Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I thought I'd send along some pictures of KP2. KP is a sixteen-month-old monk seal pup who was born on Kauai and immediately rejected by his mother. He was raised from his first day by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Marine Mammal Center. At eight months he was released into the wild, and a few months later, in February this year, showed up at the Kaunakaikai Harbor on Moloka'i, and made it and its people his own.

From everything I've read and heard, KP thinks he's a person. He swims alongside adults out for their morning exercise, hops onto boggieboards, and frolicks with the kids in the special little area roped off for swimming. And it's been great fun until recently. As he's grown, has begun to molt, and is nearing mating season, his "play" has become rough. He holds people with his flippers and pulls them underwater or pushes them under and holds them there with his ever increasing weight. He's no longer little, weighing in now at an estimated 175 pounds, but it seems that someone has forgotten to tell him that. He's doing what seals do, the trouble is, he's doing it with humans.

The people at the NOAA think he's become a danger, and has got to go, though two earlier attempts to relocate him (to the other side of Moloka'i where it is more remote) resulted in him returning a few days later to the harbor. They are talking about moving him hundreds of miles away this time, maybe to one of the small, uninhabited northern islands of the Hawaiian chain, or, possibly, even to some kind of marine animal park.

People are understandably sad and upset at the prospect of KP being moved. (Well, most people, that is. I've been told that fishermen hate seals, and I heard that one fisherman was even seen kicking him.) Many believe that because he chose Moloka'i, he belongs here. The plight of KP and the people who love him has gone national, with CBS Nightly News running the story, along with the Wall Street Journal, front page. KP can even be seen on YouTube!

The other problem is that monk seals in Hawaii are endangered. So there's all kinds of bureaucratic red tape involved. In the meantime, while the powers that be are making their decisions, a group of locals have been taking turns "babysitting" KP. The idea is to make sure that he doesn't injure anyone and that no one injures him. I was lucky enough to be invited to go along with one of the volunteers, and last Sunday afternoon, spent three hours in his company (out of the water, thank you very much!) at the Kaunakaikai Harbor.

Sitting there with the hot sun on our backs and the wind howling, catching sight of the occasional sea turtle popping its head above the surface, being so close to this beautiful, gentle-seeming creature, I got it that this story is both sweet and sad. Bittersweet, I guess you'd say. Being raised by people, he obviously wants the company of people. But also obviously, he is, first and foremost, a wild animal. What he wants and what so many of the islanders want does not seem like a match made anywhere, even in heaven, even in heavenly Hawaii. It seems, from all perspectives, a lose-lose situation. Except, of course, that KP, part of an endangered animal species, is alive and thriving after being abandoned by his mother.

The good news/bad news is that the wheels of government grind slowly. For the past two weeks I've been hearing that KP is going to be moved any day now. It hasn't happened yet. Lucky for me, I got to go and hang out for an afternoon with an endangered monk seal pup. Lucky, too, for the people who have come to love him... who any day now, it seems, may well be called upon to love him even enough to let him go.

But then again, isn't that what love is all too often all about? Isn't that, in fact, the highest expression of love?

Which doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like hell.

With aloha, from Moloka'i

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Perspective II

It’s strange how perspective can change, sometimes minute by minute. There are moments here where I wonder how I can possibly stay for another two months. There’s absolutely nothing to do. (I know, I know, it’s not about doing, didn’t I just write about that…??) I keep photographing the same things over and over because that’s pretty much all there is to photograph. I sit on the same bench overlooking the same ocean day in and day out. Though that has proven to be as changeable as my perspective—one minute calm, the next so thunderous it’s almost frightening, with bombs of water exploding off rocks, and sometimes, surprisingly, right in the middle of a curling wave. There’s only one road, and it’s long and hot and dusty, one way leading the 20 plus miles into “town,” and the other ending about ten miles from here at Dixie Maru Beach, a tiny cove, with the only “calm” swimming water on the west end—and that depends on the day. There’s not even a good place to take a nice long walk—the sand on the beaches here hard to walk on—which leaves the road (long, hot, dusty, remember?), or the dead golf course. I’ve done the golf course a few times, but it is what it is… dead grass and weeds with the occasional palm tree and sand trap. Though the views are absolutely stunning.

Oh, and did I mention the mosquitoes? Averaging about two bites a day, I figure the total, for time spent here, will be roughly around 166. One hundred and sixty-six big, fat, itchy welts, including the two on my—uh-hem—rear end, which means they had to have bitten through not one but two layers of clothing. I won’t even mention the ants, or the roaches, that seem, like time-travelers (yes, I’m reading the book) to appear out of nowhere to be sitting right along side me. Or the fact that I can’t go into town for “milk and bread” without dropping an easy hundred; how the disappointment at the way the condo was misrepresented vis-à-vis the beach/ocean proximity comes alongside to visit once again.

