Went on a hike with a long-time friend this morning. And, when I say hike, in this case it was more of a walk up a service road in a canyon near our home. Waterton Canyon is well known around here for the bighorn sheep that live on the rocks above the river. It is rare for me to be in this canyon and not see the sheep. They were farther up today than where I usually see them, but we came upon one large male and five youth males, so it was a good sighting. We even witnessed one little guy show off with a twisting leap off the ground. They are already losing their winter coats, which is a sure sign spring is here.
The adult male seemed like a stereotypical father in charge of the kids. When we spotted them, he was sitting quite casually on the road, his back turned to the young ones while they played on the rocky wall behind him. You could almost hear the momma sheep chiding him for his lax parenting.
“Really, Baaaaab? You let them play on the rocks alone? What onearth were you thinking? I can’t trust you with anything!”
Gardening. It’s something many people enjoy. I am not one of those people. I would love a beautiful flower garden, but not if I have to be the one to plant, weed, prune, and water it. I also have zero desire to grow my own food when there is a perfectly serviceable grocery store nearby. While I am adamant about no pesticides in my yard, I am also against pests in my yard. If I’m out digging in the dirt, I’m sure to run across some worms or spiders or other creepy crawlies. No thank you. If I could manage to garden without seeing bugs, I still wouldn’t do it because dirt is, well, dirty, and if you’re outside gardening you’re also outside getting hot and sweaty. If I am going to get hot and sweaty outside, I prefer to be sitting in a lounger at a pool.
Once a year, though, because we haven’t yet won the lottery yet despite my husband buying tickets more often than he should, I use my brown thumbs to drive to Home Depot to buy mulch. Then I go to a garden center and pick up plants to replace the perennials that weren’t and put some petunias into planters so I can complain about having to water them every day until mid-September. This is a ritual that I carry out through gritted teeth, while cursing my allergies to all of the outdoors. (Seriously, I am allergic to all the trees, grasses, and weeds that grow here.) I continue to pray that someday a tall, handsome man will show up at my house and offer to take care of my yard and grow flowers for me just because he thinks I’m amazing. If this tall, handsome gardener man does materialize, Steve will have to learn to live with him. And, before you say anything, I did offer to interview Steve for the position of tall, handsome gardener man, but his application is currently under review because he isn’t willing to work for free.
Until a gardener has been acquired, I will continue to bitch about planting, watering, and weeding every stupid spring because, as Bobby Brown so eloquently put it back in 1988 and all my fellow Gen Xers know, it’s my prerogative.
As I was driving to my rental cottage the other day, I passed these bears. Not actual brown bears, although those do inhabit the area where the cottage is. These bears are works of art created by local artists for Art in the Park, an art auction with proceeds benefitting Colorado Chautauqua (there is also a Chautauqua in western New York) and 14 other local non-profits. As I was driving towards the reservations office to check in, I saw them and out loud pulled an Elaine Benes. “Get OUT!” I shouted to myself in the car. It was already getting dark when I arrived, so I vowed to get a closer look at the bears before I left.
To that end, I took a break from writing, put on my hat and down coat, and went for a stroll in the snow among the bears. And, dang it. They are all adorable. I am struggling to come up with reasons why I do not need one of these bears for my backyard. I have space for one. And my yard could definitely use a little more personality. And it is for a good cause, right? I mean, come on! How are you supposed to resist this?
If you want to check out all the bears, take a look. I’m open for thoughts. Which bear do you fancy? And which one needs to go in my yard? I would much rather find one of these bears in my Colorado backyard than an actual furry one. Help me convince my husband that this is a wise and necessary expense for a great cause. Go!
I took the puppy on his morning walk earlier today while it was snowing. He loves the snow. Loves it. Actually, love might be an understatement. He and his short legs hop through it like a casual rabbit inspecting a yard. He buries his face in it and comes up with his black, button nose covered in white. He flattens himself out into the corgi sploot, the spotted paw pads on his back feet facing the sky, and pulls himself along on his belly as if he is his own sled. His joy in the snow is contagious. And so I love walking him, especially when the snow is still falling and I can revel in his exuberance and the beauty of Mother Nature’s the-sky-is-falling impression.
