Pig on a Porch

P1000142

I sit on a lanai (covered porch) in a towering edible forest jungle of mangos, bananas, coconuts, papayas and palms, watching spider webs catch raindrops and listening to the doves and roosters. We are far removed from the tourist stuff here.

The roosters start at around 4am, but it’s not so bad since we go to bed at 7:30pm. In Hawaii it gets dark between 6 and 7pm no matter the season. And like the lava grit in my sandals, the rain comes and goes, an excuse to stop and sit.

We landed in Hawaii eleven days ago and spent six days in luxury at Kalani Retreat Center, electricity and internet in our room and all meals included.

P1000158

We picked up the truck in Hilo. We considered the real estate in Sea View next door to Kalani, a neighborhood started by retired circus performers, who continue their mission of performing arts in the schools and community.

P1000159

It’s right on the ocean, but the lots are just lots, and the Bearded One has got to have some kind of acreage. Heck, an acre would do, especially near the ocean. We love hearing the surf crash at night.

Then on Sunday we went to the Maku’u (Ma – koo – oo) Market and met up with Tom and Deborah, our friends and off-the-grid mentors. Tom built the first Farmlet house on the mainland, which we bought in 2006. Deborah has lived in Hawaii for 20 years working at the U of Hawaii, Computational Linguistics, publications. She’s the Professor here on Gilligan’s Island. She makes her barefoot, balmy, high-tech, two-screen graphics world work in a hut.

We drive through their rural neighborhood, stop at the labyrinth on 4th (4/10ths mile from the ocean) just to see it, then swing by the Hippie House on 8th, which entrances us all over again.

Hawaiian Paradise Park House

Less than a mile from the ocean, an acre of glorious jungle landscaping, and an off-the-grid island house with a lot of soul. It’s not for sale anymore. The owner, who may be even more of a hippie and a hermit than the Bearded One, took it off the market because of the hassle…but maybe, we joke, he would be interested in selling if we left him a note? Maybe –

Monday we moved here from Kalani, to this little jungalo on an organic farm on Papaya Farm Road, surrounded by coconut and banana trees. Little bananas called apple bananas. Best we’ve ever had. $1/pound.

The jungalo has no electricity, a communal toilet and shower, and a camp kitchen on the corner of the lanai.

P1000135

A hen lays an egg on the dish shelf every day.

P1000154

Internet is usually available on the main farmhouse porch (shared with the enormous black pig Eore)

P1000157

but it’s been out for a few days, so Tuesday we drive the 10 miles to the town of Pahoa and the bakery. Where we can also get phone reception and call our real estate agent, Glenn, who listed the Hippie House last fall.

Before we moved in here on Monday afternoon, though, we went to Hilo to get the Bearded One his first pair of sandals in maybe three decades. On the way, we decided to drive by the Hippie House again, really slow.

Maybe the owner will spot the Bearded One getting out of the truck and looking at the neighboring property for sale? Maybe the Bearded One will wave and introduce himself and the owner will remember our intense long-distance interest two months ago, before he got tired of all the lookers? Maybe he’ll invite us in and give us a tour? Yeah, right.

Be careful what you imagine, at least on the Big Island. The cause and effect loop is tight here, with instant repercussions. The owner appeared with a huge bulldog, was guarded, then receptive

P1000156

then gave us an honest and leisurely tour. It needs new solar panels and wiring, new catchment system liner, tenting for termites, kitchen refinement, and an additional lanai — and sent us on our way to try and find anything better.

The bakery is open air and full of locals on laptops. The Bearded One orders a hot chocolate and goes out to the parking area to try and get a phone signal. I get the Wi-Fi password and log on.

“Glenn’s office is right next door!” the Bearded One says when he returns.  Another connection made almost effortlessly.

We spend Thursday with Glenn seeing five houses. I reject the last two before even seeing them, the roads are so atrocious. Borderline impassable. My friends and family would never make it here.

P1000161

The others that we can afford are either shacks on really rough jungle acreage or pristine Western houses on 2/10 acre lots.

Friday, the Bearded One takes the cell phone over to the corner of the farm where we discovered reception, calls the owner of the Hippie House, and makes an offer. The owner will talk to his wife and the Bearded One will call back on Sunday morning. There’s no way he can send us a message.

