This has been a rough spring and summer for the Hawaiian island I call home, Kauai. And, subsequently, tough times for me.
Firstly we experienced epic rains and flooding in April. Almost 50 inches of rain fell in just 24 hours. I am not sure I can express what that kind of rain is like. Relentless. Wild. Frightening. Those are just a few words that come to mind. This caused phenomenal damage to communities. Bridges closed. Homes lost. Roads washed out. Still to this day, the road out to the beautiful rural communities of Wainiha and Haena is still closed to all but residents and will probably remain so for many months. Our farm is just now readying again to plant our market garden, which we sowed in long term cover crop to replenish the soil after losing inches of topsoil in the flooding.
Then just this week we were tortured by the Category 5 Hurricane Lane. We waited and watched and worried for perhaps five full days as it barreled through the Pacific and took a northern turn right up the western side of the Hawaiian Island chain, where it churned for days, never quite touching down on land, but always threatening. The hours and hours of suspense and the hype by the media both here and on the mainland was super stressful, particularly to those of us who have experienced the wrath of a full-fledged hurricane.
Yesterday Hurricane Lane was broken up by our strong trade winds and is slowly moving westward, but not before packing a punch to the Big Island. We still expect heavy rains here this afternoon and evening.
I feel relieved. I feel grateful. I also feel exhausted and wrung out. That kind of anticipation is surely tough for me to handle.
While there is nothing we can do to control the weather, I do strive to be able to feel less vulnerable and frightened. Not quite sure how to achieve that though. There were moments in these past days when I felt centered and calm. And other moments when I felt scared and shaky. I am not clear how to increase the less stressful moments. But, it would be a fine thing for my frazzled psyche.
Ever go to the camera on your phone only to find it facing you and become rather startled at who that person is? Or Face Time with a loved one and feel sincerely shocked at the little image in the box on that screen that is you? Or my personal favorite – walk by a mirror and wonder just who that old person is looking at you?
Growing up and growing old is inevitable. How we handle it, however, has more room for options. At my current 68 years old, I look at my hands and I see my mother’s hands. I look at my numerous wrinkles and see hours of laughter and even hours of worry. My once-perky, now-saggy, breasts are a tribute to over nine years of nurturing my children at those breasts. My gray hair I try to wear as a crown—a crown of glory for all the years I have been happy and healthy on this planet. I smile when I recall that one of my sons told me it wasn’t gray, it was platinum—a far finer description.
Mind you, this doesn’t always work. That face and body looking back at me in the instances above is inarguably aged, which is, I suppose, marvelous considering the alternative. But, it doesn’t always please me. I am well aware I am stuck with it and I chose not to alter it in any expensive and vain way. But still my attitude towards my appearance wavers, depending on so many things.
Mostly I see the most prominent variable in how I feel about how I look is how happy I am in the moment. How content. How fulfilled. And, how well rested. I have noticed that the photos I see of myself when I am happy are the ones where I think I look my best.
Today I had coffee with a dear friend who commented on how nice I looked, despite me moaning about my exposed fleshy upper arms in the tank top I was wearing for the yoga class I just finished. I then recalled what I know to be true—if we saw ourselves as the people who love us see us, we would feel more confident in our beauty.
So, take good care of yourself. Feed yourself fine food. Exercise and stretch even when you don’t feel like it. Make rest a priority. Take time to nurture your relationships. They are the food for your soul. Because what matters in the end, is not how we looked, but how we loved.
Cheers! Here is to you and me. . . and growing old!
I love being a mother. With my children now 35, 32 and 28 and all with sweet partners in their lives, I still find being their mother to be what I do. I can no longer stop being their mother than I could stop the sheer fierce force of their births.
Each of these precious children was born at home. Each birth was a window to the divine, deeply transformative and dramatically terrific. I would not trade a moment of those hours, some blissful, some brutal – but every bit of it wildly wonderful.