And then, of course, there are the other moments. The ones where I nearly panic at the speed at which the time here is slipping away. Moments in which I can’t imagine not waking each and every day to watch the sky turn from black to silver to baby blue, and hear the sound of those wonderful birds that I’ve still yet to identify; where each time the sun sinks west toward the horizon, it is new and exciting and as unique as a thumbprint, and carries with it the potential of color, design, awe, and such extraordinary mystery. Where I love the sound of deer barking in the dead of night, where another rainbow might be just a cloud away, where “apple bananas” are maybe the biggest surprise, and along with papaya make the most heavenly smoothie; where every day I can visit the ocean, swim laps in a warm pool, watch the clouds move in and out, and listen to Hawaiian music radio (heaven, right there). Where “strangers” kiss me good morning and bring me bags filled with papaya and banana, fresh off the trees. Where I don’t feel fat and old and tired and washed up, where I don’t worry, where I am no longer grieving the past, where I actually feel younger, and where the future is wide open ahead of me, and ripe with possibility.

Of course, it’s those moments that I adore. Not the ones where I panic at the passage of days, but where I am open and alive and fully in touch with the wonder I am surrounded by. The days where the cup is not just half full, but filled so full it overflows. Where somehow, through some sort of grace, there is magic instead of boredom, magnificence rather than disappointment, beauty even in the dead, dying, decaying. I covet those days, and want to grasp them and mold them into some sort of container I can jump into, a second skin I can put on and wear, a pill I can swallow that will make it so every moment of every day.

Here’s the question that’s dogged me lately: how much of our experience of and reaction to things, to life, to each moment, is a choice, and within our control? It’s a huge question, I know. Bigger than the humongous waves that exploded so gloriously ashore here in the last couple of days. And it’s deep and rich and multi-layered. But just this morning, when I took a break from writing and took myself to the beach, I got a partial answer when I realized that I could only run out of things to photograph if I insisted on seeing everything from the same perspective, the same bench, if you will… So I got up, snapped a different lens on my camera, and took a walk, seeing newly and for the first time what has been right before me the whole while.

I made a choice. And yet, it seemed to me that it wasn't a choice until the moment when that particular light dawned. And even then, I'm not sure that "choice" quite describes it. I simply did it. Or, it simply happened.

And it’s the great thing about questions. If we pay attention, we might just live ourselves right into the answers.

Here are some of the pictures I took~
(click on any picture to make it bigger)

The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but in seeing with new eyes. — Marcel Proust


Aloha Nui, from Moloka’i

Friday, September 25, 2009

Adventures in Paradise

This is the cane toad, otherwise known as Bufo marinus or Giant Neotropical Toad. Here in Hawaii, it is called “Poloka.” It is not native, though I haven’t been able to find when and from where it was introduced. If you google cane toad, there are countless articles on its introduction to Australia (from Hawaii) in 1935 in an effort to control the cane beetle that attacks the sugar cane crop. It apparently had no effect on the beetle, but has been very successful multiplying by the millions and destroying pretty much anything that touches it, be it alligators, raptors, family pets.

Not only is it one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen, but it is highly poisonous, secreting a very toxic chemical called bufotenine. Humans are generally safe from its effects, unless they eat it, in which case, they have been known to die. The toads are nocturnal, and the little road in and out of the Kaluakoi area ("Toad Road" I've heard it called) is littered with road-killed flattened ones. In the equivalent of the two or three block distance that I walk to and from the beach, I’ve counted as many as three dozen, in all sizes, shapes (well, aside from flat, of course), and death poses.

They’re everywhere at night, and pretty disgusting (especially when I find them in the kitties’ water, which I did last night, and which worries me enough to no longer leave their water out at night.). I won’t walk anywhere after dark, leaving the beach the second the sun goes down to get back while it’s still dusk. I won’t even take the garbage out after the big light has gone off for fear I’ll step on one. Without question repulsive… and yet…

Just last night I found myself wondering… honestly, it crossed my mind… seriously, though I’m loathe to admit it, the question did arise: what would I have to do to have one of these god-forsaken toads turn magically into a prince? You know, the whole Frog Prince, shapeshifting idea.