Then Easter Sunday morning, I watch from our screened-in cottage as the Bearded One calls. He gives the thumbs up that it is ringing. And then it starts to rain. Hard, torrential, pounding Puna rain. I can’t even see the Bearded One anymore.

P1000160

A few minutes later the Bearded One emerges from the jungle, smiling. I greet him at the hut door. “We have a deal,” he says.

I squeal with delight. “I can’t believe the phone connection held through that storm,” I say.

“That banana tree was real good cover,” he says.

Suddenly, Eore comes screaming out of the jungle. A smaller wild pig has chomped down on the base of Eore’s tail and is hitching a high-speed recreational romp around the place – both of his front hooves riding high on Eore’s butt while his back legs churn furiously to keep up with Eore’s long panicked strides. It seems plain to me there’s a huge grin on the wild pig’s face.

A good day for all. Well, maybe not Eore.

Getting All Our Ducks In A Row

It’s our last day in Seattle, 45 degrees and cloudy, and a duck sits on top of the high school across the street.

P1000108

I can see him clearly against the milky white sky, which is growing steadily brighter as the sun climbs and students parade into the huge building with their bulky backpacks.

P1000116

I’ve got my own bulky backpack with my new laptop, camera, mouse and headphones, which will be my carry-on for our 13 hour travel day to Hilo, Hawaii tomorrow. The Bearded One will carry on a pillow and my purse. We’ll check our suitcases, which we are living out of for at least another month, probably more. Until we find a house.

P1000114

“He’s looking for his partner,” says my brother-in-law, who along with my sister, is heading off to work.

I laugh, but don’t take my eyes off Mr. Duck. I can see his bright turquoise neck now. “Where is she?” I say.

“They migrate thousands of miles,” he says.

Only to lose each other in the city, I think.

P1000118

We left the First Farmlet on Saturday, March 22, spent a week in Texas with the Bearded One’s folks and their six new baby goats, then a week in Seattle taking care of our daughter’s dog Roger while she and her husband were out of town. These last two days we’re with my sister, and tomorrow we fly.

Our truck is already there. It must have caught a fast wave because it got to Hilo on April 2, nine days ahead of schedule.

P1000117

Otherwise we’d have left earlier. Heck, we’d be there. Our sweet son-in-law, the Captain, is saving our butts by taking care of shipping the 4 foot cube containing all our worldly goods once we land.

P1000124

Yesterday we went on a walk through a wetland restoration project here in my sister’s north Seattle neighborhood. We saw trout, and cormorants and ducks and geese. Two ducks waddled into my sister’s front yard when we got back.

“I wonder if they are brothers?” I said, and then looked at her. “I sound like Mom.”

She laughed. We are family. The nurturing, nesting duck is my sister’s totem animal and they flock to her.

Now the Bearded One comes upstairs and sits on the couch in a sun ray. “How ah ya?,” he says, practicing his Hawaiian with a Texas accent. Hawaiian has only 12 letters – 5 vowels and 7 consonants. “Helloha,” I joke back.

We’ve both been trying to learn Hawaiian words. I want to learn to say and embody the state motto of Hawaii, which the new owner of the First Farmlet (who left Hawaii to come here) wrote to us in an email. He had spent his first night on the farmlet, had bonded with Leah the alpha hen

P1000119

and was exploring the land. He wrote:

“I hope that I can continue what you two started and obviously loved so much. I am reminded of the state motto of Hawaii which is “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono” which translates to ‘the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness’ and promise you both that I will be the best steward of this land that I can be (and) in fulfilling my own dreams here do that which is “pono” according to what you have begun.”

I look back at the high school, and see that Mrs. Duck has joined Mr. Duck. As I watch, he sails down off the roof and across the street, heading southwest. Straight toward Hawaii. We’ll be following him tomorrow. Maybe we’ll see him on the way.

P1000120

 

A Window of Opportunity

I climb out of the truck and reach for the house key on my key chain.  Which now has only one key, the truck key.  Oops.  I removed the house keys from both our key chains yesterday.

One of my jobs was sorting all of the keys, separating and labeling them for the new owner and it dawns on me that in the excitement of the Title Company’s call — “The papers are ready to sign!”

IMG_NEW

– I’d grabbed only my truck key as had the Bearded One.  We are, for the first time since moving here seven years ago, locked out of the house.

