Boddah You?

He’s Hawaiian and in his twenties and has been working hard all day squirting orange oil into the wood in our house to kill the termites.  For the last hour he’s been up on the roof.

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Now he is taking a break, munching on a juicy red fruit the size of a cherry tomato from the enormous bush beside the barbecue.

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“Ono,” he says to me, smiling. His long-sleeved blue tee shirt says Akamai Pest Control.

“Yes,” I say, “ono!” I’m drinking a glass of water on the hot lanai, after sweeping termite poops into corners all day.

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“Strawberry guava,” I add, thrilled that I not only know that “ono” means delicious, but also what these recently ripening lovelies are called. “I just learned their name.”

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Akamai (Ah-kah-MY) means “smart” in Hawaiian. I am trying to learn some Pidgin, the language that evolved here so the immigrating Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipinos, Americans and the Hawaiians could do business.

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It’s rarely appropriate for a white person, a haole (HOW-lee), to try and speak Pidgin, but frequently helpful to understand at least a little bit of it. It’s beautiful and melodic and I’ve loved listening to the workers speak it to each other all day.

“I heard that they’re considered an invasive species,” I say.

Akamai shrugs. “Boddah you?”

I shrug back. “I don’t know,” I say. “It’s hard not to like them.” He grins and nods his approval.

These remote islands have very few native species. Everything migrated here at one time or another. Still, some species are just more invasive than others – like these strawberry guavas which threaten other plant species with shade-casting thickets and dense mats of surface feeder roots. Mongooses, mosquitoes, coqui frogs and gigantic albizia trees are all non-native invaders.

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Akamai laughs, his smile charming, and eats another of the sweet treats without a bit of guilt.

Our friend Tom says that to see the highest impact invasive species, just look in the mirror.

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Humans are the main invasive species in Hawaii by far. I’m particularly aware of this, of my whiteness and newness, and I want to join in, not invade. So I am honored that Akamai hangs out with me during his work break.

This week we’ve had lots of deliveries, and I try to be a good haole.

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The catchment tank guy, a huge Hawaiian man who helped the Bearded One and His Majesty roll the 1550 gallon tank around the side of the house, wouldn’t accept a tip.

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Two guys, one white, one Hawaiian, delivered the big generator that goes with the solar system. They accepted a handful of Hershey’s kisses.

All were kind and interested in what we are doing, being off-grid. HELCO power connections can be had even here. It costs $7500 just to tie in, we tell them. By the time we put in cables and trenches and conduit and paid official electricians, we’d easily be in the $20,000’s. Plus years of the highest electricity rates in the nation. Hawaii’s average rate is around 38 cents per kilowatt hour. More than triple the national average. So it’s not surprising that there are so many people open to solar here.

We show them the system we are designing, the 9 panels on the dining room floor, the boxes with the inverter and other components, and the 4 expensive batteries.

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The Bearded One built a plywood and recycled shutter box to protect them from the elements. It’s tucked neatly under the house. Now we have the final piece, the propane generator backup. All this, for about $7500.

Tom and our son hope to help install the system this week, and maybe even Akamai, since he is so good working on roofs. Presuming, that is, that the roof is dry.

Akamai looks up from under the towering strawberry guava bush as the Bearded One walks toward us from around the side of the house. “Brah,” the young man calls out as he waves to my haole husband.

The Bearded One smiles. Brother.

Later, I jokingly congratulate him on getting his first brah.

Ten Glugs

The Bearded One is all soaped up in the shower when the generator runs out of gas. I know because I am sitting by the lantern in kitchen with our son, His Majesty, and the electric fan stops. Then I hear the Bearded One whistle for help. “Oh no!” I cry. I spring into action.

This is a clear “Mom” overreaction to the generator stopping, and His Majesty lets me know. “Sheesh, Mom. Calm down.” He is yoga man, but he is also a naturally calm soul whose chill presence in the kitchen at Kalani has gotten him promoted to trainer already. He gets up and turns on his headlamp. “I’ll go fill it up.”

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“Thank you!!”

