slowing down, embracing, listening, letting go, and the big one, being in the now. So up for me right now, especially given that, at least from this moment as I write, it looks like I’ll be returning to the mainland more uncertain than ever about the logistics of my “future.”

This week's "Word of the Week" from the Dispatch is halo'i, which means to "well with tears; to form a pool of tears." I can't think of a better word for my last week here. So much about this place, its people, and my experience and experiences here has brought forth heartfelt halo'i. I already know that when my little Island Air plane takes to the skies next Monday and banks north over Moloka'i and toward Oahu, away from one home, toward another, I will know halo'i nui... pooling of tears BIG time... in fact, it is happening already, just thinking about it... and not just pooling, but overflowing, my heart so full of love, of longing, of gratefulness and gratitude it's impossible to contain it.

And in closing, if you really want proof positive that things really are shifting, even the lovely little toads now have the power to make me laugh out loud. Here they are congregating outside my sliding glass door, staring in near rapture at an insect crawling just out of their reach up the door.

With aloha nui, from Moloka'i

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Visions & Volumes

Here’s what I forgot to say about Kepuhi Beach. There is a semi-tall rocky ledge that runs along part of the shoreline (and which I think I may have had a photo of in my last group of pictures). The waves break to the ocean side of the ledge but with some of the sets, the incoming water creeps (or pours!) over, through the crevices, and around, and forms a little river, complete with tiny waterfalls and areas where it tumbles over rocks parallel to the shore until it makes its way to the end and runs back to the ocean. Between the roar of the waves, is the gentle, soothing, animated tinkling of a mountain brook. The first time I heard it I was blown away. My two favorite water sounds all in one place. Wow...


I got an email a couple of days ago from someone very wise and very dear to me wishing me a “joyous reentry.” The first time I read it my response was right. I wish. There he goes again with all that joy stuff. But somehow, those two little words got under my skin and I couldn’t shake them. The very idea—for me anyway—of feeling joyful when coming home from here seemed almost unnatural. Certainly outside my experience, and as far from my habit pattern as it’s possible to be. Especially when it comes to leaving Hawaii.

The next day it was still really on my mind when I stopped at Kumu Farms to buy papayas and apple bananas. I really like the woman who runs the little market there and was telling her I was leaving in three weeks and made a sad face. Here’s how our conversation went, her side with her adorable Italian accent.

You like it here?
I love it.
You have to be back for job?
Well then stay. Why not? You like it, you stay!

Oh, the simplicity of it makes me smile, even two days later. And the remarkable thing is that I could stay. I am free to move here even, if that is my desire, which gave me the much-needed clarity that I am actually choosing to go home. That conversation, along with the joyous reentry idea altered something in me. The Hawaiian “Word of the Week” in the current Moloka’i Dispatch paper is owaka. It means, “to open your eyes.” Between the email and the chat at the farm, I think owaka has happened. At least enough to begin letting some light in. Why not go home joyous? What is there not to be joyous about? Why would I choose to go home sad or depressed? How in the world would that honor me, this journey, this beautiful place on planet Earth? And once again, where does choice play in all this? Are we run by our unconscious habit patterns, and is it really possible to step outside the old and experience something radically new? As I see it, no choice until owaka, then, if we're lucky, choice can begin to happen. Or maybe then, not even a choice, simply a happening.

I have been amazed over the years at how hearing something can change everything. In an instant. A few words innocently (or strategically) placed and wala, light where in the past had been darkness. The whole “when the student is ready” thing; it’s like the words, whatever they are, are like caffeine injected straight into my veins, jolting me awake. For so long I’ve viewed and experienced the world through the lens of disappointment; fallout, I know, from a childhood perforated with it; where it felt like I never got anything I wanted, ever, from the pink-haired doll when I was seven that came with all those cute little dresses and hats, all the way to my mother’s love and approval, and so much other big stuff in between. I remember once in therapy I was bemoaning some wound or another that seemed to originate with my mother and my therapist asked how long she’d been dead. Twenty years, I replied. Twenty years? She was incredulous, and exclaimed in a way I'll never forget, twenty years dead and gone? Twenty years?! Time to give it up, don’t you think?

Simple. Though not as easy as it seems. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it has “worked” for me on some inane level for a long time. It’s safe, secure, and is a good start in explaining away a lot my lingering, embarrassing "stuff." People have been after me to examine and let go of the stories for a long time. It's just that the "default" is so deeply ingrained and incredibly unconscious. I see that right now in a way that maybe I never have. Why in the world would a bright, intelligent person choose "woe is me" over something lighter, more life affirming and giving, more enjoyable; and therefore, as a result of the former choice, remain stuck, living a current life blown hither and yon by winds from a past long ago blown away. A past that is not just gone, but dead and gone. (It's a rhetorical question btw, and I do have some theories...)