“Call Kathi,” the Bearded One says, taking charge.  “I’ll look for an open window.”

“Roger,” I say.  I leave a harebrained message for Kathi the Realtor.  Her electronic realtor gizmo can open the official realtor box with a key inside.  Maybe she’s nearby.

IMG_NEW

We hardly ever leave, I think, but for one reason or another we’ve left the house every day this week.  Garfield knows something’s up, possibly even that we’re all leaving soon.  He walks around the living room regularly inspecting his own cat carrier and luggage (he’s being adopted by my niece and her husband and 18 month old daughter) as well as the fascinating 4′x4′x4′ cube of stuff (mainly our tools) we are shipping to Hawaii.

stuff to Hawaii 003

The Bearded One circles back around the house to report he’s found an open window, the downstairs bathroom, and he’s going to fetch a ladder from the barn.

IMG_NEW

Kathi calls back and I explain and thank her for her willingness to come all the way from Tacoma (half hour) with the key to the key box, but we will get in, no problemo.

Meanwhile, the Bearded One is determined to save the day.  He props the ladder against the house, and heads up to climb in through the teeny window.

IMG_NEW

“I am so much better than you at wiggling through tight places,” I say, and he takes this is as a challenge.  Yeah, right, his expression says.  We have a wee argument as I hold the ladder.

He carefully removes the screen and hands it down to me.  Then he slides open the window, examining the 9″x20″ opening and the toilet below.

I steady the ladder and watch as he leans sideways, angling his head and arms and chest through.  Then he drops his head down toward the toilet and all he has to do is get his hips through, and they will not go.

A sad state of affairs, and I am truly concerned that he not hurt himself, but, dang it, he was so insistent, and now….oh my lord….he is kicking his feet wildly, trying for purchase against empty space, stuck in the bathroom window 10 feet off the ground.

IMG_NEW

I don’t make near enough effort to stifle my laughter.  The Bearded One is mad, but also contrite.  This apparently is a bit less humorous to him right at the moment.

We have helped each other in every way we can these past busy weeks, holding each other tenderly when we are both exhausted and a bit scared (me) and talking things through when we’re (me) grumpy with new computer stresses and playing out little disaster scenes in my head, and we are together and he is my heart and soul.

And here I am laughing at him.  I apologize.  He’s fine.  He grins.

“I thought I was skinnier than that window,” he says.

I wiggle through the window in seconds, drop down head first with one arm extended.  I couldn’t have done it without the toilet right there below the window, I explain later, modestly, after having saved the day.

IMG_NEW

I crawl down the toilet onto the floor, slowly kneel then stand up, brush myself off and trot through the house to open the door.  “We’re in!” I say — if only for a few more days.

Fairy Dust

It’s the Bearded One’s turn to sign the listing agreement.  We all know it’s killing him.  So Kathi the Realtor  and I sit back and stare out the newly-cleaned windows and marvel at the thick cedar pollen clouds, gusting and swirling like smoke, like fog on an otherwise brilliant spring day.

“This pollen is crazy,” says Kathi.  “I’ve got asthma!”

“It’s falling in Seattle, too,” I say.  “The kids tell me it’s because of these three sunny days.”  This morning the Bearded One used the leaf blower on the truck before rain comes and quickly converts the thick coat of dust into very durable permaculture.

IMG

I groan as I look at the thick new layer on every flat dark surface, inside or out, that I have recently cleaned or painted.  My shoulder aches from yesterday’s work:  turning the compost, cleaning the chicken coop from roost to nesting box, and raking out the berry patch.  I even ordered six seed packages, a gesture that accepts, sort of, our continued presence here awhile.  I’ve been a bit grumpy lately, feeling neither here nor there, courting a beloved buyer who will not call.

We tried to sell the house ourselves for 10 days.  Free ads and Zillow and home-made signs and word of mouth — and got two inquiries from agents wanting the listing, and two from ones interested in owner financing.  A friend advised us to bury a St. Joseph statuette upside-down in the yard and say a prayer, that this did the trick for her.  I didn’t want to buy a Joseph, and the Bearded One didn’t want me to bury the little Christmas nativity statue I have because I’d have to bury Mary and the Baby Jesus, too, and that couldn’t be lucky.

