Tag Archives: Nature

Nature Therapy

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Sunset at Ocean Beach. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2017. 

Northern California has had so much rain this winter that it’s been in the national news. After five years of drought, the last one finally bringing water use restrictions, record-setting rainfall has caused flash flooding and has compromised the dam at the state’s second largest water reservoir.

This past weekend brought a welcome break in storm systems. People, my husband and I included, came pouring (pun intended) outdoors to enjoy the sunshine. Ocean Beach in San Francisco was busy with people strolling on the sand and dogs chasing seagulls. We were soaking up the sunshine and storing away vitamin D as fast as we could. At the end of a wonderful day, we were treated to a spectacular sunset.

For me the day was a metaphorical respite from the current political climate in our country. With each day bringing heart-stopping headlines and Twitter battles, it feels like ominous clouds never give way to blue skies. If only our country could catch its collective breath like I did. My beloved land of the free and home of the brave needs a day of sunshine.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2017.

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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.

Can High Tech Do That?

 

Dock Piling

Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

In this high-tech obsessed world where toddlers have computers and grade-school kids have cell phones, I often feel like the only person on the planet who can still be impressed by things that don’t require a battery. I took this picture of a piling at a San Francisco bay pier because I was astonished that a plant had turned the piling into its own pot and decided to grow.

You probably recall from grade school science that birds eat plants with seeds and redeposit seeds at new locations when they poop. The organic matter of the wooden pilings, water from the rain and air, and sunlight gave seeds in bird droppings everything they needed to take root and grow. This micro miracle was brought to us by nature – no battery required. As I took this photograph with my digital single-lens reflex camera, I thought to myself, “Can high tech do that?”

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

The Greeting of Love

 

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Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Punalu’u, a black sand beach on the southern tip of Hawai’i Island, is one of my favorite beaches, and I go there every chance I get. During one visit, I came across a crowd of tourists huddled around honu, green sea turtles, sleeping on the sand. The tourists kept a few feet away from the honu as they took pictures, but they were still closer than the 15 feet required by law. I watched from a distance, hoping the honu would stay asleep so the crowd wouldn’t stress them.

Close to shore, a honu peered its head above the water. Moments later another honu did the same. A receding wave revealed the first honu on the sand, and I smiled. The tired little creature waited at the water’s edge for its companion, and together the pair started their slow climb up the beach. Instantly charmed by them, I took a picture with my phone.

With the sleeping honu resting peacefully, I gave my full attention to the new arrivals. The pair could have veered in any direction on that beach, but, to my surprise, they headed straight toward me. Each time the honu got close to me, I walked back and to the right or to the left to get out of their way. I moved several times, but each time the honu changed direction and continued their deliberate walk toward me. It felt wrong to keep moving, so I stopped.

One by one, the tourists noticed the honu appearing to follow me, and I could tell they wanted to swarm the pair as they had the sleeping honu. Standing firm, with my eyes locked on the honu and the wind blowing fiercely through my wild mass of dark wavy hair, I thought, “Leave them alone.” To my relief, the tourists stayed put. With the tourists at bay, I sang “Mele Aloha” to the honu as they approached me. This song is a welcoming chant composed by the revered Mary Kawena Pukui.

Onaona i ka hala me ka lehua

He hale lehua nō ia na ka noe

‘O ka’u nō ia e ‘ano’i nei

E li’a nei ho’i o ka hiki mai

A hiki mai nō ‘oe

A hiki pū nō me ke aloha

Aloha ē, aloha ē, aloha ē

Fragrant of pandanus and lehua blossoms

This is indeed a house of lehua shrouded in the mist

It is the one that I am truly longing for

Yearning for the arrival

And you have indeed come

Arriving indeed with love

Love, love, love to you

The honu finally stopped a few feet away from where I stood. My heart spilled over with love as I gazed at the honu in wonder. The wind swirled wildly, blowing back my hair, whistling in my ears, and wrapping my body through my clothes, but never drying out my eyes. I waited until the honu fell asleep before I left them.

