Back Home on the Big Island

After three years on Maui, a somewhat long three years, I was so excited to get off the plane at Hilo Airport. One of my best friends picked me up and suggested I spend the night at her house and drive out to my cottage in the morning. In hindsight this turned out to be the best decision of my life! We drive out only to find my little cottage in shambles and a good part of my things stolen. I no longer have a water heater, washer nor dryer. I was missing two screen doors, a microwave, bookcases, all my gardening and lawn-care tools. My beautiful kitchen floor tiles are cracked, my wood floors are plastered with children’s stickers. The cabinetry have been “Magic Marked”. My drywall has several holes obviously from being punched. The appliances, while still here, are dirty, faucets are either missing or damaged. The shower is damaged, fixtures taken…toilet paper bar, towel bars. Instead of a manicured lawn with beautiful trees and flowers I’m now encased in a jungle. I sit on the floor and cry. This was, at one time, my place of peace in a wonderfully chaotic life.

If it wasn’t for my friend, I would still be sitting on my floor. But, she reminds me that getting up would accomplish a lot more than what I’m presently doing. So, a quick trip to the store to buy cleaning supplies. We spend the day scrubbing floors, walls, appliances. In one day it is already looking and smelling better. But, still not ready for occupancy. I end up staying with my friend and her husband for almost ten days! During that time I buy a water heater, a microwave, screen doors. Art works tirelessly putting things together, patching walls. Jan and I paint the interior. I still have the ceiling and beams to paint, but that will come in time.

I’m now in my tiny house. It’s feeling like home. I have new valance curtains on the windows, a have a wild carpet, a colorful bed comforter. I’m able get back to my on-line sewing business. My sewing machine table is still in my living area, but soon will be relegated to a permanent location yet to be decided. I have a couple of options in mind.

I know I should have taken photos of the mess, but I simply wanted to wipe the visions from my memory. When I left the interior was a soft sea foam green and peach, but I feel the need for a more cheery décor. So, this is what a part of it looks like now.

Lookin' on the wild side
Lookin’ on the wild side

I recently added a small black leather recliner. Since I’m suffering a low back injury during all the unpacking (one particularly heavy item) I am now enjoying the massage option! I look forward to bringing in my TV console and getting my sewing to its own space so I can finish my decorating. After that I start tackling the yard.


Trippin’ to Maui

I’m from Hawai’i. And, for the last 38 years I’ve been a resident of the Island of Hawai’i or, as it is affectionately known, The Big Island. I have settled in my little cottage with my significant other, who is from Maui, and thought this would be our forever home. But, things change on a dime! He was offered a job that is right up his PhD alley of digital communications. He’s excited. And, not so secretly, he has missed his home island and his family of sisters, nieces, nephews.  Educated at the prestigious Hawaiian school Kamehameha, he learned to be “An Industrious Human Being”. I think this was their mantra, so even at the age of 68 he is industrious. I’m not Hawaiian by ancestry so I had to learn to be industrious on my own!

So, he is on Maui working and I’m on the Big Island with the responsibility of sorting, packing, interviewing renters, putting “no needs” on Craig’s List, deciding what is to be left here in storage and what we must take. Of course, the first things on my list of takes are my sewing machine and supplies, otherwise I will cease to be industrious, and my hula skirts and hula implements as without these I would cease to be human.  We need to do a lot of pruning.  We are both making lists of takes and then seeing where they overlap. So far, we are on the same page.

At the same time I am making a list of things I will love about Maui. It has beautiful beaches that I won’t have to drive 100 miles to get to. It has not only Discount Fabric Warehouse, but Fabric Mart–TWO fabric stores…whoo hoo! The Foodland grocery store carries delicious cinnamon rolls with pecans atop the icing. There are several hula halau (schools) that I would almost give a right arm to dance with. Maui has the 4th of July rodeo and the Maui Arts Community Center, the MACC, which has top entertainers from the Mainland as well as Hawai’i. They host the annual slack key guitar (kiho’alu) festival which Keith and I both love and have flown over to Maui just to attend. It’s windy on Maui, but it doesn’t rain every day so I will not have to contend with mold or mildew. There are no coqui frogs keeping you up at night, though I must admit I’ve gotten use to their “white noise”. There are so many wonderful golf courses.