He pats me on the shoulder, says, “It’s okay, really,” and walks through the dining room, which no longer houses our inflatable bed, but is full of solar panels

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which we’d hoped to install today, but Tropical Storm Wali has been bearing down on us all week, the tin roof’s wet and too dangerous to walk on, and tonight the rain is supposed to be torrential.

The Bearded One has been preparing for the storm all week, including building a rain-proof box for the solar batteries. He loves storms. Lately, it’s just been hot and humid. The storm was due at 6pm. It’s 7:30 now. The Bearded One gave up and got into the shower.

I run to the bathroom to let him know help is on the way. I am a bit frantic, I admit. This week, on top of the storm preparations and the solar panel delivery, our tiny electrical system died, so we had no running water in the house for a couple of days until Tom told us how to hook the pump directly to the second generator. For those days, we hauled water from the decrepit old open catchment tank (new one due to be delivered this week) to flush the toilet

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and drove the 2 miles to Tom’s for a shower. I heated potable water on our propane stove for washing dishes. Living off-grid means learning your own infrastructure really well, hauling in drinking water (8+ pounds per gallon…), monitoring the propane supply, and the ethanol-free gas for the generator, and it’s still a bit overwhelming to me.

“How are you doing?” I ask my sudsy sweetie.

“Tell His Majesty that from the small gas can, the generator takes just ten glugs, and then it’s almost full.” His mind is still under the house, where he was juggling fuel cans and engines and electrical wiring all day with His Majesty while Tom installed the fourth window upstairs.

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I spent the afternoon cooking a spaghetti casserole while Tom’s dog Rufus watched me from the lanai and waited for the drippings.

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All of us took timeouts to check the radar on the computer to see how the storm was materializing. Up to 12 inches, some said, but it seemed to be dissipating. Still there was plenty of flood risk, which energized the Bearded One. Our house is kind of down in a hole.

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“Once the lava is saturated,” he said to me with absolute earnestness, “all hell will break loose!”

“Got it,” I say, race to the storage room window which is right above the generator, shout “Just 10 glugs!” His Majesty shouts, “Okay!” and the generator is going again in minutes. He comes in and we resume our conversation in front of the fan, which is a lifesaver with no breezes and humidity that turns cardboard limp as tissue. This is the tropics.

Rain drops begin to plunk and then pound on the tin roof. His Majesty’s eyes flicker under his headlamp and he smiles. “I love that sound,” he says.

“Here it comes!” shouts the Bearded One from the bathroom.

We laugh. “He is so funny,” I say.

His Majesty agrees. “His timing is great.” Then he gets his guitar and walks out to the dark lanai. It’s 7:40 and we’re heading to bed before too long. No TV, no lamps. The Bearded One sits on the lanai, too, listening to the rain and the guitar music and even plays some himself. It’s been a long time since he’s touched a guitar. I can feel his happiness.

When the rain stops, we listen to the ocean, which is extra loud, crashing into the lava cliffs of the Puna coast less than a mile away. “Concussive,” he says, giddy. “Want to go to the ocean? See if we can get blasted?”

I say to the boys, “Probably time to go shut down that generator. Save the gas.”

“Almost ready, my sweets,” says the Bearded One. “Just one more glug.”

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The Gift of the Keiki

Harley and I meet outside the laundromat. I sit on a bench near where her dad’s minivan is backed in reading my book about mothers and children. She marches right up to me in her tee shirt, flops and leggings. She is missing her two front teeth. The bottom two are fresh and new and jaggedy, and her bangs are pinned up and back from her smooth, tanned face with a barrette. Children are so beautiful.

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She sits down beside me on the bench and shows me her Addition Practice worksheet, her name HARLEY written in enchanting child script. I look over to her father who is smoking in the open back hatch door, we smile at each other, and Harley becomes my laundry buddy. “Auntie,” she says, “what is 4 plus 5?”

I flush, flattered to be addressed in this lovely, inclusive Hawaiian way, even if this blonde child clearly isn’t native. She is a keiki (kay kee), though, Hawaiian for child, and she tells me she’s 6 years old and has lived in Hawaii for 2 years, so Hawaii is her home. All keiki call adult friends Auntie and Uncle. This is a first for me, and I love it. I close my book.

Of course I know the answer, but I make her count my fingers, which she wants to do anyway.