The snow was powdery and low in moisture. It was so cold that my boots squeaked as I stepped through the snow. About two inches had fallen by the time I got home from carpool and got suited up in my Sorels and my waterproof ski jacket. As we rounded the corner onto the path that runs behind the houses on our side of the street, I noticed an area ahead where it looked like a dog might have rolled around trying to leave a doggy snow angel. When I got closer, though, I noticed there were no dog tracks. Odd, I thought, as I continued on. Next thing I knew my right foot slipped and, before I had the opportunity to save myself, I landed hard on my right side, my elbow and wrist bearing the brunt of the fall. I sat there on the ground a bit dazed for a few moments, and then I noticed there was pain in my shoulder too. Nice. Loki looked at me impatiently. You gonna sit in the snow all day, lady? I have sniffs to get, and we’re not getting any younger. At least now I knew why there had been that impression in the snow. It wasn’t a dog that had rolled but another person who, like me, took a digger. Too bad I hadn’t Sherlock Holmes-ed my way to that conclusion before I discovered there was ice under that snow.
I finished the walk by hobbling along on any grass I could find, hoping to avoid another fall. I made it home without another incident and began packing for my evening flight. Luke and I are flying to Portland for one last college visit. He was accepted into Reed College, but we weren’t able to do an in-person visit there before now because of the school’s Covid restrictions. When they sent Luke his acceptance letter, though, with a copy of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, it felt like Reed might just be a good fit for our fearless reader. So we are on our way to spend a couple hours with a student and see if this is his place.
At any rate, after my fall earlier and in anticipation of developing bruises and pain from my Ice Capades, I decided it might be prudent to add a heat pack to my bag. So I tossed in this eucalyptus-and-peppermint-scented neck wrap I bought off Etsy last year from the Flax of Life shop. The hotel room has a microwave, so I figured better safe than sorry. Getting older can be a bit of a bummer.
The snow stopped in time for our drive to the airport, and with a gorgeous sunset to our west over the Rockies I was feeling pretty confident about our trip. We got a spot in the garage and headed straight for the Clear queue at security. After I did my chalk outline impression in the millimeter wave scanning machine thing, I went to grab my carry on roller bag and noticed it was set off to the side. Well, crap. A TSA employee grabbed the bag and opened it up. She unzipped the portion where the heating pad was and took it out to test it for explosives, I guess, and as she did the stuffed dog I sleep with nightly fell out onto the inspection table. Of course it did. I stared at Elliott (that is his name) on that cold metal table and felt bad that he had been so unceremoniously outed. The residue test on my Etsy purchase came back negative for whatever nefarious crap they were testing it for, so she put it and my dear stuffy back into my bag. No harm, no foul. We were on our way.
There is a beautiful thing about getting older. Eventually you learn not to care. I mean, you still care about the important things, like your family and friends and the health of the planet and maybe the date the next season of Ted Lasso hits Apple TV. But you stop caring about little things you finally understand don’t matter at all and aren’t worth your brain power. I don’t care if the entire TSA line saw my stuffy sitting there (although Elliott might have words for me about it later). I don’t care if I had a heating pad in my bag for an injury I sustained while trying to walk and failing. I don’t care if any of the neighbors saw my less than graceful wipeout. What I do care about anymore is only what my circle of concerns contains. And it definitely does not contain any dignified concern about being exposed as a 53 year old who travels with a stuffed dog.
A friend was telling me today that she is sick of people on hiking web sites complaining about rock piles. I had to ask for clarification about this, but apparently people who are nature purists get quite bent about the rock cairns other people create to help mark a trail. These people feels this is an aberration in the whole “leave no trace” movement. All I have to say about these people is that they haven’t become wise with age. Because if you are lucky, as you age you learn not to give a flying figlet about things that don’t really matter. If you’re lucky, you get old enough to realize that you can only be shamed when your stuffed dog falls onto a TSA table if you decide to give that shaming power to someone else. You learn that there are only so many hours in a day, so righteous indignation about rock cairns might not be the best use of your precious time. You learn not to focus on small things you can’t control (an undignified, painful fall on some hidden ice) and only to focus on what you can control (putting a heating pad in your carry on bag). You learn to say “bless his heart” when an idiot in a lifted truck with truck nuts speeds around you and then cuts you off. You learn to let go.
Life is short. Walk the dog. Fall on ice. Take a trip. Enjoy the relief of a heating pad. Overlook the rock piles. And for holy hell’s sake, stop worrying so damn much. Everything will be fine.
“It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.” ~Seneca
I have wasted a ton of time since the pandemic began. I can’t even begin to calculate how much time. If you checked my Nintendo DS, you could probably find a record of how much time I spent playing Animal Crossing during lockdown (okay, and beyond). It would be a gargantuan number of hours. Add to that the time I spent on TikTok or researching travel I could not undertake or playing Archery in my text threads with my sisters or reading tweets, well, it’s embarrassing. I know that my misuse of time stemmed, at least initially, from the overwhelm of being in lockdown and uncertain about what was going to happen with the pandemic. But, once things relaxed a bit, did I get back on track with living my life? No. I did not. The ups and downs of “do we mask” and “can we trust the vaccines” and “why am I wearing a mask when so many people aren’t” and “how far do I have to travel to get a vaccine” and “what do you mean cloth masks aren’t effective enough” and “will there even be room at a hospital if I have a stroke or something” made me want to check out. So, I did. I continued to bury my head in nonsense.