I know I will miss my many friends I’ve made over the years some of which I’ve had for the entire 38 yrs. I’ve lived here. But, I thank God for Facebook! I’m looking at this as an adventure. The job may only last for a couple of years so, who knows, we may come back to live in our little cottage once again. However, as we age it will be more difficult to live here as it is 4 miles to the highway where a bus comes every couple of hours. There may come a time when we will have to give up driving and are unable to walk that distance. The county does not provide services out this far.

We’re keeping our options open.

To Love or Be Loved, or Not…

Yesterday, my best friend lost her mother. She was 95 years old and had not been enjoying a normal life for some time. She and Teresa were not close. Teresa was with me when she received a call from her son. At the time she just told me she was relieved. Her emotions were more tied to the reactions of her son than of her own feelings and her son had seen his Grandmother just a few weeks before so wasn’t surprised at her passing. He was handling things well. There were no tears. We continued practicing hula for a performance the next day.

This morning when I saw Teresa I saw she looked tired and was having a difficult time holding tears in check. Trying to comfort her, I told her that I guess no matter what was in the past, when you lost your mother, no matter the relationship, you have to honor the fact that without her you would not be here. She looked at me with a sadness in her eyes and said, “No, the sadness is not from the loss of my mother, but a sadness of knowing that during my entire life I was never loved by her.

I knew she had endured a tumultuous life, was frequently beaten,  locked in closets, pushed down stairs, screamed at, told she should never have been born. So, having this childhood it was no wonder she was ready to marry at age 17 where she received the love she so longed for. Unfortunately, her husband died after only a couple of years and she was left alone to raise her son. She did this with a lot of love and devotion, something she had not felt from her family. And, she didn’t begrudge her son a relationship with the grandmother that adored him.

This got me to thinking about feeling loved. I grew up in a family where I felt loved every day. I had the idyllic childhood of the 50’s. My father worked, my mom was a housewife and spent a great deal of time playing with my sister and I. She played jacks with us, did cartwheels with us, made paper dolls, taught us to dance and to sew. We were not held to a very high standard when it came to school grades so I, therefore, was not a great student, more of a social butterfly, which seemed be the standard I was held to. As long as I was pretty and popular I would do fine. I was never spanked, never yelled at and never expected to do anything like cooking, cleaning, ironing, washing, etc. This was my mom’s “poi bowl” and we were not to encroach on her territory. I was terribly unprepared for being on my own, but managed. But, I always felt loved. I can’t even imagine how my life would have turned out had I had a childhood like Teresa’s. Would I have had the fortitude to get past my past? Would I have even known how to love? I like to think I would have, that somehow love would find a way in as it did into Teresa’s heart.

On The Ocean, Aboard the Mar Quesa

When we pushed off and put water between those of us on the boat and those on the land. I didn’t have any second thoughts, but it was more difficult than anticipated to say goodbye to my boyfriend and as it turned out, my mom. The five of us aboard included my Dad, my sister, two crewmen and myself. Mom stayed behind to take care of finding homes for our animals, ship my sister’s horse, finish the sale of the house and take care of all the many things entailed when moving from a large home on five acres to a boat with about 100 sq. ft. of actual living space. On board we had one little closet, two small hammock nets for keeping things like underwear, socks, books etc. and a cubbyhole for shorts, tops, a sundress or two and a jacket. Both my sister and I chose the longest books we could find so we didn’t have to take many. I chose Atlas Shrugged which as a country girl of 18  I didn’t really understand the underlying message until I was much older but it occupied many of my long hours.
We set up a watch schedule of four hours on and twenty hours off which was close enough for five us to manage with an hour lost or gained here and there. Without my mom I was called upon to cook. Now, you need to know the kind of household I grew up in. It was NOT the Hawaiian way where children are taught how to cook, clean, iron, etc. when they are growing up. I was taught none of this. My mother didn’t work outside the home so she felt it her job to do the cooking, cleaning, ironing and taking care of the family. When I look back I thought this was probably a disservice to us two kids.  I had no skills other than making my bed and keeping my room, if not clean, at least somewhat tidy. So, when I was called upon to do some of the cooking I was a raw novice to say the least. I certainly couldn’t feed grown men PB&J for dinner.  The first few days was not a problem because most of us were seasick and the thought of food wasn’t appealing. Mike, the only crew to get his sealegs immediately ate porkchops, steak, etc. while the rest of us hung over the back of the boat. By the third day my stomach was starting to calm down and I ate cold green beans, right out of the can. My sister ate a can of fruit cocktail and we never looked back. Even with what we in store for.