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We talk for a bit. Her mommy is inside the laundromat doing 7 loads. My husband is inside the hardware store looking for some tool. Our clothes are in 3 washers. Harley lost her two front teeth just yesterday. She has a cat and two dogs and lots of chickens. “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” she crows and laughs. She is out of clean clothes and says I must be, too, because I seem to be wearing my jammies – which I am not.

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I’m wearing a long blousy sleeveless top over tie-dyed gauzy pants which the Bearded One saw at a little shop in Pahoa called Puna Style, so we splurged. This is my best outfit! Harley would like for me to read to her. She hands me THE GOODNIGHT GECKO.

Back in the 1980s, I wrote and published six children’s novels. Part of that life was speaking in schools, and I did as much of it as I could.

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All three of our kids endured me talking to their classes. “Why do they want you to write your name in their books?” our oldest daughter asked. I’ll always remember that. No answer I gave really satisfied. A genuine stumper. I remember that life, so long ago. I could be Harley’s grandmother.

As I’m adding numbers with her, the Bearded One appears. He is a natural with children and suggests to Harley that she might not know what 1 plus 0 is. Her eyes fly open, she says, “I’ve know that one for years!”

She helps us check our washers, rotate the heavy clothes into two dryers, and then she wants to play the twinkling 50 cent game machines against the wall. “Do your parents give you money for them?” I ask. “No,” she says. “Let’s do more sums,” I suggest. I’d love to give this child some small gift, but not money.

She is restless and runs back and forth from us to her mom, who waves from two corner dryers she’s been folding clothes at forever.

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“Auntie! It’s done!” she shouts to me across the room to let me know my dryer load has stopped.

“Thanks, Harley!” I give a thumbs up.

As the Bearded One brings over piles of hot dry laundry and I begin to sort them on the table, two bright orange bullets of foam roll out. Harley is mesmerized. Her eyes are huge.

“Earplugs!” I say. “I must have left them in my pocket.” I show her how they work. “I wear them when I mow, and when the big generator is on.”  Our friend Tom was at the house putting in the third upstairs window, and his generator rocks the house.

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“We have 5 generators!” says Harley.

“Well then, you can use these,” I say and offer them to her, contingent on her mother’s approval. Harley is thrilled. She asks me to put them in her ears, very gently.

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The Bearded One walks over and pretends to speak directly to Harley but makes no noise at all as his mouth moves. Harley howls with laughter.

Then she dashes to show her mom. I shout that they are just cleaned, and her young, ponytailed mom smiles and says thanks. Harley races back to give me a big hug. Her sheer delight at the small gift is energizing. I’m thinking Auntie got the best gift here.

Living On Air

“He will pop the bed!” says the Bearded One in mock protest to us getting a cat that will have free-range of the house day and night.

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I’m mopping the dining room floor, around the queen-sized inflatable air mattress that has been our bed for five weeks now. We’re still cutting out new windows upstairs and waiting on the termite crew. Not quite to the animal phase yet.

I laugh. The Bearded One has resisted cats all his life, but was won over by our beloved Olalla tabby Garfield. He wants a cat almost as much as I do, but for the mousing, not the companionship. He’s watched rats up in the palms, eating the precious palm seeds, some definitely quite rare, that he fantasizes growing.

In a squeaky little cat voice, he continues, “Oh, I have to sharpen my little kitty cat claws!”

Garfield – he who is well-positioned back in Washington with our nephew who has even made a cat video of him – was locked in the hut at night for his own safety and our sanity. There are no raccoons or coyotes here. Only mongooses, and they don’t hunt cats. Maybe also the occasional wild pig.

“We are not going to be sleeping on a raft forever,” I say.

In fact, our upstairs bedroom already has two fabulous new 4’x4’ screened windows.

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Traditional Hawaiian buildings have jalousies, which are glass louvers to protect from sideways rain squalls. They’re expensive. The Bearded One is designing some sort of shutter or insert instead of glass windows or jalousies. He bought a bunch of used louvered doors to convert into shutters, but is now leaning toward much simpler pieces of rigid, clear Lucite plastic.