IMG_NEW

Now Kathi, my fairy godmother and real estate matchmaker, is taking over.

Kathi's card 002

Kathi sneezes and her eyes water, the Bearded One passes the paperwork to me to sign and initial, and then the phone rings.  The Bearded One goes to answer.

“This place looks like it’s just loaded with karma,” says a man named Chuck.  They saw our Zillow ad.

“Yes, indeed,” says the Bearded One, and invites Chuck and Amy and their enormous dog Dandy to come see the place.

IMG_NEW

“We’ll be there in an hour,” says Chuck.

“How did you do that?” I ask Kathi.  She laughs and shrugs and I say, “We hire you and get our first showing within a few seconds?! Everything is connected to everything, that’s all I can say.”

*   *   *

Kathi leaves and it takes me a half hour to stage the house, hiding stuff, clearing counters and tables, cleaning sinks and mirrors.  None of which makes much difference, but keeps me busy.

IMG_NEW

The pollen has stopped blowing for the time being anyway, and when Chuck and Amy arrive, right on time, there’s a glow in the air.

They are roughly our age.  They have just moved from Hawaii, they say, and now live a half hour away from here.  Their 30-year-old son is still in Hawaii, but coming soon and wants to raise chickens and alpacas and live on acreage in the woods.  Chuck and Amy have been scouting houses for him.

“Hi there,” I say to him through Chuck and Amy’s Skyping phone and camera.   Then Chuck carries him with us just ahead of the Bearded One and Amy and me and we walk the nature trail, tour the barn and aviary and hoophouse, and then, finally, the house.  The farmlet looks beautiful and magical and everyone can see it — even all the way over in Hawaii.

IMG_NEW

*   *   *

It comes out as a long, high-pitched wail, a hit of pure magical joy that literally pulls me out of the house and through the cat condo onto the pollen encrusted deck — “Yahhhhhhhhh  HOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” when Kathi calls back (sneezing) the next day with their full price offer.  We are going to Hawaii.

IMG_NEW

The Place in Pixels

Right in the middle of our big transition to Hawaii, the old Canon point-and-shoot camera dies.  The last photo I take is of the goats in the back of a man named Anthony’s pickup truck on their way to their new 5-acre farmlet in Port Orchard, five miles away.

IMG_NEW

Goats to Port Orchard

The photo is blurry and overexposed.  My mental image is sharp, though.

The men bring each goat down the trail from the barn separately, starting with Pearl, the smallest.

IMG_NEW

All the goats look twice as big as they are because of their thick fleece — Anthony thought they were sheep.  “Sweet Pearl my Girl,” I say to the nervous, shivering goat.  She can hardly take the almonds I offer through the dog crate bars.  These goats haven’t left this place for two years.

Anthony and his brother love the farmlet and would like for one of their family members to buy it.  Which supercharges the Bearded One and me, even as Pearl calms down considerably when the rest of her herd arrives.  The three goats huddle together and listen as we describe the farmlet and neighborhood and give our first sales pitch.  It will be on the market in March, we say.  I promise to email information and pictures.

After the brothers and the goats leave, the Bearded One and I unanimously cancel our planned shopping trip.  He has captured each of the three goats, all wild with two strange men present, then shoved them downhill and helped lift them up into the back of the pickup and into a cage.  “We are so easily traumatized,” he jokes as we slump at the kitchen table.  “Best not to move around fast or talk too loudly.”

IMG_NEW

I nod.  I want to cry, but cook instead. The goats are really gone!  AND Suddenly I am in the surreal land of selling our home.

IMG_NEW

Will I make a flyer and have to resize old photos, which I barely did without having a nervous breakdown for the Craigslist ad??  The Bearded One cleans the roof.

Finally after dinner, we replay our images of the day for each other, I finally cry, and we recover.  But our camera does not.  I have to buy a new one.  And capture this place in pixels.

Wide-angle, panorama, fish-eye — these are not the same.  I research and grow weary and find myself spending hours watching a video of the first house we saw with our on-line Hawaii search, an off-the-grid hippie house in Puna less than a mile from the ocean.

Hawaiian Paradise Park House

I work hard to orient myself through the video’s lens, just 45 degrees at a time. I watch it over and over.  I diagram the house.  I stop and study and imagine.  Then it’s time to focus back here on the painting and sorting.