How reentry will happen, what it will bring, remains to be seen. Right now, I'm feeling pretty okay about going "home," in stark contrast to even a week ago. Not that there isn't so much here to be missed, because there is. And who knows what the future will hold. Maybe one of these days out on Kepuhi Beach, I'll toss those old, historic, suffocating and limiting volumes into the surf and let the force of nature have her way with them. Maybe for the symbolism, I'll do it as the sun sinks below the horizon. Then maybe, one day before I leave, I'll drive over to the east side before dawn, Murphey's Beach, at mile marker 20 might be the perfect spot. I'll bring an offering of thanksgiving, and sit and watch the sun come back up again, celebrating not only a new day, but a whole new volume, empty like a journal fresh from the store, that is there before me just waiting to be written, painted, and who knows, maybe even danced upon.

Here are some of the things I'll miss, though in many ways, they feel a part of me~









(this one is hard... I really love them & they've kept me such good company)

With Aloha, from beautiful Moloka'i

Monday, November 2, 2009

Splendor in the Tropics

A little while ago, on my way back from town, I saw something that I’ve never seen, and didn’t even know existed. Straight ahead, on the land itself, just below the horizon, was a fat, flat rainbow. Not a bit of curve to it, it lay stretched from a spot far on one side of the road to a spot far on the other side, and I was driving straight toward it. It had all the colors, in all the same order, just wider, and prone; like it had collapsed in the middle into a long, drawn out rectangle. I was spellbound, and when I could shut my gaping mouth, all I could say was WHOA and then WOW... Unbelievable... Thank you very much. That, plus two “regular” rainbows put a much needed positive spin on the last twenty-four hours; yesterday's trip to the ER, and the current drive from the drug store where I had to pick up a prescription for antibiotics to treat a week-old bee sting site that has become infected with staph. (And which, btw, will increase my "be sure to stay out of the sun" photosensitivity, thank you very much, now dead bee. Oh, and I hope the sweet pharmacist didn't take my incredulous look too personally.)

It seems to be a day for natural splendor. I woke up before five to an incredible full moon lighting the cloudless, not-yet-dawn sky. The brightest, clearest I’ve ever seen, I was “moonstruck,” and drawn, for the first time, to the beach before daybreak. There it hung, as though lit from within, maybe thirty degrees above the horizon, casting its reflection, like a setting sun, on the dark ocean. I was hoping for a night rainbow (they do happen, in just the right conditions) but even without it, it was so pretty. At one point, as the moon was nearing the horizon, the sun, still below the eastern ledge, sent its first rays over the land, subtly painting the clouds that surrounded the moon. Here’s a picture—not great, because I don’t have a tripod to hold the camera still shooting in diminished light—but you can get the idea.

Full moon setting. This full moon is in Taurus, the quintessential and most sensuous of the "earth" signs. Ruled by Venus, who loved beauty - no wonder nature's putting on such a gorgeous display!

The moon disappeared, and the sun was suddenly there, creating a “cloud bow" (look for it in the picture below), and then illuminating the frothy breaking waves.

The color of the water was like someone had mixed deep emerald green with vibrant turquoise; and the way the waves were collapsing, between the swells, created a surface that looked as though it was topped with yards and yards of delicate, old-fashionied white lace.

And speaking of splendor: just as Dixie Maru has become the place for serenity and relaxation, at high surf, the Kaiaka Point side Kepuhi Beach is where I go if I simply want to stand in awe of Mother Nature. Just a few miles from the calm, demure Dixie, surf breaks there in a way I have never in my life witnessed. Waves don’t roll in, curve politely, or simply break on the shore, they hurl themselves onto land. Again, and again, and again, pounding and then pulling so hard, they strip the sand clean off the beach. Standing there, waves over my head breaking right at shoreline, some of them climbing three-quarters of the way up the rock point, the roar is deafening, like someone has thrown sticks of dynamite into the oncoming surf. Though I’m always careful to keep a safe distance (for my camera, if not for myself!), even so, there are times that the impulse to turn and run is nearly overwhelming. Every second or third set is so wild, so raw, so chaotic and powerful it is breathtaking. Though still shots, without the sound, the smell, the vibration of the sand beneath my feet can't begin to really show it, still, here are a few, of another one of my absolute favorite places to be. The force of it, especially in such contrast to the serenity of Dixie Maru, just down the road, is amazing.

