Livin’ off the grid

Today when I was thinking of all the things I’m thankful for I thought about all the recent changes in my life.  After a 35  year marriage came to an end seven years ago, I was on my own. The entire time I was married I lived off the electrical grid. This was not a matter of choice at the beginning as we built our home in a rural area without electric or telephone poles. We drove down a dirt road for four miles to get to the house and we had no neighbors. We had made several friends in the area and we all communicated via CB radios. The other wives got together one afternoon to decide on our prospective “handles”. Since I was in nursing school at the time, I became “Nancy Nurse”, we had an actress, “famous neighbor”,  “butterfly” was a lovely tall wispy woman. There were others I can no longer remember.  We could all get on the CB at the same time like an old time party line. It was a fun time.  Most of us were not working so we were able to meet for picnics at the end of our street  which after a spreading of ashes Maku’u Point became “Charlie’s Point”. We still refer to it by that name after 40+ years. We were the first of our friends to get a phone. But, electricity was completely out of our means even when they brought poles down the main street. It was still a $17,000 investment to bring poles to our lot. By the time other people moved onto our street and the cost went considerable down we were so use to living off the grid we just never bothered to hook up.
I have always loved to sew and for about 20 years I used an old Singer treadle. I got  really good at it and could sew as fast as most people with power. And, my legs got extra exercise and toning and I got some cardio along with it. When my boys were little I made all their school clothes on the treadle. We had florescent lights which were not bright enough for night time sewing, so this was a day time activity. The boys went to Kindergarten and third grade wearing western shirts, polo shirts, tees, shorts, pants all done with my legs just a pumpin’ away.

We did have a small inverter which managed to give us some AC ability. We had a TV that wasn’t turned on until the boys were in bed so they grew up actually playing outside. My husband, at the time, was a hoarder so the boys had a lot of unusual things to play with. They had vivid imaginations. David also loved the sea, especially sailing.  So, the kids spent a lot of time at the beach learning to sail, building sand castles, swimming. I don’t think they realized there were cartoons on Saturday mornings until they were about 9 and 12! They are now 29 and 32, neither has a TV, both are very athletic. The youngest surfs, snowboards, kite surfs, skateboards. The oldest does a lot of hiking, running. He’s in Xterra races and marathons. They did both jump on the computer bandwagon when it came about but neither of them uses it as their primary form of entertainment. For them it’s work as they both work in the computer field.

Some of the things I learned to live without or with limited use have slowly found their way into my life since I built my own home and went onto the power grid. I now use an iron daily in my sewing. I have a waffle iron, a blender, a microwave, a computer. I have bright lights, a CD deck, a printer. I have an electric refrigerator!  I still am extremely conservative with my new power so our electric bill is among the lowest of anyone I know.

I am thankful for those wires that now go from tall poles on the street

The view from the road

to my new cottage.

Christmas Special

My Etsy shop is having a Christmas special…free shipping (domestic) through Dec. 15th. There is something for everyone, including the family dog!  So, e komo mai- come in, kick off your shoes, and relax while you wander through my shop.

The apricot pa'u
A unusual color and print…nani no

The Secret Beach

Last weekend after the dancing at Pohoiki Park we decided to visit a fellow halau member who has been going through some serious health issues and has not been able to dance. We miss her, so we stopped by to say aloha. During our conversation over iced tea she asked if we would like to see her “Secret Beach”. Well, of course we would! It was just a little way down the road, a dead end road. So here we were wearing our performance pa’u (hula skirts), blouses and flowers in our hair, following our friend down a trail. It was steep, it was muddy,  slippery with lots of ferns and small trees for support going down.  But, when we reached the bottom of the trail it opened onto sheets of pahoehoe lava which is smooth and glassy. As we walked on it changed to chunks of  ‘a’a lava to step over and around until there it was. Lava was piled high on the left held back the ocean, but at high tide, then ocean managed to breach the barrier, dropping its load of sand onto the flat spaces in front of it making a perfect little beach. The sand was incredibly soft to walk on. The water was only a foot or so deep. On the right was a ground covering of Naupaka–a plant with tiny white flowers whose petals grow in a semi circle. The other half of the circle grows on the Naupaka of the mountain elevations. Auntie Nona Beamer used to tell a story about a princess of royal Hawaiian blood who fell in love with a commoner. When their love was discovered she was banished to the mountains and he to the sea. The Naupaka now only grows in the mountains or by the sea and the petals are the remnants of a love that was torn in half never to be whole again.

Iliahi and Ki’ihele on a beautiful secluded beach in the middle of lava fields.