The Bearded One is going through old boxes and we laugh at a picture of him in Alaska in the mid 1990s.

IMG

There’s even a panorama of his 1974 high school graduating class, a very big picture.  I ordered a camera with the panorama feature.

IMG_NEW

On Sunday night, it snows.  And in the morning, as I walk past the hoophouse and compost bin to let the chickens out, I notice a half of grapefruit rind, bright pink on top of the goat hay and potato straw and white snow.  A bright Hawaiian sun.

I let the chickens out, then walk the tractor trail back to the house, stopping to admire the absolute utter perfection of snow falling on cedars.  The silence.  Everything all around me, 360 degrees, is fresh and new and magical.  The surprising gift of snow, and of leaving.

The Sorting

The large cardboard box labeled BOOKS has been sealed tight with packing tape for seven years.  The Bearded One hauls it inside from the red storage shed along with dozens of other boxes, but this is the one I dread.  It’s big and heavy and ancient history.

IMG_NEW

“Where do you want this?” he asks.

“I don’t,” I say.

I am setting up the house like a thrift store, taping signs to the wall — Le Cuisine, Le Toilette, Le Boutique (two of our kids are in France at the moment…) — to make it fun and easy for my sister, mother, daughter and her husband when they come tomorrow to take what they want.

Shipping to Hawaii is expensive.  We don’t want to take our life’s accumulation anyway, so we are sorting, distributing, recycling, dumping, and generally moving most all of our furniture and household possessions to their next level.  All, that is, except a single 4′x4′x4′ pallet of choice items which will cost $425 to ship, and our 1991 Toyota 4-Runner that we hope will last until we die.  Its postage is $2300.

IMG_NEW

Family heirlooms like the sewing chair, Grandma’s card table, and the photo albums are priceless and easy and have already been claimed and tagged.  Gowns from both my weddings, the Bearded One’s bomber jacket, and the stained glass window he made may have some emotional value, maybe not.  Vases, casserole dishes, candlesticks, games, two library walls of books.  It all must go.

“It’s just shameful,” says the Bearded One as he makes another trip to the shed, “how much of my crap there is.  I guess I must have thought that the Smithsonian was eventually going to call and ask for all my childhood personal effects.”

IMG_NEW

Me, too, I think.  I have my Santa letters from 1960.  Do I chunk them?  I’ve got the writer’s disease, I’ve kept it all.  My career has been about paper.  Our eldest daughter reports that one of her first big words was “Manuscript”.  The Bearded One says we could build a house of manuscripts in Hawaii.

Now I’m alone in the upstairs bedroom where I’m making piles for each of the three kids, plus Mom and my sister.  And the time has finally come. I weigh the storage costs, the box contents, the value of a life.  I slice the tape with scissors.  I lift the cardboard top and look down at a familiar children’s book cover published in the spring of 1986.  My first book.

What’s that smell?  Musty.

IMG_NEW

The spine is slightly warped, the paper lush and fuzzy with mildew.  Whoa, I think, surprised.  Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.  Mold dots the pages.   They’re all this way.  “What luck!” I say, ecstatic that there is no decision to make.

Growth has occurred, they are all ruined, and I can return these decomposing books to the earth from whence they came.

IMG_NEW

Falling Into My Lap

All weekend, Hansel reminds his dad about what will have to happen in order to actually get a puppy.  “If one falls into our lap, that’s what you said.  If it just falls right into our lap.”

IMG_NEW

Hansel’s father is a fair man.  Their last dog, when they still lived next door to us, was a wild thing that got cancer at age 3 and had to be euthanized, so he is justifiably wary and put the issue — his three children’s deep and constant yearning for a puppy — into the realm of the Almighty.  “If one falls into our lap,” he had indeed told Hansel all autumn, and now it is January, and the Almighty has spoken.

IMG_0001_NEW

*   *   *

All week the Bearded One and I revel in the decision to move to Hawaii.  We take stock and clean out, things we might have done anyway after the New Year we tell ourselves, as if we haven’t really decided.

Never mind that we’ve talked to a realtor neighbor and have considered whether to include the goats to make it an already-stocked-farmlet, or to advertise the goats on Craigslist just like the ad we responded to two years ago.  Arly sniffs through the piles of files, boxes of art supplies, and bags of clothes, absorbing all the stories.  He shreds the Bearded One’s flop.