Three weeks from today I'll be on a plane heading home. In some ways it's gone quickly, in other ways, it seems like I've been here a long, long time. "Home" and my life there seems like a very distant and remote memory, and one that, in spite of my best intentions, there is much trepidation about entering again. I was so sad when I left; sad and cut loose from my moorings, drifting on a new, unexpected, and not all together comfortable sea; my tiny boat often swamped and capsized, me thrown to the mercy of the wild seas. I truly have no idea what to expect when I return, and the questions, the worries, sometimes weasel their way in and start to itch. What if... what if... what if... Exhausting. And yet, there are many moments here, especially when relaxing at Dixie, or mouth agape at Kepuhi or a "roadbow," every morning when the first bird sings, when I am so moved by nature, feel her so inside me, that the mind is stilled and I go completely calm, serene in the knowing that all is well, and will be well.

I love that I am drawn to both equally, the calm seas where I can float and relax and just be held, and to the grand, wild seas where the creation is still very much alive and on-going. What a metaphor for life. And of course, it's easy to enjoy both since I'm merely an observer in this particular sea/land drama! One of the great teachers of India used to say that the minute there is a preference for calm water over stormy, you're already out of the ocean. It's not lost on me that the moment the worry, the anxiety, the disappointment come about going home, I'm tossed like a rag doll to the shore. How I'd love to not even think about it. How I'd love to trust implicitly that what comes next will be exactly what needs to come next. There are those moments, and I love them, when that trust in life and life's process and journey are right there, open and inviting, like the hot sun peeking assertively through a much needed break in the clouds.

Ah, so many preferences! Such tricky business, this spiritual growth stuff.

(And P.S., as if all of this natural beauty wasn't enough to completely lift my spirits - and it was - I was lucky enough to have a close encounter at the drug store with Moloka'i's own Lono, Old Style Hawaiian musician extraordinaire that I've previously written about! A definite, adorable cutie patoodie. ;))

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

With aloha, from Moloka'i

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dixie Maru and Dolphins, Too

This is Dixie Maru Beach. Technically called Kapukahehu Beach, it got its nickname from a fishing boat wrecked there in the 1920s. It's a beautiful, quiet cove, an eight-minute drive away, that's become my favorite place to be. I swim, snorkel if it’s calm enough, read, put on my Chacos and explore around the lava rocks, looking for shells and drift wood. I usually only stay a couple of hours, but it's become both the highlight, and the most relaxing part of my day.

Sometimes when I'm floating above the rocky bottom, I get it like brand new news that I'm actually in the ocean, totally relaxed, snorkel mask on, breathing through a tube, swimming with the bright, colorful fishes below me. A small but otherwise enormous every day miracle.

Until four years ago, I was terrified to swim in the ocean. Both of the times I'd been to Hawaii, I had gone with the intention of overcoming the fear and had failed. If I was lucky, I’d make it in up to my waist, but no further, and only in extremely calm water. I even took a snorkeling lesson on one of our visits. The second I put my face in the water, my mask filled up and I thought I was drowning. I ripped the mask off, and faster than I’d moved in years was out of that beautiful Hanalei Bay water.

At the same time, I began dreaming about one day swimming with wild dolphins. It started when we got home from our first trip to Hawaii, and as impossible as it seemed, wouldn’t go away. On the second trip over, four years later, the desire grew even stronger—though I still couldn’t get in the ocean—and once back home, took on a life of its own. Nine months later I jumped off the back of a boat in the Bahamas, and swam and snorkeled with the beautiful, friendly Atlantic Spotted Dolphins that live off the coast of the tiny island of Bimini. Truly the most stunning, most amazing experience of my life.

It took every single second of those nine months to prepare. It started with the tiniest of baby steps: laying on my bed watching TV holding my nose, teaching myself to breath through my mouth. Then graduating to wearing the mask only, then the mask with the tube, still while reading or watching TV, then in the shower. The biggest step came when I took an actual snorkeling lesson at a dive shop and, with the wonderful and sweet coaxing of my about-seventeen-year-old teacher, in a huge leap of faith, let go of the side of the pool into the wonder of trusting the water.

Since then, besides the Bahamas, I’ve snorkeled in Hondurus, off Maui, and off the Big Island, on the Kona side, there also with dolphins. But until this trip, I’ve been way too scared to enter the water through surf, and to be in the water if I wasn’t snorkeling. In my second week here, I met three women who invited me to the beach. They all got in while I sat, afraid. They couldn’t believe that I could jump four or five feet off the back of a boat into the middle of the ocean, but couldn’t enter the water from the shore. I know! I kept telling them. But they encouraged and coddled enough, and finally, offering me a literal hand, got me in; by the end of the afternoon, even diving headlong into an incoming wave! Not big surf by any means, but deep, and enough that getting in and out was a little bit tricky. Once in, just the right amount of swell for a glorious experience. Perfect for my baptism.


