Saturday, September 27, 2014

HI from Kauai and Fun Facts

view from the back door of the birthday house
A flock of chickens lives under the house.

This morning it rained and the ocean looked just like a Winslow Homer painting.

It's hot. Hotter than Maui. Hotter than the Big Island, but the breeze here provides relief.

It's incredibly fun to whisper in the dark with a friend before giving in to sleep.

Eating with a full contingent of smart friends is beyond pleasant.

Word games amuse me greatly--even when I'm stumped.

There's nothing like a compelling personal story told around the table in the fading evening light.

There are no singing frogs here like there were in Hilo, but the ocean waves make their own song.

The back porch is shady and just large enough for T'ai Chi Chih and one-person yoga.

This is the closest I've ever been to the ocean while in a house.

There's great Indian food here.

I really love papayas.

I still get excited whenever I see a rainbow.

And I promise to avoid being arrested.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

In the quiet of the deep

It was dark when we awoke. Barely light when we headed to the car. By the time we got onto the boat morning was fully settled in, and off we went around the island of Lanai for a day of snorkeling. The boat was more raft than boat. (See above) And thus is the smallest boat I've ever been in out on the ocean. The ride was bronco-like at times, but I settled in. For those of you that know me and the level of anxiety that I cart around with me from time to time, let me just say I'm as surprised as you are, but I was so sleepy at the end of the day's adventures that I actually nodded off for a bit during the wild ride.

We've snorkeled every day here in this paradise called Maui--some of it just down at "our" beach. But today's adventure was a whole different jar of caviar. Ship wrecks, underwater grottos and arches. A sea cave. And the fish! I was in an aquarium. I was a fish. I was the water. I was a speck of the Real.

I am still marveling about how this trip came to be. To be the guest of friends on three different islands when I needed  a getaway in the worst possible way. I keep asking how did that happen, and then I stop the asking and just receive with gratitude. I have been wined (and pina colada-ed) and dined. So much has been given.

When Dan and I first started dating, I told him I wanted to get away, that I wanted to leave L.A., leave the geography of my divorce and never eat in a restaurant where I'd dined with my husband or drive down a street or a freeway that I driven down when I was married. Hawaii seemed insulated from all that, and I seriously considered it. He loved Maui, he said. Told me of a trip there--the beach, the air, and when he walked into a  certain bar, it felt like he'd come home. Dan loved L.A., so this was kind of a big thing. In the days preceding this trip, I tried to find out where exactly he'd been. I wanted to walk where he walked. To soak in the beauty and him. I never found out anything. Apparently  it wasn't a t'ai chi trip, and I thought it had been. So I had to give up. I had to give over to the idea that I still could walk where he walked in the big picture. I could see the beauty, breathe the air, love what he loved. It's been awesome. It's been fun. Today I depart for Hilo.

Barbie at a beachside bar
My final Maui sunset

Friday, September 19, 2014

What I've learned so far on Maui

Besides the fact that it's stunningly beautiful...

...coconuts can fall on your head. 

There are flocks of chickens everywhere presided over by fancy roosters.

And there are fabulous birds. Java sparrows. Myna birds. White cattle egrets that are almost as tame as pets. Gray francolins. And this guy--a red-crested cardinal. 

It's harder to snorkel in the surf than it is off a boat that's anchored somewhere calm. 

It's hot.

I hate sunscreen. But when threatened with sunburn, I willingly slather it on like it's my new religion.

Did I mention it's hot?

My friend Paula's family and other friends are just as awesome as she is.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Luck, Omens, Portents, Plans, and Predictions

Sunset view: Lanai on the left. Molokai to the right.

At some point during one of Dan's hospitalizations, I found a piece of white beach glass shaped like a crescent moon. It meant he would get well, I told myself. I think it was later that day the doctor said he was going to recommend Dan for hospice. The piece of glass sat on my steps for days afterwards. It occurred to me more than once that I should hammer it into dust.

I'm in Maui right now, and tomorrow morning I'm going to look for beach glass. What will it mean if I find some? That I've found some beach glass, I guess. Or not. I don't feel very attached these days to my old system of auguring future events. But I do feel lucky.

Here's how lucky. Some weeks after Dan died, it was clear I needed a break from caring for my mom and made arrangements for her to stay with my brother and his girlfriend for a couple of months. Not long after a friend invited me to her 50th birthday party on Maui. Since my mom would be at my brother's I could say yes. A week or so later, a second friend invited me to her birthday party on Kauai. Those dates did not conflict with the Maui dates. In fact there were a few days in between during which I could visit a dear friend of Dan's on Hilo. (I think I've blogged about all this before--but I guess I just want to repeat it.) Lucky, right? People tell me I deserve it. But doesn't everyone deserve luck? And there are always people who deserve a nice serving of luck, and they don't even get a crumb.

