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napavalley

Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine 2016.

Work periodically brings me to the city of Martinez, California. On my last trip to this city, I learned that naturalist and conservationist John Muir, the first president of the Sierra Club, lived in Martinez with his wife and two daughters. This might have triggered a subconscious craving for some one-on-one time with nature.

Fighting a growing sense of burnout, I fled to Napa Valley this weekend. On a mission to flush out the crud in my mind, I purposely drove down roads I didn’t know. In my search for places I hadn’t seen before, I also rediscovered places I hadn’t seen in more than 10 years.

Pretty views from the car weren’t going to cut it, so I trekked through mud in search of vistas that would make my brain fire up synapses and light up like a Christmas tree. In my knee-high leather boots with rubber soles I was undaunted by the feeling of squishy earth rising up to meet my ankles.

Gradually receding into the far back corners of my mind were news stories about sexual assaults and building walls; discussions about emails and private servers; worries about what the future holds for some of my clients; and reminders to pick out new cabinets and counter tops for my kitchen update. None of these things were going away, but they were being relegated to their proper places. A healthy perspective was being ushered back to the head of the line.

In the peaceful, open spaces of hills and vineyards, my mind quieted and emptied itself. My reset button clicked. Problems and crises shrank down to their real size, ceasing to be the giant monsters that were stalking me. My body purged the toxic chemicals caused by tension and worry. My muscles loosened, releasing their grip on my joints, and allowing my body to flood my lungs with air.

John Muir wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” (The Yosemite, 1912.) These words proved true for me this weekend, as they have countless times before, and as they will for countless times to come.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

A Scaredy-Cat and October 31st

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I am that person who gets in a roller coaster car, buckles in, white-knuckles whatever she can hold onto, and then proceeds to scream for the entire ride with her eyes closed. And then I have the audacity to giggle and tell people the ride was fun. I’m also that person who will watch a scary – supernatural scary – movie and then sleep with the lights on. Sometimes not just for one night. Yes, I’m a scaredy-cat about a few things.

A friend who happens to be psychic taught me that the veil separating the dimensions of the living and the dead thins before October 31st, making it possible for spirits to visit the land of the living. It is now October 27th, and I’ve noticed an uptick in small but unusual occurrences.

It started several nights ago when I woke up to a faint beeping sound. I could tell it wasn’t one of our smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. I woke up my husband and asked him if he had set the alarm on one of his electronics. He said no and then confidently declared that the dryer sensor must be broken. We went back to sleep. There were no clothes in the dryer that night, and the random beeping fits continue.

Twice this week, I woke up during the 3am hour. I didn’t need to go to the bathroom, and I wasn’t having a bad dream. My eyes popped open, my mind alert as if I hadn’t been sleeping at all.

There’s been more creaking around my house. I tell myself it’s the wind going through the roof vents, the weight of the rain in my gutters, or metals expanding…or contracting.

I always smell cigar or pipe smoke in the home of some friends. No one in that house smokes, and no one else smells what I do. During a recent visit to this home, I heard someone go to the kitchen for a glass of water in the middle of the night. When I told this person it was good he slept in late after his sleep was disrupted, he said he had not gone into the kitchen that night.

Go ahead, roll your eyes. Shake your head. Laugh. Call these instances coincidences strung together by a silly imagination. Of course. That’s what being a scaredy-cat who rides roller coasters and watches scary movies is all about – being silly. Scared silly.

The countdown to October 31st continues.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

The Vintage Aesthetic

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I know a young woman who has decorated her last two homes with vintage furniture. A faux fireplace with distressed wood and peeling paint. A dark brown armchair and matching ottoman with patches of cracked, faded, and thinning leather. An Art Deco-inspired vanity circa the 1950’s or 60’s with rubbed edges and glossy patina. A dining room hutch with raw wood showing through sanded-down finishes of chipped matte paint.