When my sister and I were on Maui, we took on even bigger waves, then once back here on Moloka'i, we started going to Dixie Maru. Since she left, I've been regularly, and the more I go, the more I am in the water, the better, the more whole and healthy, I feel. Each time, face submerged, hot sun on my back, kicking gracefully with my long fins, held in the warm salty arms of the biggest ocean on earth, or just frolicking and swimming in the gentle swell, I am still pretty astonished.

The Maori of New Zealand have a saying: If dolphins come to you in a dream, it is not a dream, they have really come. Twice they came to me, and I woke the second time knowing it was a fait accompli; that no matter what it took, it would happen. Those nine months were the most magical, amazing, serendipitous months of my life. Besides the obvious, of course, each nine-month time I carried my babies. And just like with my daughters, the dolphins changed everything, altering the very course of my life. Having babies was the first time my desire for something grew bigger than the fear surrounding it. Twenty-two years later, the dolphins were the next. Since the dolphins it seems to have become almost commonplace. Certainly I wouldn't be on the adventure I'm on today, embracing the solitude and healing vibes on Moloka'i, spending the days in the water at Dixie Maru, flying along the north shore pali had I not jumped, trembling from head to toe, heart exploding inside my chest, out of the snug fitting box that I'd kept myself safely squished inside of and into the brilliant, clear-as glass, aquamarine waters of the Caribbean ocean.



With Aloha, from Moloka'i

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sacred Moloka'i

I woke up this morning to a sky striped in pale blues, pinks, and grays, and the air so fresh I knew it must have rained. Not a hard rain, which has only happened a couple of times in the two months I’ve been here (and even that wasn’t really hard, not like the rain we had while in Kalaupapa), but the kind that I’ve come to associate with this particular place on this particular island: a graceful, drizzly, nearly invisible veil of fine drops whipped sideways by the winds. The kind I always feel and smell before I actually know it’s raining, and that no matter what I’m doing, I stop, watch, enjoy.

I'm aware that today is the 23rd. As hard as I’ve been trying to not pay attention to time, I am aware that a month from today I will be on a plane heading “home.” Just the thought makes me weepy, and not even necessarily a sad weepy (though I wouldn't rule it out…), more like a profoundly moved weepy. I truly did not know what to expect in my time here, and if you’ve kept up with this blog, you’ll know the absolute truth of those words. But if I had, already it would have greatly surpassed any expectations this limited mind could ever have put on it.

I’ve struggled over the last few days trying to write about my experience, what I feel going on inside me, and the deep love and connection I feel for and with this island. The land is alive, and there is a spirit living and breathing here that is palpable, and that for some reason, I resonate strongly with. I have heard and now know from experience that Moloka'i has retained more of the the "old Hawaii" than any of the other main islands. And indeed, when I visited Maui recently with my sister, the differences were glaring, heartrending, and hard to take after living for almost two months in the "realness" that is here. As a visitor, I'm aware that I cannot truly know or speak to this "real Hawaii" though I can and do feel something tangible deep inside, something I'm not able to articulate.

The saga of this island and her people is a touching one. If you're interested in knowing more, here is a wonderful, short, video about Moloka’i. In the background is the music of Lono, a gentle, lovely, (sexy!) man (no doubt a Moloka’i prince) whose Old Style Hawaiian folk music, specifically his songs about Moloka’i, has moved me to tears. Twice so far I've seen him perform, and both times it has turned me inside out, where my heart, my soul, every cell of my body has been exposed and worked over by the beautiful instruments, melodies, language, and voice.

For more information about Lono, go to

(And btw, just what is it about a man holding, caressing and strumming a guitar that's so appealing???)


According to the video, pono is to be physically and spiritually in accord with the sacred. How simple, and yet how profound. Sacred is maybe the word I've been searching for that has alluded me. These islands are the sacred. Moloka'i is the sacred. Being here sacred.

All I can really say for sure is that I know big shifts are happening. To say I am grateful for my time here, for what I know is happening inside while I'm here, is not just an understatment, but feels woefully inadequate. Just like the vibrant, dynamic and powerful Pacific sculpts the incredible rock formations out on Kepuhi Beach, so she, Moloka'i, is fashioning me. From what, I have an idea; into what, remains to be seen. I am the clay, hers the strong, capable, loving, sacred hands.

And in those hands, as corny as it may sound, I just might be becoming the woman I've long wished to be.



With aloha nui, from Moloka'i