But then we went to Hawaii for Christmas, and I put my phone down more often and lived. I sat in the sun on warm, black lava rocks, and watched the waves roll in shades of turquoise. I walked among swiss-cheese rocks and looked for shells both teeming with life and devoid of it. I woke up to the sunrise ten out of eleven mornings there. I felt the sand between my toes, smelled plumeria blossoms, and tasted fresh, Kona-grown coffee. It felt good to be alive again.
I missed living.
So today I spent some quality time with our puppy because he makes me laugh every day. I savored my food and appreciated it. I went to my meditation meeting and listened intently to what the other participants said about their practices. I worked hard to be present all day.
Maybe it was my Hawaiian holiday. Maybe it was watching Don’t Look Up. I’m not sure what has brought me to this place, but I have definitely been more present so far in 2022. I’m tired of wasting time and then being frustrated that I didn’t do all the things I wanted to do. I know what I want for this year, so I am setting an intention to show up for my life and the people in it. I’m going to spend some time this week figuring out what that looks like and how I think I can best accomplish it. And then I am going to get busy living again. It’s not a New Year’s Resolution. It’s a Life Revolution.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~Henry David Thoreau
It was an unexpected, although welcome, snow day for our high school senior and his carpool-weary mom today. We knew there would be a late start this morning because of the snow, ice, and subzero windchill this morning, but when I woke up and started getting dressed to go out and shovel the driveway so I could drive Luke to school, hubby casually said, “You know it’s a snow day, right?”
It was the kind of unanticipated gift that can make life better after a slow and difficult re-entry to real life after a beautiful holiday in Hawaii. I determined it would be a catch up day. I felt overwhelmed when we returned home on Monday afternoon and had to turn around and start back into reality at 6 am Tuesday. So I l planned to use this gifted day to catch up on laundry and take down all the holiday decorations that had grown tiresome. The best part was that I now had a full day to do it and two sons at home to help.
After we had returned our home to its pre-holiday state and Joe had worn out the dogs with playtime in the yard, he approached Luke and said he had an idea. Joe has ideas a lot. When he has them, he involves Luke. Luke tries to get out of what ever Joe is scheming, but more often than not he ends up giving in because he knows Joe can be relentless. He will not stop hounding you until you give in. I usually cringe for Luke in these situations because I know, as an introvert, what Luke wants most is to stick with what he is doing and not get dragged into Joe’s plans. Today, though, Joe whispered his idea into Luke’s ear, and I was surprised how easily Luke acquiesced. They found their snow gear, grabbed sleds they’ve had for ten years, and headed out to the open space. When they returned home, I heard Joe remark to Luke how much lighter and easier to handle these sleds are now. It made me smile.
Today our adult children seized the day and took advantage of their snow day as they might have when they were 8 and 10. It made me happy. We tend to give Joe a little grief when he says he has an idea, but the truth is that a lot of the really amazing things we’ve done started with one of Joe’s ideas. Luke is amazing at accomplishing things, but I thank heaven every day for Joe who is amazing at reminding Luke (and the rest of us) to let go and have fun once in a while. Every family should have a Joe to dream up plans and interminably pester everyone until they come to fruition. Don’t we all deserve to have that one person who reminds us not just to live but to practice being alive?
We got home yesterday afternoon and, being the Type A person I am, I immediately dove into the process of unpacking, doing laundry, and getting settled at home again. This was an even bigger task than usual because we had celebrated Christmas by unwrapping gifts the night before we left for Hawaii, which meant there was an even bigger mess left behind than usual. Sigh. I don’t like chaos in my house. I find it counterproductive to my intention to live a more peaceful, mindful life. It’s difficult for me to feel at peace when I look around a cluttered, dirty house.
While we were in Hawaii, I would wander along the lava rocks on the beach outside our rental home and look for shells that had been beached and discarded. I would collect nice looking shells of that variety, ones on dry land rather than in the tidal pools because I know the tidal pools are teaming with sea snails and hermit crabs, and sometimes live cowries too. To be careful, though, when I would collect the shells, I made a habit of drying them on the lava rock wall by the pool or on the counter in the bathroom. The shells needed to be dried before packing, and I figured this would allow time for any sea life living in the shells that had somehow managed to escape my notice to make a break for it. And it did happen. One day I brought the few shells I had found to our bathroom, removed them from my pocket, walked into the other room, and a little while later heard something make a sound in the bathroom. I returned to find a hermit crab in the sink. Apparently that shell’s owner objected to being collected. I took him back to the beach and set him into a tide pool. He was free.