IMG_NEW

“Are there Flop Trees in Hawaii?” the Bearded One asks me on Sunday night, and I laugh.

I’m on the couch and cuddling Arly’s solid little chesty 21-pound body, kissing his velvet ears.  He licks the lotion from my neck.

Deeses with Arly 004

Hawaii has a pet quarantine law of up to 120 days, which is four months, which is how long Arly has been alive on the planet.  Too long for a pup, so if we are really moving, finding a new home for him sooner rather than later seems the way to go.  Better for him.

IMG_NEW

Garfield is seven, but since our idea is to rough it in Hawaii for a few months and explore, we need to re-home him as well.  On Friday I emailed Hansel, Gretel and Batman’s mom asking if they would like to adopt Arly.  And now, on Sunday, they’ve accepted.  This is our last night together, and I’m enjoying the best part of having raised this sweet puppy for two months.

*   *   *

Hansel, Gretel and Batman pile out of their car.

IMG_NEW

Arly races to meet them.  Hansel crouches to pet the wiggling puppy.  Gretel presents me with a gift, a drawing of a chicken –

Hailey's chickens 003

– which matches the button she gave me the last time they were here, and which I’m wearing at this moment.  Gretel notices and smiles, showing her emerging two front teeth.  Batman clings to his mom, since Arly scratched him on the chin last time.

We all go inside to talk and get Arly’s luggage.  His favorite pillow, his bag of food and treats, bowl, leash, basket with shampoo and nail clippers, and a couple of our favorite dog picture books…Good Dog, Carl and Hideaway Puppy.

There are boxes everywhere, including one with oodles of office supplies — paints and markers and construction paper and tablets — and I offer the whole pile to the kids.  Seven-year-old Gretel beams.  “I always wanted a clipboard!” she says.  There are two clipboards, and Batman seizes the other one.

IMG_NEW

Batman, too, has had a dream come true.  He smiles and says that Arly, who perches on Hansel’s lap on the couch, is better than last time.  Calmer.

Deeses with Arly 006

Hansel is in charge of Arly, and he takes him out on the road on the leash while we load all the puppy and art supplies into the car.  Then we help buckle Batman into his car seat.  Gretel climbs into the middle of the backseat and immediately continues work on a new chicken series on her clipboard.

Finally Hansel walks back into the driveway and offers Arly up for us to say good-bye.  I’m so happy for Arly – he’s been rather bored this week since Roger left — that I can hardly be sad.  I’m full to overflowing.  This is a giant step into the rip current taking us to Hawaii.

IMG_NEW

All of the theoretical obstacles to a big move are falling like dominoes. The Bearded One grins, and pulls me to him.

Hansel gets into the car next to Gretel, his long legs cramped, his smile lighting up the world as he pulls Arly into his lap and says, “YESSSSS!”

Where This Is Going

“He’s grown,” says our son-in-law, the Alaska fisherman, as he sits on the couch and the puppy nibbles his sunburned neck and ears.  He, along with our oldest daughter, who is at work in Seattle this morning, and his family were in Hawaii for a week.  Roger stayed with us, and now the Captain has come to get him.  “His legs are longer.”

IMG_NEW

Arly, our own puppy, whimpers with jealously and excitement from the other end of the couch where he sits with the Bearded One.  I’m in my rocker.  We are talking about big, important stuff, and the dogs make the conversation difficult in their barking, wrestling, puppy way.

New Year's Eve puppies 004

“I know it’s selfish,” says the Captain, “but I don’t want you to move.  It blew me away when I first heard.”  He’s the only NO in an otherwise unanimous sea of support for our latest notion, which is just days old now, but growing more real with time.

“Well, I’m as surprised at the notion as you are,” I say.  “Maybe more so.  I imagined building this farmlet and having all you Seattle kids and future grandkids drive an hour south to come see Grandma and Granddaddy and the goats and chickens on the farm.”

The Captain knows all about altered dreams.  His father died last month in a motorcycle accident after suffering a massive heart attack while speeding through the backroads of the Baja Peninsula.  It was out of the blue and shocked us all.  He
was 58, the same age as the Bearded One and one year older than me. The clan had planned all year to go to Hawaii. They never imagined their hearts would be so broken. He will be missed.