So I did some research. Depending on which version of the tale one reads, in order for a toad to turn into a prince, I’d have to 1) kiss it (NO WAY), 2) let it spend the night on my pillow (ABSOLUTELY NOT) 3) behead it (YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING), or 4) throw it against a wall in disgust.


It’s the whole transition from being married for better than half my life to now being single thing that even brings the prince idea to mind. That, and thinking lately how wonderful it would be to share a kayak for two with someone other than Clare, the owner of Molokai Outdoors (nice, though she is), and to have someone in my life who shares my thirst for travel and adventure.

My husband (now ex, though calling him that is an unbelievable stumbling block) has had plenty of adventure in his life. Thirty-two years in law enforcement—enough excitement for more than one lifetime. Now that he’s retired, he craves only the safety and security of the known. And I get it, truly I do. A few years ago I was telling him how much I wanted adventure in my life. He responded that the very word gave him a stomach ache. It’s possible that it was in that moment, that I remember so clearly I can see where we sat, and what time of day it was, that I got it that our marriage might have an expiration date. Though it would take me almost a whole year to allow the very idea into my consciousness.

By the end of our marriage, pretty much all we had in common was our last name, our grown children, a few pets, and a genuine and steadfast caring for each other. We shared a space, but he lived his life, and I lived mine. Rarely did the two overlap. So I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that there might be a longing to share the things I'm interested in, the things I want to see and experience in life, what is important to me, with someone who is also interested. And I guess it shouldn't surprise me, though it has, that my thoughts turn to things of the "romantic" nature over here (it is still Hawaii, after all - even if it is remote Moloka'i - with its hot sun, hot sand, warm water, luscious fragrances, and breezes running their fingers through my hair). Under its influence, I find myself seeing the men I come across in a whole new way, and from a completely different perspective.

I guess it also shouldn't surprise me that after being with one person for thirty-four years, a person that I still love very much, that this noticing, this desire if you will, might trigger some strong issues around loyalty. Ones that might give me a bit of an ache in the belly... not to mention the heart.

And that also might trigger no small amount of otherwise internal strife.

For the truth is, I am so enjoying my singlehood. I love being alone, I love living alone, I even love traveling alone. I feel filled, content, and very much whole-unto-myself when alone. I love the solitude, the quiet, the peacefulness. I am so much more at home when I'm by myself than when I'm with people.

Yet it's a whole new world out there. For me anyway. I can tell, already in a little over three and a half weeks, that I've caught a bug. It's a little virus called wanderlust, and its fever is starting to burn in me. And I'll happily suffer it alone, I've no trouble with that... I'll very much enjoy it in fact, though maybe somewhere along the way a toad - oops, I mean prince, might hop along and want to join me for part of the journey.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that while a frog/prince isn't necessary, and isn't breathlessly being waited and wished for, should one come along, and depending, of course, completely on the nature of his frog/prince-ness, it's possible I might would welcome him.

It's even possible, just maybe, perhaps, that I might would even kiss him...

As Kermit the Frog himself said, Someday we'll find it, that rainbow connection, the lovers the dreamers and me...

With Aloha, from Moloka'i

Monday, September 21, 2009

Raindrops on Roses...


This morning I woke up to rain. The sound of big drops falling on the patio, the humidity and the strong fresh scent reaching me as I lay in bed in the always unnerving pitch dark.

It was around five. Too early for the first birds. I’d been wakeful since the sprinklers went on at 3:30, thinking about the past week. About the people I’d met, the places I’d gone with them, the things we’d done, the fun we’d had. The sweet connections we had felt. It truly was wonderful, and my socks had been knocked off at the ease with which people popped, through no efforting of any kind on my part, into my life.

And I got caught up in the whirlwind of folks on vacation. I ate too much and the wrong things, I drank too much (more in the last seven days than in the last seven months, probably longer…), I stopped walking to the beach for sunrises and sunsets, I stopped carrying my camera. I talked, I listened, I laughed (more than I’ve laughed in such a long time). Every day was new, and filled with some sort of activity. Going to the beach, cocktails and appetizers, driving to town to go out to dinner. And in all that activity, I realized this morning, seeing it as clear as day though it was still dark as could be, I’d been sucked into the vortex and blown clean out of myself.


I do so love to have fun. I love connecting with people, sharing stories, laughing out loud. It’s its own kind of magic, and food for the soul, truly. Just not the particular sustenance that this soul is in desperate need of right now. And not only did it not nurture me, it took from me, sucking the life that I had begun ever so tentatively to feel again. And with it, my ability to be enchanted, to feel the astonishing, the breathtaking in as many moments as possible.