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Anyway, just four more windows to go upstairs, then we’ll insulate the tin roof, buy a bed, and voila. Lovely trade winds from the east windows – we are on the windward side of the island – will blow straight through. It’s a tropical indoor/outdoor life, temperature almost always in the 70s. This is an old hippie house, back-to-the-land, minimalist and off-grid, but it seems to me that the lifestyle stems from the weather as much as any ideology.

I describe a little magnetic screen door (a miniature of the one we installed on our front door here)

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in one of the upstairs windows that would allow cats to come and go. Which scares the Bearded One. A cat could jump on him in the night, meow in his ear, carrying a very-much-still- alive-rat. Cats love to bring in their hunt trophies.

The termite guy called last week to postpone as he was “whacked by a centipede,” which had crawled into his shoe, which he’d removed before going into a client’s home. It got him twice, his foot swelled into a football and he was on medication.

I watch for centipedes as I mow our acre this week, the thick grass so like what I grew up with in Texas, memories of my father sweating and cursing in the Houston summer heat, the air 30 degrees hotter than here. Not thin, wispy northern grass like at the first farmlet, where I mowed with an antique push mower. Unthinkable now.

Here, we have a Husqvarna.

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Besides the dense grass, which like the pineapples and other Bromeliads needs virtually no soil and lives off the tropical air, the mower has to deal with large patches of lava rock and giant tree roots that grow above ground. “Ankle busters everywhere,” says the Bearded One.

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It’s a good place to live off the air. Climatologists have long said this side of the island has (literally) got the cleanest air on Earth, cleansed over 2000 miles of Pacific Ocean. Ironically, the other side, with its volcano “vog”, has the worst.

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“Let’s go look,” I say, drop my mop, and we troop upstairs and stand before the two windows. We do this often. The screens are invisible, and we marvel at the breeze, the tops of the palms, our good fortune.

A couple of doves coo from the top of the coconut tree, which dropped a coconut this week, our first to slice open.

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Then I look closer and point out a rat up there by the doves. High up in the tree.

The Bearded One shakes his head, smiles at me and says, “Too bad we got no kitties.”

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Punatics

He is whistling and wearing a brown wide-brimmed hat, shorts and sandals. It’s our twenty-something son, aka His Majesty, who is now living in Puna, too, and was just dropped off at our house after hiking at the ocean with 20 other yoga enthusiasts he works with at Kalani Retreat Center, a 40 minute drive south of here. He looks like a hippie.

“Hey, Dude!” shouts the Bearded One from the lanai where he has laid out the gillion pieces of our new barbecue His Majesty has blessedly agreed to assemble.

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I look out the kitchen window and scream, “He’s here!” as if this is the Second Coming of Jesus Himself. It could just be this week, but there’s sure a lot of religion on this island. Native Hawaiians are a spiritual people, and so are the Japanese and Filipinos who live here. Whites or haoles are a minority. There is a small church of some kind on every other corner in Hawaiian Paradise Park.  Nothing big.

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On Tuesday, I meet Emily Naeole in the laundromat, candidate for County Council and as she says, “on a mission from God.”

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She is my age, 57-years-old, native Hawaiian, and full of the Holy Spirit. We talk story a bit, and then we hug and say goodbye before she starts praying with a spiritual hippie couple our ages who we met earlier.

We go to the grocery store and an elderly Japanese man helps me find a coffee dripper cup, and when I laugh and use the word “lucky”, he is horrified. “No luck,” he says and points up. It was God, is all I can understand. But he is adamant.

I finish our neighbor Jim’s novel and return it to him with compliments for his story and spunk. It turns out he is not only a survivalist and a 79-year-old first time novelist, but also a minister of the Ten Commandments and contributes daily on Christian websites.  His truck bumper stickers proclaim his religious beliefs plainly.

Then there are the so-called Punatics — the army of hippies young and old who are socially active for Mother Nature in Puna. The hot issues I’ve detected so far are GMOs and Geothermal energy. Marijuana is illegal, but widely used and minimally prosecuted. Political signs show lots of young politicians. One of the WWOOFers at the farm we stayed at for seven weeks is a Rasta. He actually cut his calf-length dreads while we were there. Fifteen years of growth. He will never ever cut his long beard, though.