Arly yelps and lunges at Roger who yelps and lunges back.

IMG_NEW

“It’s been a year full of transition,” I say.  “And then your dad died.  Was it just three weeks ago?  Seems much longer — “

“Three weeks?”  The Captain looks at me and is quiet.  Time is tripping with all of us.

Can it be just days since I asked the Bearded One, “Do you want to move to Hawaii?” and he instantly said, “Yes”.  He’s not one to travel or visit, and he’s never even been to Hawaii, but he loves the idea of living in a whole different place.  Living in Alaska for a couple of years in the mid-1990s, much of it in the bush, was one of the highlights of his life.  The other was an 8,000 mile motorcycle trip across the western USA in 1982.

IMG_NEW

The idea of moving to Hawaii came to me after a cold, gray misty walk by myself just a week ago, on December 30, New Year’s Eve Eve.  I thought about our daughter helping to scatter some of her father-in-law’s ashes in the middle of the brilliant Pacific Ocean.  And then I thought of Tom Coolidge.

Tom Coolidge was the first person to live on this road.  There was no road ’til he got here.  Just bears.  He designed and built the 1400 square foot pole house that is now the Farmlet House in 1990.

IMG_NEW

He lived here for sixteen years, watching the road grow longer and attract more farmlets.  Now we’ve lived here for exactly seven years –

Roof moss 022

– and Tom lives in Hawaii.  His girlfriend, a lovely woman with a Ph.D. in Linguistics named Deborah, came to our door 3-1/2 years ago.  She was in nearby Port Townsend for a retreat, she said, but she was usually in Hawaii with Tom.  He had told her about this house and said he could do the same in Hawaii for them….and she wanted to see this place for herself, would we mind?  It was our 13th anniversary, May 2, 2010.  Come on in! we said.

So when I got home from my cold and wet but thoughtful walk, I found Deborah and her blog on Facebook. And, oh oh oh!  A photo of the “Sherbet Shed” — a smaller version of the Farmlet House painted glorious rainbow colors on an acre of tropical forest in Puna, Hawaii.  The wet side of the Big Island.

dawn1

Since that moment, we’ve stepped into a bit of a rip current, whisking us through the week of Roger and Arly, energized by the vision of that beautiful little sunny house.  I’m tickled by all the positive feedback we’ve gotten — neighbors, the UPS guy, and most especially, the kids.

All the kids except the Captain, that is.  Who before our eyes, as we talk, becomes so bone-tired that we send him into the den for a nap before he drives back to Seattle with Roger.  We put the dogs outside.  The Bearded One and I whisper in the kitchen.

Two hours later when he gets up, the Captain says, “You know, lots of Hawaiians and Samoans fish with us.  There are lots of flights between Hawaii and Anchorage.”

He tells us about how he grew up living the summers in Naknek, where his dad worked all year building the family fishing business.  He knew how to filet a salmon when he was 7.

IMG_NEW

“There’s a small house and three shipping containers on the property,” he says, “sort of a family compound.  My brothers and I talked a lot this week about how the future grandkids will be there all summer, but we’ll all be out fishing.  It’d be great if you came up and helped out.”

The Bearded One sits forward in his chair.  “Oh my yes…,” he says, and the Captain grins.

And then it hits me, and I leap up.  “Holy Moly.  The way all these farm animals tie us to this place, we’ll see more of our grandkids from Hawaii than we would from here!”

I like where this is going.

IMG_NEW

*   *   *

A TIMING NOTE:  After roughly 3 years of weekly blogs, I’m shifting for a time to “intermittent” – whenever-the-muse-hits-me.  Thanks for reading!

Staying Put

We are no longer the only pothole fillers on the road.  Travis the Dump Truck Driver, a new neighbor, used a machine with a heavy blade last weekend, even before the annual road scraping takes place, and fixed the potholes.

IMG_NEW

And then this weekend, the Road Manager and his daughter Susan topped off a few smaller ones further up the road with gravel that Travis delivered.

IMG_NEW

I watch Susan, backlit by the low winter sun.  It’s shining directly in our eyes and casting gigantic shadows behind us on the road.  I’m relieved, even elated.  It registers on my face as tears.