I couldn’t figure out why I haven’t been able to write about all that I’ve been doing. Trust me, I’ve tried and then tried some more. But this morning I get it. I get that this trip is so not about what I’m doing. Not the tiniest bit, not even a smidgen. It’s about that other thing, that elusive, mysterious thing we hear so little about called being. And from being, in each moment to create. I knew intuitively, months ago when googling Moloka’i for the first time that it was solitude that I hungered for/wanted/needed to even begin to touch that.


I had gotten by the end of last week, before the onslaught of activity, that I had to go about life with the utmost of care over here. That every moment was about being as fully present as possible, and that the slightest thing, every single choice large and small, from what I ate to what I read to what I wrote to who I spoke to that did not feed and nourish me needed to not be chosen. And not because I have a sadistic need to whip myself into shape. Not at all. But simply because it’s actually the point, and it’s why I’m here. To create the rich environment that I need to learn how to be, and to be as alive as possible.. And to do that, every choice needs to be life-enhancing and life-affirming. It’s so simple, it could not be simpler.

But obviously not so easy. I got caught up without even realizing I had been snared. I’d been AWOL for a number of days before I realized I was missing, and when I did, it was actually painful. And even then, what had happened was beyond my seeing and understanding. It’s another one of those tricky, fine lines. Though the clues were there. I was just too busy clinking glasses and mumbling cheers to notice.


And by the way, I have met some wonderful people. People that I believe will remain in my life, with whom the connection was strong, instantaneous and very yummy. The hope, I suppose, is to learn to balance the doing and the being. Learning to continue to be while doing. But having been a doer for most of my life, having used that as my escape, my M.O. for coping, any hope of balance will have to come later.

The sun is up. And with it amazing clarity. I took a break, threw my camera over my shoulder and went out—in my pj’s—to find raindrops on flowers. Here they are! I hope you're enjoying them as much as I am.


Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that's where I renew my springs that never dry up. ~Pearl Buck

With aloha, from Moloka'i

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kalaupapa Photos

Here are the pictures I promised from Kalaupapa Lookout.

It truly is incredible!

With aloha, from Moloka'i

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sealed with a Kiss

This morning I was kissed good morning by a perfect stranger.

Honest to god. I was sitting on a bench watching the surfers, camera poised halfway between my lap and my face when I was startled by someone speaking behind me. I’d been so focused, I hadn’t known anyone was there. I looked quickly behind me and he was right there, over my shoulder.

Are you having a good morning? he was asking.

Yes, I replied, as I jumped up and turned around. In that instant, he moved toward me and planted a kiss right on my cheek. Good morning, he said, either right before or right after the kiss. I can’t remember which exactly.

We introduced ourselves (shouldn't that come before a kiss...?) It turns out I had been taking pictures of his eleven-year-old son surfing. We chatted for a few minutes. I found out he was born and raised on Moloka'i and that he'd just been hit in the neck with his board. He found out I am from Oakland and that I'm a Giant's, not an A's fan.

As he walked away, he turned and yelled over his shoulder, Don’t forget to go to church!

I hollered back, pointing at the ocean, I think this is my church!

He grinned in acquiescence, his body language saying good point, I give! Then a few seconds later, he came running back, wanting to know if my camera was digital and if I could email pictures of his son to him.

No problem… as long as your email address is easy to remember!


The weird thing is, about the kiss, it didn't feel the slightest bit weird.

Already, I’ve come to expect the pleasantly unexpected here on Moloka’i. Everyday I meet new people. And every day more gifts come my way. I’ve been invited to Yoga, twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, at a home overlooking the water, walking distance from my condo. The same person who teaches yoga has ordered, that’s right, ordered, for me, all the things that I couldn’t get sent here. Soon, I will have my green drink, agave nectar, and quinoa. Oh, and she also gifted me five papayas from the case she had just received. Her friend wants to take me to her favorite spot on Papohaku Beach, the three-mile-long beach, where there’s a place, all the way to one end, that is calm and clear and that she thinks I’ll love. While we were talking, she showed me the inscription on the bench where we sat overlooking the ocean, and watching her husband surf. Dedicated to her parents, she said, who passed within two years of each other, in 2003 and 2005. She's there often, sitting right with them.

Not only that, but I just got back from having Margaritas (yes, my favorite drink!) at the condo of a couple vacationing here from San Francisco. They’ve kind of taken me “under their wing,” inviting me to hike to one of the west end’s many secluded beaches with them, and wanting to go out to dinner before they leave a week from now.