Autumn’s Grasp

This is for my friends who are clinging to autumn…
Autumn’s Grasp

The last amber leaf clings to the withered branch
Acorns have long been niggled into crags and crannies
Frost crunches softly under booted feet
Visions of sleet and ice are shoved to the furthest recesses of the mind
Memories of summer fade in the dusky autumn sun.

The air has a crispness that sharply slices through my thin cotton layers
Body to bone, chilling in its persistent passage
The days shorten to mere slivers of time
The sun pales behind clouds pregnant with expected rain
I long for the days of bright light and long shadows.

I cling to the vestiges of warmth like the leaf clings to the tree
Trying to hang on to autumn for one more day
But, inevitably the wind stiffens
The tenacious leaf loosens it grip giving up its lofty perch
Fulfilling its duty as winter mulch.

I, too, must let go, accept the fate of fall
Turn my hopeful thoughts to the faraway spring.

Winter in Hawai’i

For me, it is officially winter on the Big Island when sometimes during the night I reach down a pull up a light blanket. Last night was one of those nights and today it was chilly and rainy all day. November is usually one of the rainiest months of the year. I still remember one November where it never stopped raining for 31 days!  That’s 31 days!  It tumbled into December.  I’m blessed to live on lava rock that is extremely porous so one day after the deluge you would never know it had rained. If I remember correctly we had something like 108 inches in a 24 hr. period.  So, when we get 3 or 4 inches at night, I don’t complain! I sleep like a baby when I can hear the soft rain hitting the tin roof of my cottage.

Last month it was still summer. Rain was a little scarce and the grass was starting to look a little pale. It is now very green and all the plants are producing flowers. Although I hate winter (the days are way too short and darkness falls too early) there are a couple of things I always look forward to. One of them is seeing the snow on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Our mountains are 13,000 ft. + and “going up to the snow” takes on a life of its own. At that altitude children have a hard time breathing after just a minute of playing in the snow. When my boys were young we would go up with a canister of O2. A hit or two of that and we could all throw snowballs, build snowmen, float down the slopes on a rubbish can top or a water skim board. I even skied down the North face once. I use “skied” loosely as I’m not a good skier. I had gone a couple of times when visiting the Mainland and got as far as doing a very poor stim-christy  (sp. huh?). So I really didn’t ski down, I skied across, did a little turn, skied across and managed to get to the bottom where I was so exhausted I wasn’t sure I had the energy to hitch-hike to the top again let alone walk (no such thing as a lift). But, in the future I was able to say ” I once skied Mauna Kea” and then leave it at that. I know it will sound funny to people living with five months of snow, but when the temperature drops into the sixties, we are freezing. It’s all about acclimation. Our day to day temp all year long only has a 20-30 degree difference. And, even in the winter most of our days are in the 80’s so when it goes down to 65 it feels darn chilly, especially with a high humidity. I don’t think it’s really the cold so much as the dampness. It would be nice to have a little pot-bellied stove just to take the dampness out of the air.

An explosion of color just in time for New Year’s

One of my favorite flowers is a winter bloomer. It starts getting little buds usually in November. Then it slowly bursts into color in Dec. and lasts until April. It is called a “Firecracker” plant and is aptly named as it is an explosion of big balls of little pink flowers. It always helps me to get through the baseball withdrawals I have between Oct. and April when the season starts again.
I love all Christmas decorations in all the stores (although I do wish they would wait until after Thanksgiving). One of the annual traditions I do with my Hawaiian church is to go up to Volcano which is about 4000 ft high. We go up to gather foliage…wawae i’ole, liko lehua, etc. for making fresh wreaths to decorate the church. We all gather at the church along with our ribbons and Christmas balls, etc. We laugh, eat, make a dozen or more wreaths and hang them at the end of every pew. They are always so beautiful, make the church smell like the forest and bring a smile to everyone’s face the following Sunday morning.
Winter is not so bad in Hawai’i. It’s different. Our Santa usually comes into town in an outrigger canoe wearing board shorts and a lei. We may not have snow down here, but we have a Christmas spirit that makes up for it.