So here I am. In Maui. It's been a litany of beauty so far. Lapis colored water, puffy clouds. A lavender farm and a goat farm in what they call "up country." Galleries and shops with the wares of local artists, a farmer's market with exotic produce. Not to mention the friends. Friends seems to me like luck too. I didn't work or strive in any way to meet any of them. Stuff happens. Sometimes it's really good.

view from the lavender farm

ice cream bean from the farmer's market

3 kinds of goat cheese for dinner
lavender farm Buddha

Sunday, September 14, 2014


There's only one way in and out of a labyrinth. Like life, I guess you could say. Unlike a maze, you can't get lost going this way and that, looking for a way out. There isn't any ambiguity. But as you follow the path around and around, there's a lot of switching directions, and just when you think you're close to the exit, you end of somewhere else entirely, and there's still quite a bit of walking to do.

I've been at a T'ai Chi Chih retreat in New Mexico, and it felt completely luxurious to give myself over to the practice for a few days. I ignored my email and forgot about Facebook. And I walked the labyrinth shown above every day.

I also walked to the Rio Grande with my friend L, and that made me remember the trip cross country the summer of 2012 when my daughter M and I drove my mom out here to live with me. We wrote down all the names of the rivers we crossed. We crossed the Platte River over and over again which made it seem a bit like a labyrinth.

And in walking the labyrinth at the retreat center, I thought of the labyrinth in the meditation garden at one of the hospitals where Dan stayed before he died. I walked through it over and over one evening. I think I had an inkling then of where things were leading for Dan. I just thought it would take a lot longer to get there.

It's brutally hot here in southern California. The drought is intensifying, and very little lush green was visible from the sky. Flying into Burbank the mountains looked brown and sharp like the spines of desiccated pre-historic animals.

My next destination as I wander around taking a break from caring for my mom will not be at all brown and spiny. Stay tuned. I will ramble on again from there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I've been out the last two nights in a row!!!

Last night I was HERE. Singing with a tall-ship sailor I know and lots of other folks. Today I'm over HERE singing out about an issue near and dear to my heart.

That's C --2nd from the right. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Weather Saints

Main Street store: West Point, NE

Going back to the Midwest always evokes a mix of emotions for me. I hate the heat and the humidity, the infernal buzz of biting insects, the endless array of fried foods, and the jello weirdness of salad bars. But C and I drove through postcard prettiness yesterday from Minnesota to Nebraska. Billowing clouds over fields of perfect corn, the silver-green waver of soybeans, the greener-than-green glow of alfalfa. We stopped in a roadside antiques store to browse, and when we got to where we were going, we walked into the little town in search of a dinner. I want a steak in a dark bar or supper club, I told C. She was game. We almost had to settle for the golden arches, but at the far end of Main St., I got my wish.

I don't usually eat meat. I'm a pescatarian--in other words a vegetarian who eats some fish. But I had a steak last night. You gotta eat the good thing that's local, right? And there was no jello at the salad bar. Pea salad, carrot salad, and cole slaw instead. They were all delicious. We returned to our motel without a single mosquito bite and woke this morning to a day of unbelievably pleasant weather. We're here for a wedding, and my ex-mother-in-law has a routine of imploring the appropriate saints for perfect wedding weather. This is her 10th grandchild wedding, and she is currently 10 for 10.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


View from the airplane window over the Twin Cities

My brother drove me to the airport in his big truck. This is the guy who once told me his philosophy was to stay calm unless the parole officer was on the porch asking for a cheek swab. "So," he said, "P and I have been joking that we should have you sign a contract to say that you're really coming back to get Mom in two months." He laughed nervously.

"Don't worry," I said. "I'll be back." And then I mimed holding the phone to my ear. "Who?" I said. "Who?" He laughed a bigger laugh. I waved good-bye and walked away.

Freedom freedom. Yep. Just like freedom. As big as the sky. But I love my mom and I do want her back. The caregiving gig is not easy, but I am absolutely thankful I can take care of her, and I do not want her in a nursing home. And I am humbled by people who've been caregivers for years and years and years. My friend Elizabeth just won THIS award. Caregifted actually provides several days of respite for caregivers who've been caring for someone for a decade or more. So if you've found my blog because you're a caregiver  too, check out Caregifted.