So, I guess, in some ways, the kiss should come as no surprise. Then, this afternoon, I met five women at the pool, three sisters, an honorary sister, and their 89-year-old mother. One of them, who owns here, overheard me talking to the SF couple about the morning kiss and told me, hey, it’s the aloha greeting. Nothing weird about it.

Just as I thought.

I don’t write about these things lightly. I haven’t even been here two weeks and already I feel taken in and taken care of. It's happening quickly, and with no effort at all on my part. As my spiritual teacher Isaac would say, It happens by itself.

Indeed. It feels very much like grace. And each time, something deep inside me is touched and goes still. Each one a kiss of its own kind.

I have read and I have been told that except for the tiny, private island of Niihau, here, on Moloka'i, Hawaii's ancient spirit - the mana - is the strongest of all the islands. It is the only island that was not conquered, King Kamehameha's ships kept at sea, unable to land because the mana was so strong. I've also been told that Moloka'i either welcomes you or she doesn't. There's not a whole lot in between, and that you'll definitely know one way or the other.

I would never presume to presume, but based on my first days here, I can say, without hesitation, and with great humility and with great-full-ness, that I feel extraordinarily welcomed.

And just this morning, it was sealed with a kiss.


If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, that will be enough. ~Peace Pilgrim

Or as they say here in the islands, mahalo...

With aloha, from Moloka'i

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Surf's Up!

This is what the ocean at Kepuhi Beach has looked like during my first nine days here~

...flat, calm, lake-like.

Here's what it looked like when I walked over Thursday night for sunset~

And then early yesterday morning~


I don't watch the news or read a newspaper, so I didn't know that high-surf advisories were in effect. (I guess thank goodness that it's just the remnants of a far-away storm and not a hurricane actually approaching... I could be in trouble...)

But you bet the locals knew...




I'd forgotten how much I love the ocean when the waves are big, and tossed around by strong winds. The energy, the vitality of it, just amazing... and contagious, the normally deserted beach humming. (Well, Moloka'i version of humming!) The first sets are in, man, I heard someone say. About two months early, from what I gather, this kind of surf generally a winter phenomenon. The excitement was palpable. The big "kids" straddling their boards, waiting for the perfect ride, while the little "kids" rocked and rolled in the big, pounding breaks, the shrieks of terror and joy rising above the roar.

It was great to be a part of it, even as an observer. I came back after about and hour and a half with 167 pics. The next day another hundred and fifty or so.

All I can say is thank god for digital - and the delete key.

If you're interested in more surfing pics, here's the link: (someday I'll learn how to "live-link" it.)

Aloha, from Moloka'i

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Ridiculous or the Sublime... You Decide


It’s just before dawn, and it’s the stillest it’s been in the nine days I’ve been here. No movement, not so much as a whisper of a breeze ruffling the palms. In a few minutes, I hear the birds begin, and am reminded again how much I love the way morning arrives here. First the stillness, then the second act, the cacophony of bird chitter, twitter, chatter, and song. Coming from all sides, truly, I know I’ve said it before, but honestly, swear-to-god, it really is stereophonic. There is one bird in particular, usually the last to sleep at night and the first to wake in the morning (though mostly quiet during the day), whose song from far out in the tree-covered hill has a distant, unusual, echo-y-like, rolled-sounding, almost haunting quality, which goes non-stop while it goes, and that I know has already crept beneath my skin, and taken up permanent resident. Before I leave I will learn about that bird; I’ll know what it looks like, what it’s called, what it’s habits are.

I’ve been here a little over a week now, and looking back, I am amazed. I’m not quite sure what’s happened to the woman who dragged her exhausted self off the plane nine days ago, lugging overweight baggage filled with sorrow, regrets, disappointment, failed dreams, unanswerable questions. The one who, on first sight of this place, felt her heart sink uncontrollably and who wanted post-haste to re-board and fly away back home.

People have asked me what my days look like. They are so simple, it borders on the ridiculous (or the sublime…): I get up, I do what I am moved to do in each moment, at the end of the day, I go to bed.


I walk, I sit by the ocean, I shoot pictures. I write, I upload and organize my pictures, I meet and talk with people, hang out at the pool. I meditate, which for me means sitting still, doing nothing, preferably with eyes closed. I eat less, think less (this one deserving a post of its own), I drive slower. Now and then I get in the car and explore. Oh yeah, and I haven't dried or done anything other than run a comb through my hair since I got here (thank god & Jessi for the new, short do). You have to know me well to know how utterly revolutionary this one is.