So much has changed here this year.  I started wearing glasses and I changed my last name.  Ruby our Golden Retriever is dead, 58 Cornish meat birds were eaten by weasels, and we lost 4 layers to raccoons.

Beloved neighbors have moved away, even though they still visit.  We see Momma Goose on the road, she who has flown to a new destination –

IMG_NEW

– migrated — and is just picking up her mail.  She hops out of her truck.

“Let me hold that pup!” she says and scoops Arly into her loving arms.  She misses us, and we miss her.  We hug, she promises to stop by soon, and we say good-bye.  Each small change has some ripple effect on anyone nearby.  But we’re not moving.  How do you change in place? I wonder.  Apparently just by staying put. Fifteen-pound Arly yanks me across the road.

IMG_NEW

Our daughter was married in August, and she and our son-in-law and their puppy Roger arrive on Saturday evening and stay the night. There is a fire in the woodstove, we eat leftovers, and the canine cousins, Arly and Roger, chase each other around the couch, wrestling and growling.

IMG_NEW

Roger got into some poop earlier in the holiday weekend, so our son-in-law bathed him in the only thing available, Old Spice body wash. IMG_NEW

I hug Roger and breathe in deeply.  Arly wriggles at my feet.

Arly and Roger 002

I think I’ll take a break from writing this blog for a few weeks.  Raise this pup.  More in the new year.  Love, Christi

IMG_NEW

Batman and Arly

Batman, age 5, has just been scratched on the chin by Arly the puppy and is near tears and speaks only in his tiniest voice.

IMG_NEW

He clings to his mom next to the new deck, even though Arly ran off into the yard.  He and Hansel, age 9, chew their peach fruit leathers as they listen to their sister Gretel, age 7, tell us about her very loose tooth.  Our old neighbors moved six months ago, but happily they still visit.  This time to meet Arly.  They’ve all grown.

“It’s been so long since I lost a tooth,” I say.  “Does it hurt?”

“No.”  Gretel smiles and shows her upper gum with all the tiny baby teeth now widely spread.  The front right is gone, and the left is barely hanging on.

“My father used to tie a string around my loose teeth and yank,” I say, shivering even though the low midday November sun covers the entire new deck.  “Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.”

IMG_NEW

“Oh oh oh,” says Gretel.  “The Castaway!”

Hansel’s big brown eyes light up.  “Oh, yeah!”

“I get to tell it!” says Gretel.

Hansel agrees, but paces the deck.  Even Batman is riveted and hopes desperately that Gretel can tell it right.  I watch as she mentally backs away to get the big picture.

She starts with the point.  “He had a real bad toothache and had to knock it out with a rock and an ice skate from a Fed Ex box!”

IMG_NEW

Hansel is pleased with her delivery, but he knows the story.  It’s a movie, apparently.

“A Fed Ex box?” I say, as lost as the castaway, but reveling in their sheer joy of sharing stories.

Batman says, still in his tiny, puppy-scratched voice, “He’s a Fed Ex Delivery Man.”

Gretel stares at her little brother then continues.  “His plane crashed in the ocean and he went to this island and lived all by himself — “

IMG_NEW

” — EXCEPT for,” Hansel says, and Gretel tells him that isn’t the main story here, but lets him tell about the Castaway’s sole friend anyway — a salvaged volleyball named Wilson.

At this point Arly runs by with a rotting cornstalk in his mouth.

IMG_NEW

He likes to pull the silk out of the undeveloped ears which I planted too late so they are composting in the garden.

Arly in the corn 007

Arly’s grown an inch since yesterday, I think.  Batman eyes him suspiciously.

I turn to Hansel and Gretel and say, “Last year, you stood out in the corn patch and told us a corny joke.”  This is ancient history to them, but it is their history and it is such a fine joke, they are already laughing.  Batman was there but doesn’t remember.

“I get to tell it!” says Hansel.

Gretel agrees, but has to cover her mouth to keep from butting in.

“Why shouldn’t you tell secrets in a corn field?” says Hansel.  Batman stops chewing, baffled.  “Because the corn has ears!”

IMG_NEW

Everyone laughs, and Arly the beagle puppy prances up to the deck with the cornstalk.  We all remark on his cuteness.  His white fur and black spots and waving tail.  Batman stands tall, a twinkle in his eye, and says the punchline softly, “I like his ears.”

Arly in the corn 003