"Freedom, Heyday! Heyday, Freedom! Freedom, freedom, heyday!" --Caliban, "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare

Oddly, when C met me at the airport in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, we were both wearing striped shirts like old-timey prisoners. She told me (always the authority on fashion) that prisons might be going back to the stripes because Orange is the New Black has made the orange outfits fashionable.

"We are all just prisoners here of our own device--"  "Hotel California" by the Eagles.

I'm miss quote-y, aren't I?
And who are you tonight?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wherever I go, there he isn't.

It was a long flight but we made it.

This is the 2nd trip I've taken since Dan died. It's funny how both times I haven't expected to miss him while I travel. Change of scene and all that. But that's not how it's gone.

When I went back to the alumni weekend for my MFA program, I felt his absence immediately. He'd gone there with me for my graduation, and it was almost as if I could see him every place he'd been over those few days.

 Dan never came with me to Maryland to visit my mom at my brother's place when she lived out here, but I always talked to him on the phone when I got here. Right now, we'd be talking. Me on California time while everyone else here has gone to bed. I'd be telling him how my mom is and how I have a giant lump on my arm because of an idiot crashing into me with a computer bag. I'd be confessing that I had 3 gin and tonics on the plane and telling him about the novel I'm reading and why he would like it. I'd be telling him I miss him, and he'd tell me that things were great with him except that his girlfriend was out of town, and  he'd remind me to send him my return flight info, and then he'd be there at the bottom of the escalator when I landed.

Life will just go on like this, I guess.

In happier news, my mom is the queen of traveling. Sat in that middle seat and just rolled with it. Ate her cookies, drank her coffee, read her magazine, watched the guy across the aisle who somehow got the flight attendant to bring him five bottles of whiskey and a beer. All at once. And a glass of ice. I thought that would get interesting, but it didn't. We both snoozed a bit. And here we are.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Queen of List-Making Disappears

Fog on the Beach/Early Sunday Morning

In a mere 15 hours, my mother and I will be getting into a car and heading for the airport for her 2nd annual return-to-the-east-coast birthday visit.

I have not made a list. I did not even realize I had not made a list until I uttered the words, "I have not even made a list," to a friend a couple of hours ago.

I have not made a list. I am the Queen of List-Making. Or recently abdicated queen. 

It's quite probable that an alien intelligence has taken over both my body and my brain. 

My mother, Queen of Pillville, is on a lot of medications. I have, at least, made a list of those for her to take with her to my brother's house. And it's an illustrated list. So there.

It's quite possible that I have not sweated any of the other travel prep because I am delirious with the prospect of my impending freedom. My mother is going to stay at my brother's place for 2 months. And I am going to do All the Things!!!

Here's a list for you:

Visit daughter C and go to a family wedding with her
Go to a T'ai Chi Chih retreat in New Mexico
Go to Maui for a friend's birthday week celebration
Visit one of Dan's oldest friends in Hilo
Go to Kauai for another friend's birthday celebration

That's just September. I am not making up the Hawaii stuff. I do indeed have two friends (who don't know one another) who have invited me to their birthdays celebrations on 2 different Hawaiian islands. And by some incredibly fancy luck, the party dates did not conflict with one another or the T'ai Chi Chih retreat or the T'ai Chi Chih teacher accreditation week in October. 

In addition to (hopefully) becoming a T'ai Chi Chih teacher in October, I will: (here comes another list)

See friends in L.A. and actually go out somewhere at night
Read from my memoir with other Shebook authors in L.A.(more about that later)
Have a wild party with wine... (please send wild party ideas)
Host a mini writing retreat chez moi 
Return to the east coast to pick up my mom

As if this weren't enough good news for one day, I also had a sweet, sweet dream about Dan last night. It was black and white--like a classic movie. We were having a secret tryst in a library. Through most of it, I was unaware that he had died. He was alive, in my arms, and we having a fabulous time sneaking around in the dark among the books. Every now and then a man in a suit would show up at a desk, and Dan and I would have to straighten our clothes and look presentable. The man in the suit had some kind of account book, and Dan wanted to ask him something about money, but I'd try to discourage him. It was at these moments that I knew Dan was dead. I wanted to tell him nothing about money mattered, but Dan didn't seem to know he was dead so I had to skirt around the issue.  But it was fairly easy to distract him, and then we'd just go back behind the shelves and forget that he was dead.