Aloha ʻOe

I decided to write a blog post since it’s a long Thanksgiving holiday weekend and I have some time to reflect before things get really crazy for me. I am leaving Hawai`i in a little less than two weeks. No matter how old you are transitions are a big deal, and while I know that this is the path that the universe is setting for me, I’m having all the feels. So, as I have before in a time of change I decided to write a post in my neglected blog. As I have said many times before, I am grateful to anyone who comes across my blog and actually takes the time to read my silly little musings.

I do hope that my Hawai`i ohana see this post, because I am writing it for them, and I hope that it comes across as more than silly musings, because it comes straight from my heart. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am to every single person I have met here. I have learned SO much, about kuleana – how we have responsibility to malama, to take care of, one another and the ‘āina, the land. I have learned what it means to be pono, to do the right thing even if that thing is not what is best for you personally. And I have learned the true meaning of aloha. That you give it first, without ever expecting anything in return.

I have learned the history of the illegal overthrow of the sovereign nation of Hawai`i. I first learned about it from Doug, but living here has made it real as I see firsthand that the wounds are still fresh. It breaks my heart every time kanaka maoli have to leave these islands because they can’t afford to stay on their ancestral land. So much of the culture is lost, every day that someone moves here and tries to make this place more like where they came from. It’s like a new death. Of course not all of my fellow malihini are like that, and I am most grateful for my friends Mary Ann and Ed and Kathy and Tom, their friendship on Kaua`i meant so much to me even though our time together was too short. I know that they will continue to give back to the island we all love. I encourage all malihini to do the same, starting with learning the history.

There are so many people who are working to right the wrongs that have been done here in Hawai`i, and I have tried to help where I could. I commend my friend Elizabeth over on Kaua`i, who runs the group Save Koloa. She and others are fighting against the latest in a long line of greedy developers who are literally building million-dollar houses on top of bones.  And I will never forget my strong warrior women of Na Wahine O Waialeale, or Kaua`i’sWomens’ Patriotic League, led by our Pelekikena Puanani , the awesome Aunty Nani.

So grateful to Nani and to my titas Noelani, Hope, Debbie, Rhoda, Jo and Allison, for allowing me to be part of your group, even if only for a short time.

I also was so honored to have known the Hui Maka’ainana o Makana, the people who malama the lo`i in Ha`ena, as well as the ocean there. I will never ever forget the time I spent in that sacred place at the end of the road. Mahalo to Makaala, Nalani, Kelii, Presley and all for allowing me to be in that space.

I am always honored and grateful to have met Bumpy and Brandon of the Nation of Hawaii, I so admire how they are reviving the Ahupuaʻa system at Puuhonua O Waimanalo.

I remain in awe of Doug’s friend and hanai sister Lynette, who tirelessly maintains historic places over on O`ahu. And Kalani, and Ku, and the late dear Uncle Hank…these people are true heroes to me.

I am also grateful to my fellow admins Kai and Greg, who allowed me to work with them to help stop the ravages of over tourism on the islands through our Facebook advocacy group ETA-Hawai’i. Even though we have never met in person, Kai is like a sister to me, and ETA’s founder Greg and I spent some good days protesting the impact of over tourism here on the Big Island at Waipi`o and Punalu’u.

I will remain a member and follow their work, as well as that of others I “met” though the group and through friends or other groups on Facebook – journalists and advocates and activists and leaders such as Deni and Michelle and Moana and Theresa and Aprilani and Trinette and Cookie and Leilani and Nomi and Susan and Sarah and Shannon, and so many others. You all are all an inspiration to me. As is my friend and hairdresser Renee, who is from here and listened to me and supported me while she made my hair look so good. And Owana who fought hard for us when it looked like our house deal was going to fall through.

And last, but certainly not least, I am thankful for my Enhanced Fitness students, the awesome women of Kekaha and Waimea Kaua’i who made me stronger in every way, and who definitely gave me much more than I ever gave them. Shout out to Zoom for allowing me to spend 3 days a week for 2 and ½ years with these amazing women.

Mahalo, from the bottom of my heart, to all of you who have given much more to me than I could ever give back. It’s not in the stars that I stay here. Paris is calling me. But I will take the aloha that I have been given with me, and as best I can, share it freely, wherever my journey takes me. I will always carry that aloha in my heart. I have many things to be thankful for.