I am learning things: to shop and prepare food for myself. To clean up quickly and thoroughy lest the ants coming marching in (which they do anyway). To hide the bag of kitten food in my zipped up suitcase, again to protect it and me from an army of ants. I'm learning to always watch while the kittens are eating, so the big Tom doesn't come and scare them away. I'm learning - oh is it hard - to be patient with the little white one cuz I just want to pick her up and hold and cuddle her. I'm learning that there is a very quick and fine line between an unripe papaya and an over ripe one. I'm learning to pay attention, real attention, with my eyes, my ears, all of my senses. I'm relearning to swim, something I’m pretty excited about, that my body seems a bit cranky but mostly thrilled with.

I notice things: dragonflies, the color and shape of clouds, the way frogs hop across the patio in the morning, the slow, deliberate walk of the not-so-wild turkeys; the way the pure white egret floats gracefully to a perfect landing, then walks gingerly through the overgrown grass; mangoes hanging one on top of the other, kukui nut trees, the colorful canes of the bougainvillea. How blue are the eyes of my favorite kitty. Every sunrise and sunset, the gigantic black bees, the unusual snails. How deeply dark the nighttime is. I pay attention to what is natural and what is not, slightly ashamed for loving so much of what is not; namely the landscapings of bright, gorgeous tropical flowers and trees, the green grass.

I am more at peace, more content than I have been since the week I spent four years ago on a boat in the Bahamas swimming with wild dolphins. And that was the most peaceful, the most mindless I have ever been in my life.

There is some sort of magic afloat here. Something that is so far beyond me, it’s not funny, and that feels, in a word miraculous. And it probably is. Something about this place, so far removed from anything, where it seems impossible to dwell or hang on to anything that does not serve. Where now is really all there is or ever will be.

Oh, and by the way, the joke's on me. Here's what I'm not doing much of: reading. Maybe half an hour a day, an hour tops. It goes to show that we never know, we just have no clue what life will bring. Right now, when what I mostly want to do is take pictures, write, take more pictures, it's bringing me two big boxes of books that I mailed to myself before I left, that I imagine will remain unopened to be remailed before I leave. What reading I'm doing seeming to want to be of the "real" variety; memoirs, books about Moloka'i, about life in Kalaupapa.

We're so unknowingly, so innocently, arrogantly assuming sometimes. The best laid plans as they say... I can't help but wonder what would happen if I just stopped, as much as possible planning, and let life unfold, much as it does here, in its own way, on its own timing, with its own perfection.

With aloha, from Moloka'i

Grandeur and Kalaupapa Lookout

Last night was the first really clear night since I arrived, and the stars were amazing. I forget, living in the city, what it’s like to see a night sky, filled so full that it’s like one big, black, twinkling ocean, chalk full of stars, planets, constellations. I think I could even see the Milky Way, though it’s been so long, maybe I’m wrong, maybe that’s not what it was at all. The tricky thing here is that it seems the sky is rarely clear because of the way clouds roll in and out constantly. Last night was cloudless, moonless, and brilliantly clear.

The last time I remember seeing a night sky like that was about fifteen years ago at Crater Lake in Oregon. I sat out on the back deck of the lodge that overlooks the lake in an oversized, made-from-tree-branches rocker, watching the sun go down, and then gazing in awe at the sky until long after midnight. Not only were there stars galore, but also some meteor showers happening and it was just so beautiful. My youngest was nine or ten at the time, had not yet hit that magic age where she could no longer have anything to do with me, and spent part of the evening and night sprawled on my lap, watching with me, eventually rocking to sleep.

Crater Lake was also one of the very few times I've been somewhere in nature that absolutely arrested me, and where I felt its grandeur as something palpable, breathtaking and for lack of a better word, spiritual. I know I tend toward the dramatic in my writing, casually tossing around words like incredible, amazing, stunning, staggering. But I just don’t use a word like “grandeur,” because it’s the rare, rare occasion that it fits and is true.

Yesterday it was the only word that fit. On my way into town to trade out one clunker for another clunker and to visit the library for the first time, I took the road that leads to the lookout over the Kalaupapa peninsula, the small, flat piece of land that became home to the "colony," where those with leprosy (now known as Hansen’s Disease) were thrown—literally pushed off the boat in the earliest days and into the surf, to either make it to shore or not—into life-long, heart-wrenching exile. It’s a horrifically tragic and yet strangely inspiring part of this island’s history that I’m sure I’ll be writing more about. It’s a short walk to the lookout through a forest of trees (yes, I’d left the desert and climbed into the woods), the view at the end of the path so unexpected it stopped me in my tracks. I’d seen pictures, but nothing could have prepared me.