At any rate, as I was unpacking my suitcase yesterday, I found the shells I brought home in a Ziploc bag and set them out on my bathroom counter. I had plans to sterilize and polish them, but that process could not begin until I had the house settled again. While I was busy unpacking my toiletries and putting some towels away, out of the corner of my eye I saw one shell moving across the counter. Dammit. I had a stowaway. Despite my best efforts to ensure I didn’t transport any live creatures from the Hawaiian tropical climate to cold, semi-arid, high altitude Colorado, one of the shells held a tiny hermit crab who had refused to let his presence be known on the bathroom counter in Hawaii.
The little guy had lived through a day on the counter and another twelve hours in a plastic bag inside a suitcase, only to arrive 3300 miles away from its origins and 1030 miles from the nearest ocean. I momentarily considered setting up an aquarium setting for him before coming to my senses. Colorado is no place for a tiny, salty hermit crab. I had to dispatch him. I hated to do it (and I will not disclose the methodology of such actions here because I am still wracked with guilt), but it had to be done. And, no, I don’t really want to talk about it.
I’ve spent a bit of time since then beating myself up for being a murderer. Finally, though, I decided I had to forgive myself. I did not mean to bring him here. I didn’t set out to harm anything. I tried to leave my shells time enough to walk away if they were inhabited. I also realize I am likely not the first human to err in this fashion. And on multiple occasions while looking for shells on dry land in Hawaii, I found hermit crabs who were stranded away from the ocean (seemingly miles away if you consider how small they are and how far the tide had carried them from their point of origin) and picked them up and returned them to tidal pools, thereby saving their lives. Sometimes, life is messy. I am a person who has rescued snakes, voles, mice, rabbits, and even salamanders from window wells. I need to cut myself some slack on this one life. I try to be a good steward on this planet, but being good does not mean being perfect.
Next time I go to Hawaii and collect shells, though, I am going to stop the collection process two days prior to my departure to give any accidental sea life ample time to escape my evil clutches.
After a week of mostly cloudy skies with periods of sunshine, this day began with a clear, bright, perfect blue sky. Being an internal optimist (like a Sour Patch Kid, I am sweet on the inside and sour on the outside), I believe that this blue sky day on the first day of 2022 portends good things for this new year. Hope I didn’t just jinx it. See? Sweet and sour at the same time.
My sister-in-law, Karen, booked us an outrigger trip for an hour this morning. We lucked out with the flawless weather and applied copious amounts of zinc oxide sunscreen. We started our trip off the sandy shore at the Marriott’s King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. We met our guide, Jeff, and began the experience by pulling the outrigger to the water. I lucked out because I got to be the official photographer for this. That wooden boat is heavy, even on wheels!!
The sea had a moderate swell, but outriggers are made for this so it was no issue with seven of us paddling. The ride was smoother and easier than I imagined, and the views of the island from the water made the effort worth it. We paused a few times, just drifting on the ocean, so Jeff could tell us a bit of the history of this area. We learned that Hualalai, the dormant volcano visible from Kona’s shores, means “head in the clouds,” which has been true for the majority of our time here. I told the boys that from now on when one of us is in another place mentally I shall say we are “hualalai.”
While we were taking a paddle break at one point, we heard a mammal surface nearby. Looking around, we saw a couple dolphins and were lucky enough to see them curiously check us out by swimming underneath the boat. How cool is that?
After our outrigger trip, we returned to the house for some steak and eggs before heading out to do a little souvenir shopping in Kona town. Luke was craving shave ice. I hadn’t had any yet on this trip, so it seemed like a good idea. I got lilikoi (passion fruit) flavor because that is my absolute favorite and something I don’t often get to enjoy in Colorado. Somehow I convinced the boys to play along for this little photo op. I think Joe was representing a brain freeze with his expression here.
Trinkets obtained, we headed back to the house to order some takeout Thai food and enjoy our most colorful sunset here yet. It’s like the universe aligned everything just for us on this New Year’s Day. With our trip coming to a rapid conclusion, the reality of our imminent departure hit Joe and I like a wave hitting the lava rock shoreline. He and I are the most committed to this state, the ones who would be most likely to have to be dragged kicking and screaming onto a flight back to cold, snowy Colorado later. I am trying to be zen about our exodus, but I am struggling. Time to engage my mindfulness skills, stay in the moment, and mourn the exit when I board the plane in 12 hours.