The title of this post comes from the title of the famous song written by Queen Lili’uokalani.

Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace, A hoʻi aʻe au
Until we meet again

It’s a beautiful song. But I want to leave you with another song, one that expresses all of my feelings about what has been done to these islands. It moves me to tears, and touches my soul.

Aloha nui loa my dear ones. Until we meet again…

Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou from Kauai !

The above means happy new year if you haven’t already guessed. I decided to use this opportunity to update my silly little blog, in case anyone is interested in reading about how we are adjusting to life on this beautiful island.

In a word (or three), pretty damn well! I last wrote some random ramblings and this post will probably be more of the same.  It’s been 4 months since we landed here, which feels weird because in some ways it feels like forever, and in other ways it feels like time has stood still, especially since it was sunny, green and humid when I arrived and it’s still sunny, green and humid now. Although we did have a few bouts of “cold” weather which forced me to put on socks for the first time. I know you’re feeling my pain east coast peeps. It’s a hard knock life.

So yeah, it’s “winter”, which on Kauai means LOTS of rain. And rain, we discovered, only helps to increase the mold that grows on pretty much everything in my house. It’s not a pretty sight and it’s a constant battle

but on the other hand this is the view from said house, a regular occurrence because of said rain:

OK I’ll get the other “bad” stuff out of the way. It’s pretty expensive here as I have mentioned so we don’t go out much. But thankfully we have Costco, and Grove Farm museum, where Doug works, is actually a working farm and we get avocados and eggs and soursop and all kinds of strange citrus that I’ve never heard of.

So that’s helping with the grocery sticker shock. I just wish we could find a good supply of fresh fish. There are fish shops that sell poke, and Costco actually has some decent fish, but believe it or not it’s really hard to find fresh local fish (except for the times when we can catch our neighbor who sells Halalu, or baby Akule. YUM!)

Doug is seriously looking into getting some new fishing gear and goin fishin himself. Can’t wait!

The roosters are still getting on my damn nerves and now Shel shakes and hides when she hears them in the morning because a week or so ago Doug went out with a pellet gun to shoot at them and Shel got scared. She still chases them at the farm though, and I hope she catches all the bastards! Sorry for the Language but they are the most annoying creatures on the planet. Even more so than the cane spiders, which don’t bother me but still creep Doug out!

Speaking of Shel, she’s doing great, she’s fully recovered from her accident (which she wrote about in a guest post on my blog, here), and she LOVES Kauai life, dawgs. And why not? She has run of the farm, where she runs around all day,

chasing chickens and barn cats and teasing the pigs and greeting the visitors and getting lots of love.

She also gets to go to the beach, and she loves rolling around in the sand and splashing in the waves.

As do I…well not the rolling in the sand part. But we have found our favorite beaches on “our” side of the island, and are so so lucky to be able to take a dip whenever we want. Or at least when we’re not working.

Speaking of working, in October I received an email from my ex-boss at the Center for Economic and Policy Research saying that my replacement had quit suddenly and asking if I would be interested in doing some development consulting as they had tons of grants due. I did and it’s working out beautifully so far, I’m up at it bright and early east coast time and finish by noon or so which leaves me time to help Doug at Grove Farm…or go to the beach! And my BOOM Move senior fitness class at the Kauai Athletic club is going well, I have about 16 regulars and they can really groove. I may get another class at the community center in Waimea. It’s great to have all of these jobs, because see above about the cost of living. But I’m especially glad to be back at CEPR. I tried to leave twice and failed, there’s a reason…

OK, what else is hard. Missing my people is HARD. I miss my mom and my daughter Jordan and my stepson Holden and Candace and Gina and Tamara and Mary and Joan and Claudia and Liz and Chris and Jo and Roniece and Maureen and my PIC and all of my friends, both in Baltimore and in Paris and beyond. I’ve had some bouts of feeling lonely here and there, but I am getting out and meeting people and I am fortunate to have met someone who I know will be a good friend, in a roundabout way through my friend Maria from Baltimore, which is a sweet story. As one of my Paris amis said, you find your tribe wherever you land. I believe that I will do just that, I just have to remind myself to be patient (which I am NOT).

The local friends that we made here on previous trips live on the north shore and as I am finding out that’s like Siberia in Kauai speak. I have another dear friend who is from here and she even lived within hanging out distance, but she moved to the Big Island soon after we arrived (happy for her sad for me). But I keep up with her great work and she makes me think a lot about some of the other things I struggle with, namely how to reconcile my life with the people of this place, especially knowing what the whole overthrow of the legitimate Hawaiian kingdom has done to the people. I am a sovereignty ally, trying to figure out what that even means.