Walk through any home decor store and you’ll find faux antique clocks, wall hangings, and knickknacks that exude the charm and romanticism of days long gone. Vintage fashion, from high-end couture to budget-friendly interpretation, has inspired the opening of many consignment and thrift stores. Stores sell outdated cameras, typewriters, and telephones. Even meats and wines are aged.

Whenever I get the chance to walk through a flea market or antique store, I feel the thrill of the hunt for pieces of Hawaiiana (Hawaiian antiques and collectibles). Recently I “rescued” a large piece of tapa (or kapa), a Polynesian cloth made from tree bark and painted with plant dyes, lying on a tarp at a flea market.

We survey our homes and collections of vintage things and smile, but we furrow our brows when we look in the mirror and see our own vintage peeking through. We dye our gray roots. We spend money on foods, vitamins, cosmetics, skin care products, and surgical procedures that slow down and reverse the signs of aging. We exercise to stay healthy, of course, but we also know it slows down the aging process.

Some of us don’t mind the gray in our hair or the laugh lines on our faces – they give us character and reinforce our sense of individuality and self-confidence. It’s the dwindling of life energy that we abhor. It’s the wearing down of body parts that literally makes aging painful.

We have a shelf life on this planet. So rather than rail against the looks of our vintage, what if we surrender to it? What if we accept that our bodies will wear down and our energy will dwindle?

What if we look at vintage individuals the way we look at vintage things – as reminders of the past? Except vintage people aren’t silent, they’re living, breathing repositories of history overflowing with wisdom. What if we could appreciate vintage hair color, vintage skin, vintage posture, and vintage pace the way we appreciate the look and functioning of things distressed, weathered, and worn?

We could save all the money we spend on hair dye, makeup, cosmetic surgery, and anti-aging potions. More money to spend on vintage stuff. Just kidding. May you rock your vintage look. Aging gracefully is very attractive.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Beware of Beautiful Doors

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Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine 2016. 

He was handsome, intelligent, funny, and well mannered. An expert in his field, he was often asked for advice, and he always responded graciously and modestly. Well traveled and adventurous, he entertained people with stories of exotic places and fascinating people.

People thought they were more than mere acquaintances because he had a way of making them feel close to him. He listened to their stories, asked if they enjoyed their holidays, and remembered the names of their spouses and children. People didn’t notice that they never saw the inner workings of his life.

When newspapers reported that it was his body that had been decapitated by a train, people were stunned. Some had heard rumors of a change in his outgoing personality, but none would have guessed that he would walk to train tracks not far from his home and lie down across them because he could no longer bear to live.

The doors to his soul were beautiful. Warm in hue and texture, the doors were inviting, but they were equally thick and tall. He came out to dazzle and to charm, and people were content to enjoy his company, but he never invited them in.

Will anyone ever know all that transpired behind the beautiful doors that attracted so many but opened for no one? Are people haunted by the thought of his loneliness and despair? Do hearts ache with the pain of connections that fell short, like lifesavers thrown into the water but never grasped by the drowning?

Beautiful doors. They make the view from the outside so pleasant that people fail to notice they’re being kept out.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Take Time to Smell the Roses

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Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Today, Thursday September 22, 2016, is the first day of fall. The photo above is a split screen of a garden statue at a winery in Napa, California. The left side is a picture I took in May. The right side is a picture I took four days ago.

The pop of red in the garden was a welcome change to my eyes. Fall, with its cool weather and palette of warm vibrant colors, is my favorite season. The brown leaves that had already started to decay on the garden floor, however, made me feel a twinge of melancholy. It was yet another reminder of how quickly time – life – flies by. Another summer of precious memories has come to a close.

So, as this sweet statue reminds me every time I visit her, I take time to smell the roses. Unlike the bronze rose that the little girl in the statue holds, the roses in our lives don’t last forever. Life is beautiful, change is part of life, time is priceless, and every season brings its own gifts. Don’t wait to do the small but vital things, especially with the people you love most. Don’t agonize over letting things go and ending happy chapters of your life; new chapters and better versions of yourself are waiting to be discovered.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Something to be Admired

 

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Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine 2016. 