A Day in Puna

I woke up to an amazingly bright morning here in Paradise Park which is the community where I live outside of Kea’au. It had rained during the night and the drops still remained on the plants which emitted a sparkle like gems tossed on a velvety green carpet. I readied myself for a hula performance at a beach park near Pohoiki. My friend Kapoliokealoha and I were asked to dance at a “Celebration of Life” memorial service for a dear friend who had recently lost her mother. We were happy to do this. We seldom need an excuse to dance. So, I gathered all my things together, ironed my blouse, my hula skirt (pa’u),and my bloomers. I sorted out my lei, my lauhala bracelet, my flowers for my hair. I got together my music and the CD player. As you can tell, this is no easy task  readying for a performance. I met my friend in Pahoa so we could travel together and away we go. It is not a long drive to Pohoiki, but it is a very different drive. The road cuts through groves of Albetsia trees which are so tall and full on each side of the road that they touch each other at the top forming a canopy of leaves. It is always 10 degrees cooler. It has always been one of my favorite drives.  It is a one lane winding road for both directions so the greatest courtesy is expected. Cars pull to the side to let us come through and as soon as the road widens a bit, we pull over to oncoming cars, taking turns all along the well  traveled road. Because of all the twists and turns, cars seldom speed so it becomes a sort of slow dance through the forest.

When the forest ends, the ocean begins. Today is somewhat calm with the waves only three or four feet in height, rolling in with the white foam spreading over the black lava sand. The surfers are bobbing up and down on their boards waiting for one big enough to ride. Little kids are playing in the surf. There are picnickers, campers, jumping castles for a birthday party and at the end of the road is our memorial group. We have already changed into our hula garb and are scheduled at the top of the services, just after the opening prayer. We set up the CD player with brand new batteries, pop in the CD to check it out and it doesn’t come on. Now, I’ve never used my player with batteries. I’m always near an outlet to plug into and I am unable to find any sort of switch to change it from AC to DC. I thought it would be automatic. The daughter for whom we were dancing had a backup player which seemed to work and we took our place in the center of a circle of friends. Our first song we to be a tribute to Cathy’s mother. It is a beautiful prayerful rendition of  “How Great Thou Art” sung in Hawaiian and English. We had practiced all week to make sure it was perfect. The first sounds were very low which made it difficult to hear. But, we did our first movements only to have the CD player skip, sputter, skip. We lost our place and stopped. Started over. Got a little further along, then jump, swat the player, go back a few bars, skip forward a few bars, dance a few bars, swat the player again. We managed to laugh it off, continued in a somewhat disconnected manner until the end. It was NOT how we had imagined, certainly not prayerful nor solemn. Our other four songs went just fine. They were fun and fast with a lot of hula swing.  I look back now over the day and think maybe He just didn’t want us to be so serious. After all it was a celebration of life.  So we celebrated with friends, family and food. I’m sure Cathy’s mom would have wanted it that way.

Election Day

   Today is election day and this day always gives me pause. It’s always a day of reflection regardless of your political views. I have to remember that we still have men and women who continue to fight for our freedoms, one of which  is the freedom to vote. Every vote is counted. Every vote counts. It is sad that so much apathy takes place at this time of year. Those that believe nothing    changes from one President to another.  But, to affect change you need to actually take part.

Hilo, eventually my home town

As I look back, I think I was pretty brazen for an 18 yr. old in those days. I felt so sticky, salty and gritty that when I found there were no docking facilities in the harbor nor Reed’s Bay, I walked to the nearest hotel, crept through the lobby, up the elevator and knocked on a few doors until someone answered. I described my plight and actually asked if I could use their shower! I hit pay dirt with the first lovely visitors who came to the door.  I even had the nerve to ask if the rest of the crew could avail themselves of their generosity. What could they say? No?  So, I trekked back to the boat, announced what I had discovered and we all went back for our first Hilo shower. This was, and still is, the most luxurious shower I’ve ever taken and I will forever be grateful.

We soon realized we were the talk of the town. Apparently, sailboats didn’t sail into Hilo. Photographers came to take pictures for the Tribune Herald, people welcomed us with open arms, volunteered to drive us to special places. The restaurant on the bay (At that time called the Steak and Lobster) invited us to finish the salad bar everyday after the lunch crowd had left. I think they charged us $1 and we ate like kings at least once a day. One of the most amazing things was something that didn’t happen. Each day we would row the dingy to shore so we could walk to town, do some shopping or catch the Sanpan bus for a little touring. We would pull the little boat up and leave it sitting there, untied, with all kinds of things  stored in it…deep cycle batteries, different engine parts, our foul weather gear, etc.  Reed’s Bay was a very popular place for families…picnics, swimming, floating on rafts.  Nothing was ever touched.  We pulled that little boat up every day for six weeks and nothing was ever taken out of it.

The Coast Guard had come to our rescue and allowed us to use their bathroom facilities, but  alas, we were aware this was only a temporary solution and therefore felt compelled to sail to on Honolulu. There we lived on the boat for two years at Keehi Lagoon and then the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor until my sister graduated high school and I moved into my own apartment before my parents decided to sail to the South Pacific islands. I was where I wanted to be, had had enough of the sailing for now so stayed in Honolulu. My sister jumped ship in Kona on Hawaii island.