And I’m figuring out how to co-exist with the gazillion tourists who come here, especially those who don’t respect the culture or the wildlife. I stubbed my toe at Poipu running up to someone to kindly explain that getting all down in a resting sea turtle’s face to take a selfie was not cool.  

Also, people born here are getting priced out, forced to work 2-3 jobs just to survive, so it bothers me when the rich come and buy up land and build gated communities to keep people out. That is something I think about a lot, and I try as hard as I can to be respectful to the communities whose ancestors’ bones are buried here.

And yet, I love it here so much, and feel SO blessed that we are able to live here and to share in the beauty. I know that Doug will do his best to show the history of this place, to help everyone learn and grow and hopefully have more respect for both the people and the land. To do that it’s important to talk about the past. We want to tell the stories of the plantation workers and to help lift up the knowledge about how the Hawaiians lived before the outside world came. I want to learn hula and Hawaiian so that I can understand better.

I have enjoyed our visitors, first my time with the aforementioned Maria, despite her visit coinciding with a stressful week for me that involved my flying to Oahu to see my new eye doctor not to mention grant deadlines. Still we managed to have fun and we had a nice drive up to Ke`e beach on the north shore in my special place, Ha`ena.

And then Doug’s mom and Holden came for Thanksgiving which was awesome. The weather was great and I learned to paddleboard thanks to Maria finding the House Stark SUP. We had such fun on the river, I can’t wait to do it again.

We went to Waimea Canyon and we could see for miles…just stunning.

We spent Thanksgiving at one of the historic properties that Doug manages, Mahamouku, a 1919 beach house that sits on the gorgeous Hanalei Bay. It was magical being there for a few days. We had a great time and can’t wait for Holden to come back. And for Jordan to visit!

Christmas was quiet, Doug told his employees that they could have off from Christmas through New Year’s so we manned the office at the museum and readied the property for tours. It was good getting to know the ins and outs of taking care of the place. I have such respect for all of the lovely people who work at Grove Farm museum, and I look forward to trying to get some grants so that we can do all kinds of good things in the coming year.

So, that’s how things look from down here, on this teeny tiny dot WAY out in the middle of the Pacific ocean that we are blessed to call home. I’ll leave with one more good news story, something that I think speaks to the aloha of Kauai. A few weeks ago I lost my wedding ring while snorkeling at a beach near Poipu called Baby beach. I snorkel there because as the name suggests it’s good for novice snorkelers like me. Doug had to work that day and I decided that I wanted to venture out on my own. I told myself to take off my wedding ring (that has my great grandmother’s diamond as well as diamonds from Doug’s grandmother, ie priceless), but I forgot to do so which was STUPID as I had lost it when Holden was visiting and he found it. Anyway it slipped off somehow while I was adjusting my snorkel. A kind man on the beach and I snorkeled for over an hour looking to no avail, so I left thinking that perhaps I had taken it off at home after all…but no, it was gone.

Doug looked after work and I went back to ask people to post to several Facebook groups that I belong to called Kauai Life and Kauai Community if anyone found it. I posted to the groups as well, and several people suggested that I contact someone named Dutch Medford. To make a long story as short as I can, I found Dutch’s phone number and he came out of retirement to help me find my ring. He has a metal detector and over the years he has found millions of dollars’ worth of lost rings for people, never charging a cent, only accepting “tips”. It took the intrepid Dutch about 10-15 minutes to find my ring in the shallow water.  He is my savior!

So Doug and I decided to give a metal detector for Christmas, so that we can give back in the same way. Plus Dutch said it’s fun, and you find all kinds of things, not to mention loose change.

Well, that’s probably more than enough random ramblings for one sitting. I’ll leave you with this: In my previous post, I had hoped that I would be able to slow down some, to enjoy life. I still don’t miss the rat race. I am more relaxed. The rhythm of this place suits me. The land, the aina, calms me, despite old stresses popping up now and then. May we all enter this new decade with a sense of peace and happiness. We need to stay strong in love.

Here are some sunrise/sunset pictures from the soulful place that is Kauai. Hauʻoli makahiki hou hons! Ya’ll come visit, heah?