And so the years have brought more of the same — daring, difficult, dramatic and just damn darling times as their mother. Every stage of being a mama is new. Just when I think I have figured out how to be a mother to a 3 year old, the next 3 year old comes along and needs a completely different approach. Just like with 30 year olds.
This path has stretched me, sometimes even to a breaking point. But, I somehow I manage to muster the strength and continue to attempt to master this role of a mother. Perhaps I never will totally grasp it, but I truly believe each of my children knows how I treasure the trying. It is my sheer joy, my own sense of the spiritual.
From the National Institute of Mental Health website:
“PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.
It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.”
Well, this would surely describe my situation. I have become, over the years, very frightened during intense weather events. Wind. Rain. Thunder. Lightening. This last week, as our beautiful island of Kaua’i was hammered with 30 inches of rain in 24 hours and a wild chaotic thunder and lightning storm that raged for 12 hours, my nerves were as raw as possible and my stomach in knots. While my home was fine and I was safe, my rational mind could not connect with my emotions and calm me down.
The rains have mostly passed. The damage to our farm will recover. Other parts of our island are not so fortunate. Kaua’i has been declared under a state of emergency. Areas are cut off by massive landslides. Homes have been lost. Businesses washed out. Roads and infrastructure are ruined. The devastation is immense. It will be many months before many are back to anything resembling normal. Meanwhile, I surely count my blessings. I am grateful for our situation.
My PTSD is something else. I’m not so sure how to get a grip on this. As we approach hurricane season here in the Hawaiian Islands, my memories of the epic Force 5 Hurricane Iniki make me tense and slightly nauseous just thinking of it. While I have always resisted the labeling of any “disorder”, it is somehow validating to know how I feel is real and recognized.
Recently I got a lovely look into the young woman I was in 1965-66. It came to me in a package of letters I received. Letters I wrote to a young man I was quite enamored with. He and I had a brief, but sweet, time before he left college in Cambridge and joined the Navy. We exchanged letters for quite a while. I wish I still had his.
About two years ago, he discovered my letters. This prompted him to go down the proverbial internet rabbit hole and find me. Several emails were exchanged and months later this brown envelope arrived. It it were dozens of my letters to him.
I opened it and just the handwriting took me back. Way back. I settled into a chair and was lost for hours. Lost in the mind and heart of that young woman 50 years ago. Feeling her emotions. Remembering the times of which she spoke, some of which I had forgotten. And what struck me as the most notable of this time travel was how much like myself today this gal was. Her deep love of children. Her clear desire to have a family. Her ache to find work that was meaningful. Her itch to travel. Her deep love of the outdoors and especially the beach.
Here I am today with all that intact. And much of it manifested. Along the way much was lost, gained again. Wisdom I have now I would love to share with that girl. But, I really loved the person that came through in those letters. And, that is quite wonderful.
In 1967 my sister and I went to Europe for the summer. We called my parents twice and sent occasional postcards. Granted, we had an itinerary that they had helped arrange, but still we were off on our own and very often clueless. We did have a wonderful time, which we still talk about when we are together. But, now I ponder how my parents felt about it. Did they worry?
My three children have traveled the world. Alone or with friends. I have known only the outline of their sometimes vague plans. I have often been awake in the wee hours wondering what time it is where they are and how they are doing. Skype, Viber and email have been my extended umbilical cords. And I have taken a deep breath every time they contacted me by any of those methods.
It’s a different world 50 years later. I am a different parent than mine were. My relationship with my children is closer. The good news is that we are all grateful for this. They like knowing where and how I am, just as I like knowing where and how they are.
Just now I received a phone call from a very concerned papa calling from the mainland. His daughter is here on Kauai working on a farm, the name of which was not clear to him. Her cell phone has been off for some time and he and his wife were, understandably, worried. He found the listing of my farm and called to see if I could help in any way. I spent some time finding the farm and calling him back with a phone number so he could check on her. He seemed so relieved that I understood his situation and was willing to help. I hope they connected. I hope she is okay. I also hope she remembers to call her mom and dad occasionally.