During my trip to the island of Kaua’i in July 2016, I couldn’t help but marvel at the palm tree in my photo. The soil around it has eroded, and the water of Hanalei Bay soaks its roots. The tree next to it is competing for the same small patch of dirt, the same air, and the same sunshine.

We all go through hard times when we might feel like this palm tree. We feel like the ground beneath us might cave in. We worry about sinking. We’re afraid of the things or the people hovering over us. We feel like an ugly mess.

This tree’s roots have dug in deep – sideways – into the earth. It has come up diagonally from beneath the canopy of its neighboring tree and reached for the sun. It has defied the odds and survived. It’s something to be admired, like you and everyone else who refuses to give up and endures.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Tortoises, Hares, and Empathy

Broken Ankle

Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

My adult daughter recently broke her ankle in a bicycling accident. She got a stainless steel plate and five screws surgically implanted into her leg. Now in a cast, she can’t walk or bear weight on her ankle for six weeks. Her orthopedist told her that even with physical therapy it will take about a year for her ankle to get back to normal.

Good friends rallied and got my daughter through her initial injury and surgery, and now I’m spending a few weeks with her to help her settle into her new reality. Before I leave, I hope we can figure out how she’ll get around her house and get back and forth to work by herself.

I have a theory that people are either tortoises or hares. I am a tortoise: slow and steady; evaluating a situation and creating an attack plan before I engage; methodical; analytical. My daughter is a hare: quick off the block; preferring to jump into a project and make adjustments as she goes; unconcerned with sizing up events as they unfold.

My daughter the hare misses being quick. Everything she does now takes so much longer than it used to.

My daughter the hare misses being fiercely independent. She now weighs the option of asking for help to get something done faster, or doing it by herself and taking twice as long to get it done.

Whether she’s on her crutches, on her scooter, or in a wheelchair cart at a store, my daughter the hare now moves slowly. I walk beside her or follow closely behind her and observe people’s reactions. Most people dart around her. Some people politely make room for her to pass. Some people make her wait while they finish whatever they’re doing before they let her go by.

My daughter the hare now gets tired because simple tasks are no longer effortless: getting in and out of the car; getting in and out of her house, office buildings, and stores; getting in and out of the shower; dressing herself.

My daughter the hare misses being outdoors, walking her dog, meeting friends for drinks, cooking, doing household chores, and all the other things she used to do quickly and easily.

Before her bicycling accident two weeks ago, my daughter the hare was running, hiking, and taking yoga classes several times a week in addition to working full-time and keeping a busy social schedule. My daughter the hare misses exercising her body.

I won’t sugarcoat my daughter’s situation. It sucks. It’s painful to watch her struggle through simple things like bathing and navigating the stairs in her home on crutches. It makes me ashamed to see people look inconvenienced by my daughter’s slowness because I’m sure I’ve had that look on my face when I’ve encountered a slow moving wheelchair as I’m rushing. It makes me want to cry to see the beginnings of depression lurking around my happy and energetic little hare. I can feel her frustration and her growing sense of isolation.

With every setback and bit of suffering that comes into our lives, we have the opportunity to grow. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is something we can develop with each experience. As difficult as it is for my daughter, young, healthy, and fit, to adjust to living with her broken ankle, my heart aches for anyone with mobility issues who is older or in poor health. My daughter’s ankle will heal. Not everyone with mobility issues has the hope of walking unassisted again.

So the next time you see someone moving in the slow lane of life, please practice your empathetic skills. Be thankful for your ability to get around quickly and painlessly. Think about how long it took and how hard it was for that person slowing you down to get where you are now. Think about how lonely and isolating it feels for them to see people moving in the fast lane of the world as they get left behind.

This tortoise mom will notice, and she’ll be grateful. Someone else might be smiling at you as well. If God has to be either a tortoise or a hare, I’d put Him in the tortoise column. God is forever. He’s in no hurry. Which lane do you think He’s moving in?

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.