Today was the most mellow day we have had yet on this vacation. Honestly, aside from taking some time to swim and snorkel in the keiki pond near our rental, photograph flowers, hunt for shells, and watch the sea for dolphins and whales, the most energetic thing we did happened at 10:20 pm when we got in the ocean to watch manta rays feed. That will require a separate post, which I will get to as soon as we manage to downloaded the photos from the GoPro we rented for the experience. Still, it was an amazing day for wildlife and nature viewing and photography.
It has been overcast here for days, but luckily we have managed to escape most of the rain we feared would literally dampen our trip. While we may not come back tan, we are definitely warm, rested, and unwound, which makes this entire trip worth every second of missed clear, sunny skies.
Today was a day of the unexpected from start to finish. It began with my waking up early and deciding once again to go see if I could catch a pretty sunrise. I had my doubts because the forecast was for an overcast day with heavy clouds. Steve and I were the only ones out at 6:40 a.m., though, and were treated to this stunning Hawaiian greeting.
We had a ten a.m. departure time for a drive to the Hilo side of the island, so I decided to shower and grab a quick breakfast. While I was sitting at the outdoor table eating, our oldest announced there was a surprise visitor in the saltwater pool. A crab had found its way up the beach and decided that this pool might be a better option for him. Joe went on a mission to remove the visitor and eventually manage to coax it from the water in the pool onto the skimmer net. Once he acquired his target, Joe walked him down the rocks to a safe spot near the water where the crab was allowed to crawl back to whence he came.
With that excitement behind us, we departed for the windward side of the island, seven of us in a Dodge Grand Caravan. The drive was fascinating. This island is huge by comparison to the others. We learned the other day that this island is large enough to hold all the other islands and still have Big Island left over. Being accustomed to Kauai and Maui, driving around this island can feel daunting. There are 8 climate zones on this island, so a drive will take you through a lot of varied sights. We started with our tour guide, Joe, telling us about the different types of lava rock here, pahoehoe and aa (pronounced: paw-hoey-hoey and ah-ah, respectively). The first type has a smooth, billowy appearance, like a black cloud, and the second is very rough and rubbly. As we headed mauka (towards the mountain), the landscape changed. More greenery appeared before we hit an area of grasslands before we later hit a section with trees and flowers before we hit more of a forested area before we then began heading down again into more bushes and flowers. The Big Island is a good place to get a feel for all that Hawaii has to offer on her many islands.
I knew the house where we would find our relatives was remote, but honestly I was not prepared for the last stretch of road, which was single lane, slippery mud, with a river crossing. Yes. All of this in a front wheel drive Dodge Caravan. There was one point when we were pointed downhill towards a rocky river crossing and a couple expletives entered my head. Somehow, though, the Dodge managed it (just barely) and we arrived at our destination. We were not prepared for what we saw.
The rain on this side of the island means everything grows here. I mean everything. They had papayas, coconuts, bananas, pineapples, oranges, meyer lemons, and collard greens (among other things) growing. The flowers were stunning. The grass was lush. This girl from a semi-arid state was in awe. We got to sample organic bananas cut straight from the branch. I’m not a big fan of bananas, but if I could eat these every day I would.
The cousins live in a self-sustaining home, with solar power, rainwater collection, and propane taking care of most of their needs. They have chickens and are preparing to get some goats for milk and cheese. Their neighbors own cattle. They talked about how they barter for items they need, trading their produce and eggs for items other neighbors have. This world could not be any more different than my life in affluent suburban Colorado, where our organic produce comes from Whole Foods (and they may get some of it from here). For lunch, they laid out for us a table filled with locally sourced and homemade foods. There was gluten free banana bread made with coconut flour, some homemade rustic bread with homemade jam, fresh papaya and rambutan, and some assorted cheeses and sausage. They had also prepared freshly squeezed lemonade. I could almost get the appeal of this type of living, but then decided I don’t want to have to wait for a rushing river to recede after a rain to access my home after a 4-wheel drive trip into town. The kind of prefer a river-free, easy trip to the store and the post office.
After enjoying our meal and catching up for a bit, we returned to Kona, passing more climate zones on the way back. This island is something else entirely. Not gonna lie…it’s kind of hard not to like it.
We ended the day at our lovely rental home with some take out food from a popular restaurant and a relaxing, still evening on the lanai. At this point, I’m finding myself torn between here and Maui as a place to land permanently someday. There is something about Hawaii that feels like home to me. I’m not sure how a Colorado girl finds this as her alternate place, but here I am. If not the mountains, then the laid back, healthy-minded, nature-oriented, sea-based life of Hawaii is my dream.