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Spiritual seekers really do seem to congregate here.

“Hi, Sweetie,” I say and give His Majesty a huge hug.  He takes off his hat and he’s sunburned, except for his head which is just short of shaved bald.

I cut up a white pineapple,

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which the Bearded One harvested earlier from our acre where there are hundreds, and which our neighbor Jim says are so good you can eat the core.  I agree with him on this.

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The three of us talk on the lanai and munch and watch hundreds of giant black carpenter bees hover around the nearby dead tree that is their palace.  Like flying ping-pong balls. They’re a tropical island bee and not aggressive to humans, just to wood.  We watch them a lot.  “It’s a Zen thing,” says the Bearded One.

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We tell all our news – plans to cut new windows upstairs with Tom on Thursday,

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ordering the water catchment tank, the delay of delivery of the thin-film solar panels and the big generator for the solar batteries until mid-July, and the successful installation last weekend of the Eccotemp tankless propane hot water heater which works great.

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His Majesty will have a shower later, he says. After he assembles the barbecue.

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But before the barbecue, we go back inside and he lays a big baggie of Kalani granola — he works in the kitchen — on the counter for me and starts doing yoga on the kitchen floor. He tells me about teaching his first yoga classes.

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Seven people came to one of his 6am classes. They all liked it, he says, and are spreading the word.

 

A Palm Reading

It’s Summer Solstice morning and our oldest daughter calls from Seattle at 7:30am to say that her step-sister had her baby. A healthy boy with red hair and a Dutch name. I am bursting to tell the Bearded One, who isn’t back yet from his morning walk.

Mornings have been my hardest acclimation time, but since we’ve been in the house 3 weeks now, I’m not even taking the anti-anxiety pill anymore. Still, this is a real upper, we love this red-headed sister, and I holler to the Bearded One out the open window — She had the baby! — the second I see him opening the gate.

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The Bearded One grins and waves. I can’t tell if he’s heard me or not. Between us are palms galore waving and rustling in the wind. The house builder was a member of the Hawaii Palm Society and the acre is chock full of palm trees, thick and thin, tall and short, palmate leaves (like a wide-spread hand and called fan palms) and pinnate leaves (like bird feathers and called feather palms).

Suddenly I remember the other huge excitement we’ve been waiting on and shout again, since he is closer now, by the newly delivered gravel pile, “Did you get the newspaper?!”

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He holds the Hawaii Tribune-Herald up and I whoop, and then repeat my news about the baby. “Over eight pounds,” I say, forgetting the exact number, “and a bit of red hair!”

I offer to scramble eggs and fry toast and the Bearded One accepts eagerly and starts to read the newspaper at the built-in island between the kitchen and the dining room (which has no dining table but instead houses our bed until we get many projects finished upstairs).

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I have a day of cooking lined up, potato soup and fried rice. We like the Hawaiian Portuguese sausage and I’ve used it in omelettes, burritos, spaghetti, and hash browns.

It’s good to see the Bearded One enjoying a morning newspaper, but I need a bit of hot water and ask him to go turn on the decrepit Paloma, whose pilot light does not stay on.

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“Done,” he says and hops right up. I’ve got such a good life, I think. The Bearded One and Tom will install the new Eccotemp propane flash hot water heater tomorrow.

The generator is working again after having stopped because of not having ethanol free gas and getting clogged.

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A gem of a man in Hilo fixed it immediately when he heard our tale of it being our only power until we get solar, which is still several weeks away. Friends and family fill the waves washing ashore here with love, and I am reading our 79-year-old neighbor Jim’s novel, which is an honor. He has a fibrillating heart, is a self-proclaimed survivalist, he likes to talk story, and he is a character. The manuscript sits on the end of the kitchen island. I’m on page 27 and there are 133 pages, single-spaced.  I’ve read several chapters out loud to the Bearded One late at night, around 8pm.

He returns and I fill the dish tub with hot, soapy water. Washing dishes as I use them helps keep the mosquitoes away. Which we have plenty of, and I have bites, but I’ve learned a protocol – ice, wet washcloth, itch cream. He is humming the song we’ve both had in our heads all week, “You Can Do Magic,” by America. “You can have anything that you desire,” he sings as he plops back onto the stool.