Thank you Sky, Nell and Bay for always caring enough to stay in touch with me.
- An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Synonyms: stability, equilibrium, steadiness, footing
- A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. Synonyms: fairness, justice, impartiality, evenhandedness, egalitarianism
1.Keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall. Synonyms: steady, stabilize, poise, level
- Offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another. Synonyms: weigh, compare, evaluate, consider, assess, appraise, judge
This solstice time when we are returning to the light is, for me, a time to insure that I am feeling balanced. That my personal equilibrium is steadfast. That the different elements in my life are in correct proportions. That I am in a steady and stable position in all aspects of my life. That I have evaluated the value of different areas of my life and they are being honored appropriately.
Take a look at the definitions provided, via Webster, above and see if you can take some time to assess how they reflect in your life. Then let us all celebrate the return of the light.
It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.
We are an organic farm in the tropics. If you do not wish to experience that in all its facets, please stay somewhere else. Staying in our farm stay cottage, you will encounter geckos and perhaps even some of their droppings. You may see a cockroach. You will usually have mosquitoes on the lanai and just about everywhere else you explore. If you leave food out, you will have ants. You will hear the wild roosters at dawn, or even during the nights of the full moon.
You will also have access to our market gardens full of delicious organic produce and our orchards seasonally dripping with oranges, grapefruits, avocados, papayas and more. You will experience Kauai as lived by real people with real lives here. And that real life includes all kinds of critters. If that is not what you want then please do stay somewhere else.
Rant over. Composed with as much aloha as I can currently muster.
Mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” Pans are prepared. Mixing bowls, tools and equipment set out. It is a technique chefs use to assemble meals so quickly and effortlessly.
I first came across this term and its execution when my daughter, Nell, was in culinary school some years back. After seeing it in action, I realized this is what I do organically in my life. For me, it comes naturally, but I would suggest incorporating it into your flow, if possible. Not just in the kitchen for food preparation, which truly makes the whole task easier, but in other areas of your life as well.
The evening before our farm harvest morning, I take time to go out to our shed and wipe down all the surfaces, sweep the floor, assemble the crates in the garden cart for the field, put twist ties in a bucket, knives with them, get my orders and the bags for filling them organized. In the next morning’s pre-dawn light, when we are ready to harvest, all I have to do is get my coffee and go out and start.
When our co-op order delivery is on the way, I have the bed of the truck cleaned out, the order paperwork set, the shed clean and ready to receive it. The truck arrives, at whatever Hawaiian-style time they see fit to deliver, and we are set.
A turnover day in our rental cottage is a check out at 11AM and a check in at 3PM, so little time for chaos. So, the evening before or early on turnover day, I have the fresh linens and cleaning supplies ready to go in baskets, so as soon as I have said aloha to the guests leaving, I can hustle right in to clean and set up for the guests arriving.
There are other small ways I find mise en place to be helpful in reducing bedlam on a daily basis. When I pick up the mail and bring it home from the post office, I resist just putting it into a pile to deal with later. Rather I put into a basket all the recycling (an insane amount of paper, I might add – despite my attempts to reduce it!), open up the rest and put the few bills I still get in paper into their cubby on my desk, the magazines on the table for reading whenever I get to them, the deposit checks by my computer to send confirmations to the guests and then into my bank envelope.
I so vividly remember my father uttering the platitude of “A place for everything and everything in its place.” This is its own kind of mise in place and I find my life simplified a hundred fold by practicing it. This has saved me countless hours of needless searching and also made my home feel spacious and somewhat zen-like.
I am often teased about these habits of mine. Some chalk it up to me being a Virgo. However, I find it makes my life smoother and makes my tasks flow more effortlessly, leaving me more time for my own simple pleasures.
As the old advertising slogan says, “Try it, you’ll like it!”
Hard to express anything but gratitude for my situation in a world seemingly spinning out of control. Natural disasters right and left, north and south. Millions of political refugees. Malnourished children in countries experiencing famine. Wars happening or threatening to happen.