Not quite straight down, yet close, in the very near distance, nearly 3,000 feet below lay this small, very flat, beautiful piece of land. Part of it abundantly green, surrounded by the deep blue sea that from up there appeared gentle and serene, a tiny, micro paradise-like spot, with beaches, palms, one road, a small cluster of buildings, a tiny lighthouse at the far, more desolate-looking end. But what’s truly stunning, what creates the grandeur is this very lovely, sweet little piece of land juxtaposed against massive, vertical, 3,000 foot high verdant seas cliffs that it abuts to. (To put a visual to it, it’s like a backward “L.”)

Not only is it mesmerizingly beautiful, but there is a feel about it that seems other-worldly, and therefore difficult to put to words. There are few places I’ve been that elicit this response. Crater Lake, Glacier Point in Yosemite, Haleakala Crater on Maui, where I’ve just had to stop, gaze, wonder, and feel the breath of some kind of greater something upon me. There’s a stillness that is in direct proportion to its power. And I am filled with awe.

This place, without question takes the cake. Maybe it’s knowing the history. Or maybe, the history has infused it with some sort of palpable force of energy. Perhaps the utter, utter isolation of it. Whatever. Between the beauty of the land, the powerful feel of it, and the human history, I was blown away.

I will be returning, probably again and again to this spot. Like church is for so many, it’s a place where I can go and feel the presence of something far bigger, far more powerful, infinitely more enduring. Where my humanness not only pales, but is lost, and my being, my spirit, is flooded with quiet, with awe, with amazement, with peace.

With much aloha, from Moloka’i

(Quick note: pics will have to come later because my camera chose the moment I arrived there to stop working. Big Hmmm. More on that later.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Oh Dear... Aloha of a Different Kind

This is the sight that greeted me while I was fixing dinner my first night here. The owner had told me that there were some "cats" and that his wife had been feeding them while they were here just before I arrived. Cats? Not a problem. I can pretty much guard my heart against a grown up cat. But these aren't cats. They aren't anywhere near cats. These are kittens. Not only that, but one of them is my favorite kind of cat/kitten - which is basically anything with even a smidgen of Siamese. (For those of you who don't know cats, the Siamese shows up as darker points on the ears and tail (and usually the nose and paws).

True to Siamese, she has a loud voice. She meows enough for all of them. Tells me that they are hungry. And I can tell that they are. They're not skin and bones, but they could use some fattening up. I cut up some cheese, it's gone in two seconds. Cut up some more cheese (which btw, I just spent about 3x more on than I would have spent on the mainland.) We do that for two nights, but they are still really hungry. On the third day, the clunker and I head into the little town of Maunaloa. What do you know. They have a big bag of Purina Kitten Chow right there waiting for me. My lucky day.

For the first few days, they show up promptly at dinner time. Then they start arriving for lunch. Yesterday they were there for breakfast when I got home from my early morning walk.

There are cats everywhere here. Apparently there have been for years. I guess it's the place people dump them when they no longer want them. Luckily, the people in this complex are animal-lovers. They've been taking care of them as long as the complex has been here. They feed them, catch and spay and neuter them, get them shots, etc. Of all the wild and semi-wild cats I've seen since I arrived (quite a number), not one of them appears sick. And they all, except for the kittens, seem pretty well fed.

I'm more than a little in love with this white one. And I think she might have a crush on me, too. While the others seem purely interested in food, she obviously wants more. She hangs around more than the they do. She cries and comes toward me - sometimes even instead of eating. She is so sweet, I can see how badly she wants affection, but she's wild, and scared. Though already we've made progress, she often lets me pet her while she's eating. Today she was here all morning, sans her brothers. We played the cat and mouse game. Except I'm the cat and she's the mouse. :) Sometimes she lets me a little closer, other times not so much

I found out yesterday (completely by accident - I did not go looking for this information. Honest) that it is disgustingly simple to bring a cat back to the mainland from here. Who would have thought? Lots of people apparently do it. One woman I talk to every afternoon at the pool (the self-proclaimed "cat woman" of the complex) has brought home several and they've made great pets. The association here even has a fund... and if someone (read: I - but only if you must) chose, say, to take a cat home (purely hypothetical, of course), the fund would pay for all of its shots.

Hmm... What a deal...

With aloha, from Moloka'i

Sunday, September 6, 2009


It's raining! I smelled it before I saw or heard it. It's gentle, barely more than a mist, but oh, it smells so goooood. The whole sky is low and gray... maybe it'll last for a bit!
(See, there I go with preferences................sashaying myself right out of the moment.)