I cook eggs and toast as the Bearded One reads. Our first pet, a gecko, hangs out on the kitchen island.

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He likes the Bearded One’s Coke and the morning bagel that I put out to defrost. Geckos are Hawaii. All homes have them. They hunt bugs relentlessly. No roach would last 60 seconds in our house.

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The wind blows through the palms and I listen to the doves calling and cooing.

“Ha!” says the Bearded One, and quotes from a Letter to the Editor, “The council’s rush to enshrine its slavish subservience to the shrill hysteria from an army of aging hippies living in Puna!”

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“Is that us?”

“Yes, I believe it is,” he says.

I bring over the Bearded One’s breakfast and look at the front page of the Puna paper,

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a Solstice article about the dedication of a landing pad for extraterrestrials down in Kalapana. We’ve been there a lot.

We agree that this new baby being born on the very cusp of the Solstice is a good sign. We’ll read his palms.

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Talk Story

Here I am at the doctor. A nurse practitioner named Linda in a bright mu’umu’u and a yellow plumeria in her graying hair follows up with me after an acclimation struggle that landed me in the Hilo ER with stomach pain from depression and anxiety on May 22.

The Bearded One is across the parking lot doing our laundry. Chatting with the Pahoa locals about dogs and moving and children. He is thriving.

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He has dealt with my depression for 20 years. It is not a Hawaii thing.  It moves in six year cycles. This one is right on time.

I’m back satisfactorily medicated, but the anxiety is new and that’s what has me back at the doctor again. My heart races and my stomach aches and roils and presses against my breath. I’ve lost 15 pounds from just eating less.  Brain stem stuff, pituitary, fight or flight stress that meds help, but as Linda says, “You also need to talk story.”  It’s a Hawaiian phrase.  Our neighbor used it when he came over to meet us.

“What do you want in your deepest heart?” she asks.

“To make our new house our home,” I say. This surprises me. It’s not to go back to Washington, which I thought about last month as we waited to get into our new home. “We’ve just been in the house a week. It’s off-grid. There’s a lot of work to do.”

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“Why did you come to Hawaii?”

I answer with the weather and the adventure of it, but later I regret not saying better that the big island of Hawaii is an amazing place — an active volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with virtually every ecosystem imaginable, rainforest, desert, alpine. I’m privileged to live here, and I know it when I wake at night and smell the gardenia and puakenikeni blossoms wafting across our inflatable mattress in the dining room of the house as I listen to the ocean pounding the shore less than a mile away.

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We have no electricity or hot water, but will by July. Since we got a land line – no cell phones work at our house – the Bearded One has been ordering solar components and Eccotemp propane flash hot water heaters and researching new water catchment tanks and completely engaging in the job at hand.

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I’m trying to engage with the kitchen. The propane stove is rusty and the propane fridge is old and small. Both are being replaced.  The tiny counter is a thick block of mango wood. I set up the Igloo 5-gallon drinking water cooler in a corner by the fridge. Hawaii is a huge porous lava rock and houses have cesspools and water catchment tanks for washing and flushing, but you have to bring potable water in.  It’s heavy.

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The Bearded One and I were both raised in Texas. We fell in love in the hot spring and summer of 1977 in Waco, and when we broke up a year later, I ran as far north as I could to Seattle, Washington. Where I fell in love with the cool gray wetness, and had 16 incredibly productive years with my first husband. Three children and seven published books.

When I started to write essays and even a poem about air conditioning and mimosa trees, I went for the first time to a doctor for depression. I divorced, married the Bearded One, and we stayed within 20 miles of my first husband and all raised the kids.

We told this tale to the WWOOFers at the community farm we stayed at April 14-June 2 down by Pahoa. They are the same age as our kids, and we treated them like ours. One was from Texas. We talked about big things, how 2/3 of the world doesn’t have electricity. I felt useful, and they were compassionate to me as I crashed in the heat wave we were having.