And here I am —– with a cozy home, more food than I could possibly need, and surrounded by loved ones near and far. And, while I remain thankful, I also remain frustrated as to what I can do to alleviate the suffering of so many. Every morning I awaken with a heavy heart, imagining the hellish days of so many. People just like me, who just want simple things—safety, food and shelter. Every evening I light a candle for those enduring lives that I can barely envision.
What more can I do? Treasure my fortune. I suppose. Do as much kindness as i can each and every day. This I can do. But, it seems piddling. Sigh.
Just when it shifted, I’m not certain. But, I can tell you that years ago I never thought it would. I have always prided myself on being a strong and capable woman. I still am both of those things. But, now I ask for help when I need it.
Yesterday in CostCo, facing the 50 pound bag of organic chicken feed that was on the bottom shelf, I thought to myself, “I can manage to get this into the bottom of my cart.” Then I spied a young fella a few feet away and found myself saying, “Hey, would you mind putting this into my cart for me?” Then in the parking lot, same scenario getting it into the car. There is always someone willing to help a silver-haired gal with a smile. Usually a guy happy to show his strength! And I am always just as happy to show my gratitude.
The screen that came out in the dormer window and needed climbing on the roof to put it back? No thanks. “Son, can you get the ladder and replace that screen, please?” The twelve trays of starts that need planting? “All family farm members, meet me at the start house at 4PM, we have work to do.” Even perhaps the simple things I am able to do, but just don’t want to—like replacing that door knob that has bugged me with its stickiness for months which I asked my son to do just yesterday. Almost every day now, I shamelessly ask for help.
I look back at the 38-year-old woman who came to Kauai with dreams and all the energy in the world. That gal with two little children and then a third born on the farm in the midst of the two-year project, who co-created a four-acre piece of paradise and two businesses from a four acre open field. I marvel at her spunk, her grit and her energy. Well, 30 years later, I still have the spunk and the grit, but I pace my energy now. I figure there is no reason to argue with reality. I don’t have the stamina I once did. And that 20 minute recharging nap early afternoon I relish a few times a week—I surely have earned it. That long beach walk, the hours reading—yup, earned it.
Sometimes the spunk meets stubborn and I muscle through something I should have waited for help with. But, this is a process, isn’t it?! And, it’s happening.
I just revisited an important and compelling book—Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe and her daughter, Anna Lappe. Frances Moore Lappe in the early 1970s wrote the classic Diet for a Small Planet, which opened a huge dialogue on world hunger, dietary choices and democracy. That book is still widely read and hotly debated. Now, 40 years later, mother and daughter traveled five continents to interview people who have taken control of their own food, environment, and communities. This book presents real people who have the courage to and reap the rewards of working on global problems with local solutions.
When Organic Style Magazine interviewed the Lappes the interviewer asked them “What makes food such a compelling entry point for dealing with larger political issues?” The eloquent answer was, “. . .the act of eating, throughout the history of our species, has been what has linked us in ritual to one another and directly with the earth more than once a day. Of all the concerns about our planet, it seemed to me that food is both the most personal and planetary at once—it’s both the singular and the universal, the personal and the public. Choosing consciously to eat in a way that nourishes my body and is good for the earth is a constant reminder.”
A later question posed was: “Buying organic and eating locally makes me feel great personally, but sometimes I despair of its larger significance. Is my small economic gesture really doing anything, or is it just a drop in the bucket?” The response was brilliantly stated—“If there is no bucket and your drop is going into the sand, nothing accumulates. If there is a bucket, a drop is very significant because it doesn’t take long for drops to fill the bucket. So, it’s not really the size of the drop that’s the problem; it’s not having a bucket. How do we create the bucket? I think that is what the book is trying to show.”
This so resonates with how I try to live my life—-one little drop in the bucket in a world which often seems so senseless. It is the only way I can stay sane.