Since that day I have never doubted that the universe notices, feels, acknowledges, and returns the love in my heart. People may be indifferent to love; they may choose to ignore it; they may mock it; and they may even hate me for it. But the spirit of love that permeates all of creation greets love with love.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

His Voice and Touch in Nature

Who covers the heaven with clouds,

Who prepares rain for the earth,

Who makes grass to grow upon the mountains.

Ka Mea i uhi i ka lani i nā ao,

Ka Mea i ho’omākaukau i ka ua no ka honua,

Ka mea i ho’oulu mai i ka mau’u, ma luna o nā mauna.

Psalms 147:8

I never regret taking the time to stop and admire nature’s beauty and power. No matter how tired I might get during a drive, no matter how much I want to maintain a certain pace during a walk, no matter how anxious I might be to get to my destination, the magnificence of Creation is always an open invitation worthy of acceptance.

Nature has the power to take my focus off whatever worries I have. It resets my perspective to a healthy balance. It gives me an opportunity to appreciate and to be grateful that I’m breathing, that I’m walking, that I can see, that I can hear, that I can touch.

These pauses are important moments of reflection and connection. I focus on what’s vital in my life, and I connect with the Creator who made everything and everyone, the Creator who does not lose sight of me despite the unfathomable vastness of His Creation.

© Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2015. Photograph of Emigrant Gap, CA, by Writing Wahine, 2015.

My Detour in Flip-Flops

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Copyright Writing Wahine 2015.

During an early morning walk sprinkled with soft misty rain, I decided to climb a hill. I didn’t indulge in overthinking and gave in to curiosity. When I arrived at a second plateau, I felt a sudden urge to turn my head. About twenty feet to my left stood a magnificent tree shrouded in fog.

The tree loomed over me, captivating me with its intricately splayed branches. Most of the branches followed the expected trajectory outward and upward, but a few curved and turned like tentacles trying to reach out from beneath the tree’s own canopy.

I took my time admiring this tree, my hair a giant frizzy mess and my feet exposed to the elements in white flip-flops. I hadn’t planned on hiking up a hill during my walk, but I was grateful I took the detour through dirt, mud, rocks, and suspicious ground cover.

My happy energy must have carried through the fog, because later in my walk, a beautiful blue bird perched on a branch above me and let me study it for a long time. I also found a small patch of palapalai ferns. Considered a kinolau (physical embodiment) of the Hawaiian goddess Hi’iakaikapoliopele and used for adornments when dancing hula, the ferns made me feel like I had stumbled upon a kindred spirit.

Living in Hawai’i taught me that people go everywhere and do everything in flip-flops. I guess that’s why I didn’t think twice about taking an impromptu hike up a hill.

Detours can yield very nice surprises. I should take them more often.

© Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2015.

Ku’u Home

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1.6.15: No matter how many beautiful and intoxicating places I visit and fall in love with, and no matter how full and meaningful a life I build where I am transplanted, my heart always turns to look back toward Hawai’i.

Is home where your dearest loved ones are? Where your life’s work happens? Where the majority of your life plays out? Where your most precious memories were born? The place that nurtured you during your formative years?

What if home is where you can be the best version of yourself? The best you according to your own standards, not the world’s. The version of yourself that you sense exists deep inside you, but that you are afraid to let live because you fear it will cost you something you can’t let go.

There’s a side of me that loves creature comforts, glamour, designer things, and posh places. It’s the same side of me that loves drama and power, being in the know, and feeling like I appreciate culture displayed in museums, theaters, and concert halls. I’m the darling of capitalism: a materialistic consumer.

But there’s a side of me that knows better and deeper. It’s the side of me that knows the most important things in my life are few, close to my core, and have nothing to do with consuming materialistic goods. It’s this side that makes my heart look back toward Hawai’i, where I feel connected to the past and the future, where I hear the wind whisper in my ear, where I feel energy rising up from the soil, where I feel embraced in the rain, and where I feel like I’m touching life itself when I enter the ocean.

So I’ll keep visiting seductive places, and I’ll keep looking at pretty, shiny things, but I’ll always look back at the place where I know the best version of myself exists. I’ll keep checking the compass in my life, the beacon that keeps reminding me to stay true to the best in me.

©Living off Island, writingwahine, 2015.