Thinking about our Texas-sized subdivision, the biggest in the entire USA. Hawaiian Paradise Park is immense, miles of roads, paved and unpaved, each lot an acre, some areas bleak as a Texas prairie, others shaded in towering albizia trees. Rooster lots supporting the cock fights,

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small churches of every imaginable sort, plant nurseries, and car repairs dot the big roads. Our termite guy lives on 29th – Mauka (toward the mountains) We live on 8th – Makai (toward the ocean). Tom lives on 16th. These are pretty far apart. We are car dependent as ever.

But we are living differently. Our systems are low tech. We are in the tropics. The aloha spirit of everyone being connected in ohana (family) and the deep respect for nature in the presence of molten earth are real and shared attitudes. Plus everyone tells me acclimation takes at least a year. I’ve been here two months.

I meet the Bearded One in front of the Laundromat, where he is reading.

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He waves good-bye to everyone there, and escorts me to the truck. The laundry is in the backseat, all beautifully folded.

“Island time,” he says. “We are juggling and getting stuff done without setting any personal best speed records in any category. It is happening. I think we’re here for a long haul.”

“Could be,” I say. “I’m getting there. Here.”

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The Mosquito Net Cloak of In-Itchability

“There’s our WWOOFers!” I sing out to the Bearded One as he drives us through the main curve in Highway 132, halfway between Pahoa and the Kapoho farm where we are staying until we can move into the Hippie House on June 2.

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“Is that the Skipper?” The Bearded One checks the rearview mirror and flicks our right blinker, which is on the fritz and buzzes loudly. Rough roads and torrential downpours are notorious in Hawaii for causing car malfunctions and jarrings-loose. We are just returning from helping our friend Tom, who was stuck up in Volcano with a broken brake line.

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“Yes!” I’ve turned around in my seat and add, “And he has practically the whole farm with him!”

The Bearded One waits for cars to pass, makes a U-turn, then drives up behind the Skipper’s car – a Toyota 4-Runner like ours only 3 years newer, and its hood is up. The Skipper, who is 24-years-old and a former Marine and tattoo artist, waves happily and jogs to our window. He and his girlfriend Ginger are transporting 3 of our small web of friends on the island – organic farm workers who work for lodging but no pay (“WWOOFers”) – Gilligan, Thurston Howell III and Mary Ann – into Pahoa, and a hose has busted. Do we have any duct tape?

No, but a plan is hatched to get some at the farm, and then the Bearded One will return the Skipper to his truck. These hardworking, adventurous, optimistic people in their 20s and early 30s are all so nice, I feel like I’m in the right place, doing the right stuff, at least when I’m not going insane with itching from mosquito bites.

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When we are on the road again, I offer the Skipper and Gilligan some Benadryl anti-itch cream, which Tom, who is a former nurse, gave me after I was savagely bitten up in Volcano.

Volcano is the town near the top of 4,090 foot Kilauea, an active volcano just a half hour drive from the Hippie House.

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Tom is building a house there for a lovely woman named Kay who is also a fern expert, and today it was cold and wet and I was reminded of Seattle as Kay and I talked and drank tea in her little temporary shed/house and the men worked on Tom’s truck. Seattle has mosquitoes, too, just not this time of year. Hawaii didn’t have mosquitoes at all until 1832, Kay tells me, as I scratch my ankles into swollen red welts.

The Skipper and Gilligan rub cream on their own bites. The ocean breeze blows across the lava field at Four Corners, the Bearded One turns left onto Highway 137, the bumpy part of the drive, then it’s just a ways down the Mango Tree Road (the sign calls them Exceptional Trees, and they are) to the farm.

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Geckos are on our side in the Mosquito War. They are bug eating lizards, bright green with blue and orange markings, or brown to blend in, and we love them, even when they poop tiny poops from the rafters down onto the bed. No biggie.

I load the ice into the cooler and store the sandwiches, salads, Cokes and cream cheese there, then pack the instant oatmeal, chips, raisin bread and cookies in the ant-proof Tupperware. Well, pretty ant proof.

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Finally, I run cold water over two wash cloths and lie down on the bed, under the white mosquito net of in-itchability which protects our sleep, lay the cool cloths on my ankles and rub more cream on my bites. Bliss.

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Pig on a Porch

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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