On that third day, the skies started to darken. We had no means of contact with the outside world so didn’t know what the weather would bring. It’s probably good that we didn’t know! By noon the seas had picked up. When sitting at the helm trying to stay on course you could look back and see waves 8 or 10 feet above you. We all had on our foul weather gear as the rain was pelting. The boat would keel over at such at angle that  everything that wasn’t nailed down was thrown across the cabin and decks. My Dad had reefed the sails, or lowered them, to small triangles, enough to keep the boat moving forward with the waves and not against them. Spray kept us wet and cold. It was nauseating down below so all of us stayed top side and just hung on. We had evidently sailed right into a good size storm and it took all day and all night before it finally abated. When we finally got a chance to check for damage we had issues that just about scuttled the trip. Not knowing the protocols for sailing in a storm, my dad didn’t know that he should have protected the exhaust ports to the engine. Because we failed to do this water had gone up the ports, into the engine and generator leaving us without power. At this point we now were left without refrigeration, without a water pump, without running lights or any kind. So, now we had to make a choice of whether to turn back for repairs or go on without amenities. Everyone knew what my vote would be. I would have swum to Hawaii. However, there was little discussion as everyone was ready to carry on. So, on we went thankful that we had an alcohol stove for cooking and salt water soap for bathing. My dad was by trade a diesel mechanic so he spent a good deal of his time taking the engine apart, cleaning and oiling every little part. Unfortunately, some parts were irreparably damaged, but it was good therapy. Another project, one my dad and I worked on together was to build from a HeathKit, a radio direction finder. My dad was color blind and all the little transistors were color coded so I was his eyes. He was much closer to my athletic sister than I so this gave me a sense of pride to be the one to help him.  It took us off an on several days to finish it.  We were still too far away from any land to pick up stations at this point even to find out if it worked.

We sailed on. Our other crewman, John, had a guitar and we would spend hours singing and listening to music. He was a very sweet young man on his way to seminary college. My 15 year old sister had a crush on him and would find ways  to be near him when he was on watch. She had never paid much attention to boys as she had such a love for her horses. Everything else came in a very far second so it was fun to watch her flirt.

By the second week, taking salt water baths, we had developed a salty grit to our skin and our hair was so stiff with hair oils, salt, etc. that we had contests on who could make the funniest hairstyle. Our hair was gummy! We could make mohawks and all kinds of crazy twists. It kept us all laughing for hours. Occasionally, we would go into doldrums where the boat just sat rocking. This gave us the opportunity to dive overboard and swim. In the open ocean I didn’t realize how clear the water would be. It seemed I could see for a mile. We didn’t have any snorkel equipment so we didn’t see any fish, but we did have a visitor.

One day we were sailing along at a pretty good clip. My sister was on the helm and all of a sudden she started yelling that she had seen a “Russian submarine” (obviously she had seen way too many movies). We all came running to see what the commotion was. It wasn’t a sub, but is was as long as our 40 ft. boat. It turned out to be a pilot whale and it stayed with us for the remainder of the trip. We looked forward to seeing it every time we were on deck. Sometimes it was close enough that we could’ve almost reached out and touched it.

We had been at sea for about 17 or 18 days when we started hearing little snippets on our radio direction finder. It worked! We picked up a station in Hilo on the Island of Hawaii. We honed in on the signal and set our course heading straight for the the island. Amazingly, we were not far off track.

A day or two later we started seeing birds and we knew we were close. However, we were now in the shipping lanes and without any navigational lights we were a little concerned about not being seen. We were in danger of being hit by a huge tanker or container ship. One the 19th morning, we woke to see dark forms in the distance. We had made it! Well, almost. There we were again in doldrums, no engine to get us out of it with the islands looming on the near horizon. It was two of the longest days EVER before the trades picked up and we started to move again.

Our closest brush with danger happened right in the channel when a Matson container ship left Hilo through the channel where we were waiting for light to go into the harbor. We were shaken by the sound of an air horn blasting. We immediately grabbed every flashlight we had and shined them on the sails so that they would hopefully see us.

It came incredibly close and we heard some pretty raw language, but we were left intact and in the morning light sailed into the harbor of Hilo.