Most of the photos I take will be uploaded to my Flickr account. Uploading is slow over here and it seems to go faster on Flickr than on Blogger. I may include one or a few with each post (depending on timing) but I am taking many, and if you're interested in seeing Moloka'i in photos, they'll be available at:

(it looks like you'll have to cut and paste)

You can also access it by clicking on the link, "Debby's Flickr Photostream," on the right-hand side of the blog itself.

Uploading, organizing and labeling the photos is time consuming (but also something I'm enjoying immensely!) So, you might find they've been uploaded but don't yet have a real title or description. It'll happen... on Hawaiian time! I'm also just really figuring Flickr out so I'm fooling with how to organize, etc., that will make it as easy as possible to access the pictures. It does look like the link I provided above will take you directly to the collection with all of the Moloka'i photos.

Comments on individual pics always welcome! And remember... it's a work in progress!

With aloha, from Moloka'i

Be Still My Heart... I'm in Heaven After All

This morning it smells like rain. And everything, the trade winds, the birds, the air itself, is quieter. The sky is mostly gray. The air a little cooler.

I hope it does rain. I love rain no matter where I am, but nowhere more than in the islands. The warmth, the sound, the feel of it, how fresh and new everything is afterward. And of course, the possibility of a rainbow.

I’ve been in places on other islands where it rains off and on every single day, and where rainbows are plentiful. Here, on the west side of Moloka’i, rain is rarer, especially right now, during their “dry” season. Therefore so are rainbows. I think back on my first morning here and the amazing rainbow that greeted me and I can’t help but feel it was personal, sent just for me, when I was in need. It's not the first time I've felt that way with serendipitous happenings. In old Hawaii, a rainbow was considered an “auspicious symbol from divine beings.” An old Hawaiian chant goes: “Hina came down from heaven, Her way was by the rainbow.” Hina is the goddess of the moon and mother of Moloka’i.

The mother. Of Moloka'i.

The mother herself come to greet me. It gives me chills, right now, thinking about it, and I realize I have a taste once again - lost in the challenges and heartache of the past year - of the magic and mysticism that can be so present in life. Those who know of my years and years of reading and studying about the goddess will see that truly, it appears I've come to the right place.

(Thanks to Angela & Cameron Kepler's book Majestic Molokai for the information about rainbows and Hina)

* * * * *

Yesterday, on the way to town and the farmer’s market, I crested a hill and what I saw made my spirit soar. Tall, dark and stark mountains shimmered in the distance; behind them, a row of puffy white and gray clouds; the sparkling blue ocean lay calm beside them; and across the channel, seemingly a stone’s throw away, floated the island of Lana’i. And off to her left, Maui.

I got it, on a cellular level, after four days here, that I am, in fact, in my beloved Hawaii.

Once in town, the spirit of Moloka’i, and the sense of community that I’ve read about were everywhere, beginning with the sweet, sweet (and very contagious) smiles of the old women selling mangoes, papaya, lemon-lines, bananas, avacado, fresh ginger, onions, chilis.



I talked with local artists and shopkeepers, one who told me that I wasn't in Moloka'i because I chose Moloka'i, but because God chose ME for Moloka'i. Though my beliefs don't run in the direction of the one-he-god-with-a-capital-G-up-there-in-heaven, I have to admit that the sentiment had a nice ring. Everyone I've talked to has wanted to know why I am here. I tell them. Their compassion and empathy are palpable and even more, they all agree, every single one of them, that I've come to the perfect - the only - place to heal.

Though the fire is out, the smell of fresh char is crisp in the air. Driving in, I saw how it had marched right up to the highway, but hadn't crossed it. How it had burned circles around structures and around the sweet little local plumeria farm, not because it was a clever circle-burning fire, but because of the hard work by all who responded. As I walked to my car after shopping and exploring the town, I saw on the front of one of the buildings a long, hand-painted sign thanking everyone who had come to their aid. What an awesome sense of community.


Driving back toward the west end, in the clunker of a car that I'm actually coming to enjoy, the wind blowing through the open windows the only music, I realized I had a smile on my face. It's been so long since that has happened, months and months, probably more than a year since there's been anything spontaneously there except a mirror of the sadness that's been my constant companion. I looked to the right, and saw that what had looked on the first day like a dry, barren, inhospitable moonscape was actually something of beauty, a gorgeous mosaic of color. With the red rock and dirt, all the shades of yellow and green, the shadows from the clouds, and the ocean, waiting my return, it was in a word, breathtaking.


It's all about the lens through which we see. Something's shifted in my lens, and it's changed everything.

With aloha, from Moloka'i